with Nora Collins
Thursday, January 24 at 8:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday, January 25 & 26 at 9:30 p.m.
A big-hearted Arkansas farm kid with a voice to match, Lance Carpenter, is already a chart-topping songwriter (Kelsea Ballerini's "Love Me Like You Mean It"), and is continually earning the notice of fans and gatekeepers, even without meaning to. Now, he's poised to capture their attention on a much bigger scale.
Carpenter's arrival as a songwriter and recording artist is, in many ways, an extension of a creative progression that became increasingly deliberate. The journey took him from self-taught hobbyist to committed songwriter and Nashville-based professional hitmaker.
"My introduction to country music was my mom playing it in her car," says Carpenter, who grew up on a cattle farm in Northwest Arkansas. "I never thought I would sing or play, but my stepdad has listened to the country countdown every Sunday for as long as I've known him. Country has just been a staple in my life."
It wasn't until Carpenter was leaving for college that he bought an acoustic at a local pawn shop. "The first thing was probably a Metallica riff," he says. "I'm country as a horse turd, grew up on a farm raising cattle, turkeys and horses, but 'Enter Sandman' was my first song on guitar."
Soon, Lance was putting together his own songs. "Creativity has always been important to me, and jotting down poems wasn't unusual," he says. "When I finally learned a few chords and could put it to music, bad as it was, things started to sort themselves out. What I found is it took my mind off everything else – football, girls, schoolwork and, eventually, my job, life stress, everything. I had to totally focus or it would sound even worse than it already did. It was therapy, an outlet, an escape."
After moving to Nashville, Carpenter wrote incessantly, landed a publishing deal and earned a few cuts on albums that never got released before "Love Me Like You Mean It" was recorded by then-unknown artist Kelsea Ballerini. The song became a No. 1 hit. "I went to Walmart, bought three or four copies and took pictures. Even now, when I go to the store I'll pull those CDs out and put them on the front of the rack."
Working to get his songs heard, Carpenter played writer shows around Music City. As he did, his voice and guitar playing improved. "When I really started to figure out how to use that muscle, people started asking why I wasn't trying to be an artist," he says. "Meanwhile, getting a publishing deal is a little bit easier if they think you might get an artist deal and record your own songs. I realized that could be an added value thing, so I put together a 12-song demo." A mix of full-band and acoustic shows followed, as many as 115 the following year.
Carpenter's appetite for new music extended to other writers' work, and he came across "Anyone Else" years ago. "I loved it on the first listen and thought I'd like to record it someday." Along the way, he also had a few co-writes with Show Dog Nashville artist Krystal Keith.
Hearing her sing at a recording session, Carpenter immediately thought of "Anyone Else" and Krystal agreed to record it as a duet. "When it was done, she played it for her people and they started jumping up and down," Lance says. "Then Toby heard it, flipped out and played it for the Show Dog staff. He was like, 'This song needs to be on the radio and we're going to put it there. And also, who is this guy?'"
Within a few months, the answer to that question became, Show Dog Nashville recording artist Lance Carpenter. "It was such an organic thing," he says. "If Toby had been looking for an artist or I'd been trying to get on his radar, it probably wouldn't have happened."
Now, he's doing what he was always meant to do and, in a sense, what he's always done. "I love connecting with people even if it's just through a song that makes them feel something." Lance Carpenter. He's here to help.
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