Mary Chapin Carpenter returns to Dayton

Mary Chapin Carpenter; photo: Aaron Farrington

By Allyson Crawford

Mary Chapin Carpenter is a different kind of songstress. She’s not so much straight country anymore but more so evolved in to her own lane. She’s a storyteller first and has a knack for creating melodies that highlight the ebb and flow of each tune she creates. In many ways, she’s the exact right artist for 2017: a deliberate, thought-provoking anchor amid a sea of mindless media chaos. It’s those qualities that make her songs and voice transcend time and create a lasting staying power with fans, both old and new. No longer burdened by the old music industry way of writing music to secure a three-minute-long radio hit, Chapin Carpenter writes for herself, focusing on the themes in life that she is experiencing now.

“We live in a disposable, throwaway world,” Mary Chapin Carpenter tells the Dayton City Paper. “I’m in my late 50s and I don’t think you get to this age without learning a few things … and learning to accept yourself and your faults and successes. It’s about self-acceptance and being honest with yourself. The songs I write now and in these last few years are clearly not songs I could have written in my 20s. It’s a fact. We reflect who we are at a specific time in our lives. So I’m not chasing a song on the radio. That’s not my world.”

Instead, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s world revolves around making music on her own terms and own time. She’s won five Grammy Awards and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, so she’s in a rarefied group of musicians who have agency and means to act on their own. That agency has taken her music to new places. Some reviews call her most recent album The Things That We Are Made Of  “mellow,” a label which she doesn’t agree with or appreciate much. In fact, the term “mellow” is almost met as an insult, but think of it: would you like someone calling the stories of your life experiences “mellow?” Probably not.

Chapin Carpenter will return to Dayton on Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Victoria Theatre. She visited the region this past summer for a stop at the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering as part of the Four Voices Tour alongside Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls. Beyond that, Chapin Carpenter’s connection to the Dayton area goes back to her days playing local clubs in town.

“I remember years and years ago, playing at Canal Street Tavern. That was one of our favorite places to play! I’ve been coming to Dayton for quite a few years,” she admits.

While the days of playing clubs as small Canal Street are easily behind her, Chapin Carpenter still looks for ways to keep her live shows intimate. She treats each one as a journey between herself and each audience member.

“I always make a point at the end of every show to thank the audience for supporting live music,” Chapin Carpenter explains. “In this day and age you can push a button and get your art, music, TV and movies right to your device, but there’s no substitute for the sense of being together in a room and feeding off one another. By the end of the night, I feel like we have come through something and we’ve all connected in a meaningful way.”

Chapin Carpenter is embracing social media to connect to her audience as well. She’s outspoken in politics (hint: she’s not a conservative) and she also loves to give small glimpses into her daily life. It’s a delicate dance to master when it comes to keeping privacy but also sharing some details of daily life with fans.

“I am definitely a very private person. I think of Facebook as my digital doorstep. After the Women’s March in Washington this past January, there were some really disgusting, gross, troll kind of comments and I had no hesitation blocking and deleting them. Everyone is welcome as long as they behave.”

Chapin Carpenter lives on a farm and often snaps a photo to share on her social pages which elicit overwhelmingly positive responses. Some comments are deeply personal, with fans reciting how important her music is to their personal lives. This is the new fan mail of the social media era: immediate comments, begging for an answer and thus instant gratification.

“I throw the things up on the social media pages and once in a while I’ll check and see what people say and I’m just overwhelmed by the kindness of the comments,” Chapin Carpenter says, with a bit of mystification in her voice. “It makes me happy that those [farm] pictures mean something to people. Social media does give you a false sense of familiarity with people. Texting is not really connecting.”

You can really connect with Mary Chapin Carpenter in person on Oct. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 North Main Street in Dayton.. Tickets start at $39.50 and are available online at For more information, call the Vctoria at  937.228.7591 or visit

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About Allyson B. Crawford

View all posts by Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at

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