Deana Carter Goes All In: If New Album Doesn't Succeed, 'I Will Go Down Smiling'

Deana Carter

On "Cyber Monday," Dec. 2, Deana Carter will release her first disc of all-new music since 2005. The digital release of "Southern Way of Life" is something that the country singer says she is very excited about, and also a project that reflects several years of living.

"There's been a lot of writing, and a lot of living," Carter tells Billboard. "I've been through a lot. I pulled back to focus on my son. He's at the age where he's starting school, and having his experiences. Now, he's in the fourth grade, and saying 'When are you gonna sing again?' and when your son says that to you, you think 'Maybe I should do that.' So, I've been through a lot over the past couple of years, trying to process that, and write my way through it."

There were other emotions at play within Carter's psyche than just motherhood. "I lost my dad, and also went through some major surgeries on my spine and on my knee. Now, I'm healthy and good, and healing through all of that, and have been writing songs. I'm glad I took the time personally to take care of myself and my family. Now, we have a record," she says, beaming.

Being able to draw from her emotions over the years was very therapeutic, Carter says. "It was very healing for me to say what was happening. For me, it's nice to escape into the rhyme of it, and put my emotions with a collaborator to talk about commonality in our experiences, and to have a partner in putting that down. There's one song that I wrote by myself on the record called 'Do Or Die.' That's when I was at the bottom – when I didn't know if I was going to make it, or if I would do records again. I was looking at this little boy who was relying on me to take care of him. It was a real heavy time. I sat in the kitchen floor, and like the song says, I was wondering how I was going to take care of my son and me. Right after I said my prayers, Kenny Chesney cut 'You And Tequila,' and that did well. So, that was a gift, and being able to write through that, I'm so grateful to be able to share that. I feel I did that with the first record. I had time to write about a lot of different kinds of experiences. Now, it's more seasoned – similar experiences coming through things like being a mom. It's not all about me anymore." 

"Southern Way Of Life" is being released on Little Nugget Records, which she says is one way of keeping the memory of her late father -- legendary session musician Fred Carter -- alive. "My parents put their life investment -- their marriage, everything into Nugget Records. He had a studio out of town, and it was a great place. He was also a publisher, a label head, he did all of it. You get apples from apple trees, I guess. I'm so proud to bring it to life, and take his logo and make it Little Nugget Records. It's an extension of what my family believed in musically, and stands for. It's all we do and did. We lived and breathed it."

There's a decided 80s feel to the project, as Carter says there is a Blondie / The Cars feel to the direction which she took in the studio. At the same time, there are some sweetly-sung ballads as well, including "I'll Save My Love For You," a song which Carter says is about saving one's self for marriage. "I didn't follow that path," she admits, "but I chose to follow that path in my second marriage. I got to have a white wedding the second time around, and that was very redemptive for me. It restored a lot in me that had been broken." 

The album is definitely a hands-on project for Carter. "I put my whole investment account in this record, and having these great people here to be a part of it. I'm not messing around. I'm not going to do it halfway. I'm not doing a label in a 'Hey, look at me kind of way. It's more of a soft hug kind of way.' It's not a 'Ta Da!' thing, it's a have to. Hopefully, it will encourage other people to take a swan dive and take a risk on themselves. If it doesn't succeed, I will go down smiling because I know I gave it everything I had, and if it does, I will stand up smiling because I gave it everything I had."