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Rooted in Country: Caroline Spence on Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ‘The Hard Way’

Laura E. Partain

Singer-songwriter Caroline Spence is gearing up to release her new record Spades & Roses, her strongest project to date. The Charlottesville, Va. native made waves with her 2015 independently release album Somehow, which shows off her sweet but soaring voice and impeccable songwriting skills.

Although you may not know her by name now, Spades & Roses may just be the release that awards her the recognition she deserves. The record mixes elements of Americana, alt-rock and freewheeling folk derived from greats like Bob Dylan. But there’s also a strong feminine perspective on everything from love and heartbreak to the struggles of chasing your dreams. In the brilliant cut “Hotel Amarillo,” Spence transports the listener to a night of reflection and isolation on the road.

Spence’s intricate and intimate type of writing evolved from an array of influences, from Lori McKenna to Ryan Adams. But Spence credits celebrated country singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter as one of her all-time favorites.

“[Carpenter] is from Virginia, and my parents were in a supper club with her sister, so I saw in concert a lot when I was young,” she tells Wide Open Country.

Although Carpenter has a long-running list of hits, Spence notes her track “The Hard Way” as one of those special tunes that still connects with her. It’s the first track off of her 1992 quadruple platinum “Come On Come On,” which Spence’s parents played constantly.

“I love it, I listen to it on the road, because it’s hook is ‘everything we got, we got the hard way.’ And that’s kind of the place I find myself a little bit as an independent artist. It just keeps me going,” she explains.

“‘The world won’t stop, actions speak louder, listen to your heart and what your heart might say, everything we got, we got the hard way,‘ Put that on my gravestone, that’s good enough for me.”

Carpenter’s impeccable songwriting skills left a lasting influence on Spence, who connected with her talents at a young age.

“I could sing all the words to “He’ll Thinks He’ll Keep Her” like I’d been divorced three times, but I was only seven years old,” Spence said with a laugh.

Spades & Roses drops March 3. Check out our full interview with Caroline and review of the record next week on Wide Open Country.

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Rooted in Country: Caroline Spence on Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ‘The Hard Way’