Dynamic Duo

Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin bring their friendship and their music to Syracuse

Syracuse will host two incredible singer-songwriters on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Eastwood’s Palace Theatre. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin, friends for almost 30 years, have been touring together for a year and a half. As the duo’s tour nears its end in mid-November, Carpenter promises the Palace performance will be extra-special.

“We’re just excited to be coming to your town,” she says. “The last few shows will feel particularly happy, but bittersweet.”

Folk and country artist Carpenter has won five Grammy Awards. She’s the only artist to have won four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, from 1992 to 1995. She is in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and has sold more than 12 million records.

And just to keep it interesting, Carpenter also wrote a biweekly column in The Washington Times from December 2008 to March 2009, in which she broached topics concerning music and politics.

“I think it’s entirely possible to be an artist and a songwriter and write about anything, and I think you should,” Carpenter says on the issue of politics in music. “It’s not off-limits to address issues or speak metaphorically or lyrically about anything. There are ways to be very artful and subtle or more forward. I will say that whenever you hear about an artist, actor, whatever, being criticized for advocating a political position—called, ‘just an actor, songwriter’ —I’ve never understood that criticism. If you do a cer tain thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a concerned citizen of the country. Your job gives you a platform, and people can tune in or tune out if they choose.”

Carpenter’s most recent album, Ashes and Roses, serves as a platform for the experiences that unite people through songs of sadness and regret, optimism and renewal. Much of the material is especially influenced by Carpenter’s own experience with a pulmonary embolism in 2007. The severe scare, which forced her to cancel her summer tour to recover, remains ever-present in her mind.

“I feel privileged just to be doing it {performing},” she says. “I don’t take it for granted that people spend money on concert tickets. I feel so lucky I get to do this. It was enhanced when I had to stop touring. I know how important it is to do something you love because for a time I didn’t know if I’d do it again. To tour with Shawn, with someone of her caliber and recognition, is a thrill.”

The two have known each other nearly from the start of their careers and had crossed paths many times, but never set up a formal tour, a term Carpenter uses loosely.

“We’re really very informal, casual, but passionate,” she says. “I say formal, but that’s not the show. We’ve opened up for each other and traveled together, but never this. It’s evolved and kept rolling.”

The long friendship and similar tastes in music and inspiration make for an especially personal performance. “We’re very intuitive with each other on a personal level since we’ve known each other so long,” Carpenter says. “The best friendships are the ones that continuously make you laugh and bring so much to your life.”

Carpenter and Colvin will arrive armed with some of the most emotional voices in music and incredible guitar work to match. They’ve both earned their places among folk and country royalty as some of the most prolific and long-lasting artists in the genre.

Shawn Colvin & Mary Chapin

Shawn Colvin & Mary Chapin

After completion of her tour with Colvin, Carpenter plans to perform in February at Los Angeles’ Disney Concert Hall alongside the LA Philharmonic. She’s also looking forward to more years in a music industry that is ever-changing with technology.

“You can make a record in your bedroom on your computer,” she says. “It could be the most wonderful thing. You can promote it, put it out there, fulfill your dreams of having a career. You don’t need to rely on other people’s institutions. There are inspiring examples out there, and to me, it opens up a world that wasn’t accessible when I started out. It’s the most exciting innovation of our time. My advice to artists is just that: Go forth and do it. There’s nothing more exasperating than hearing an artist say, ‘Do what you love, make sure you have love.’ It sounds like a commencement speech. I think there is no magical advice, but there have been extraordinary innovations in technology and recording. You can do it yourself.”

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