IF YOU GO
■ What: Chris Carpenter performs.
■ When: 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 18-19.
■ Where: The Foundry Lounge, The Chattanoogan, 1201 S. Broad St.
■ Admission: Free.
■ Phone: 423-424-3775.
■ Website: www.chattanooganhotel.com/dining/the_foundry.
When Chris Carpenter discusses the circumstances that led him to join the swollen ranks of Nashville's career singers/songwriters in 2009, his mind has a tendency to orbit questions enthusiastically before answering them.
Ask about how he started playing guitar as a preteen, and he'll reminisce about falling in love with music as a toddler after watching a procession of bands record at his grandfather's studio.
Bring up how he was influenced by the songwriting of Noel Gallagher, and he'll dawdle on his mother's aversion to MTV long before he gets to his admiration for the Oasis co-founder's lyrics.
But when he finally gets around to the point, Carpenter exudes an almost-alarming, childlike glee for the craft, tempered with humility.
"The fact that I do get to make my living singing to people, that I pay my bills with that, is everything; it's awesome," he says. "It's the coolest thing in the world."
Friday and Saturday, July 18-19, Carpenter will perform in The Chattanoogan hotel's Foundry Lounge.
Growing up in a musical family outside Lexington, Ky., Carpenter began taking piano lessons when he was 8, but the ease with which he learned songs by ear instead of reading the notation frustrated both teacher and student. At age 11, he discovered the guitar, and after devouring a chord book of Beatles melodies, he became thoroughly obsessed with the freedom to follow his own path without the interference of instructors.
After "dabbling" in various garage bands in high school, Carpenter enrolled at Belmont University, where he spent his first semester dipping his toes in the songwriting waters. Thanks to a recording session with a friend, those songs ended up on his first EP, a project that laid the foundation for a discography that now includes four full-length albums, with a fifth slated for next year.
With poppy, piano-laced production and tenor vocals that are immediately reminiscent of Elton John and Jason Mraz, Carpenter has taken his "songwriter rock" to stages across the country, from The Bitter End in New York City to Molly Malone's in Los Angeles. His music also has appeared on services such as MTV Music and mtvU, Country Music Television and Great American County.
Carpenter says one of his strongest childhood memories is of watching his uncle's band playing a show near his hometown. Even after years of performing, he says, he hones the edge of his musical enthusiasm by recalling the awe he felt in that moment.
"[I remember thinking] 'I want to do what Uncle Paul does. I want to sing to people for a living. That seems like a cool job,'" he says. "Now, as long as I'm singing and making a living at it, that's amazing."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...