For nearly 30 years, Mary Chapin Carpenter called Washington home. She lived in Chevy Chase, Alexandria, Georgetown, and Takoma Park. “Every time was just a different time in my life,” she says, “and every place was home for a while.”
Although the five-time Grammy Award winner now lives on an 82-acre farm near Charlottesville, her father and one of her sisters still live in Washington, making it “home to me, too—it’s always like I was just there.”
Carpenter, 52, was born in Princeton and moved to Tokyo in 1969 when her father, Chapin Carpenter, a Life executive, was sent to the Asia bureau. The family relocated to Washington when she was 15, and she returned here after graduating from Brown in 1981.
In the mid-1980s, after becoming a fixture on the local music scene, she signed with Columbia Records. Her first few albums yielded modest country hits, but in 1990 she scored a smash—and her first Grammy—with the Cajun-flavored “Down at the Twist and Shout.” With her fourth CD, 1992’s Come On Come On—whose hits included “I Feel Lucky” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”—Carpenter became a star. In April, Carpenter released The Age of Miracles.
These days, Carpenter is finding touring miraculous. In 2007, she was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, a condition that was life-threatening—and life-changing. Forced to cancel her tour, she wondered if she’d ever write another album. Of her current tour, which ended August 19 at Wolf Trap, she says: “It’s been very celebratory.”
At home during a break from her travels, she talked about what she’s learned.