When Deana Carter was a kid growing up in Nashville, two things ruled her world. The first was her inability to finish a project — from coloring to homework — which prompted the overachiever to set goals and make them happen ”even if it took 20 years.”
The second was her infatuation with a young man who worked her grandparents’ cotton farm in Louisiana. ”I thought he hung the moon, and I couldn’t wait to see him when we’d go visit,” Carter remembers, sighing in a honeyed Southern drawl. ”I guess ‘Strawberry Wine’ struck the same chord in me as it has in everybody else.”
And how. ”Strawberry Wine,” a lust-and-nostalgia cocktail, written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison, about a girl’s ”first taste of love,” recently ended LeAnn Rimes’ 20-week choke hold on Billboard’s Top Country Singles Sales chart and turned Carter’s debut album, Did I Shave My Legs For This?, to gold.
The daughter of famed session guitarist Fred Carter Jr., Deana, 30, sings in a vulnerable, organic, Edie Brickell-gone-hippie quaver. Her success may position her as the country star du jour, but her sensibility owes as much to ’60s rock and its credo of lyrical honesty — she grew up around Dad’s friends Levon Helm and Simon & Garfunkel — as to her idol Dolly Parton. Did I Shave … ? is as autobiographical as a first novel.
”I think my honesty shocks people, because they aren’t used to it,” offers the former physical therapist, explaining how she and ex-boyfriend/album collaborator Scott Poston realized their relationship was over while writing the album’s ”Love Ain’t Worth Making.” ”Basically,” she says, ”I started writing as therapy.”
Carter needed plenty of it, along with the perseverance she’d developed as a kid, to make Did I Shave … ? Signed by Capitol Records in 1991, she saw the album released in Europe only. Soon after, the label’s new regime considered dropping her but instead asked Carter to rerecord the album, adding the smash single and several other songs. She insisted on two things: no vocal sweetening and L.A. producer Chris Farren, who shared her pop sensibilities. ”In Nashville,” says Carter, ”everybody just mulches the same plant.”
During this period, her father told her, ”Relish the bad times and it’ll make the good times better.” ”He was right,” Carter says, clearly enjoying her sudden success. ”I believe in guardian angels and old souls and learning from stuff. So it’s cool. My parents are proud, and I now qualify for loans.”