Rarely has a debut album generated greater commercial success or left a more enduring impact on listeners than Deana Carter’s Did I Shave My Legs for This? Capitol Nashville/UMe is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Carter’s landmark album with a special re-issue due out Nov. 5.
The upcoming collection features two new tracks produced by Carter, who recruited Lauren Alaina, Martina McBride, Ashley McBryde and Vince Gill to join her on a 2021 version of her 2X platinum single “Strawberry Wine,” which won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards in 1997. The new set also features an updated version of “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” with Gill, McBryde, Terri Clark and Sara Evans joining Carter.
“I believe the honesty in the songs is what it is,” Carter tells SLN when asked why the album resonated with so many people. “That whole first record is pretty much about my high school and college relationship that set everything in motion for me for decades as far as first experiences and first heartache. [It’s about] that person that you can’t shake, and I was writing about that so honestly. Every song on that record had something to do with the core of that relationship, that affected me so much when you date somebody from 14 to 20 years old.”
Trying to process the heartbreak in the wake of that failed relationship fueled the songs on Did I Shave My Legs for This? “I was just trying to write my way through like, ‘Lord how do I get through this thing that I thought was going to last forever and it hasn’t? Where do I go and how do I figure this out?’ So it was like an extension of the figuring,” she says. “I just feel like the honesty in the record was coming from such a broken, hurt, innocent place that I just had to be really simple and honest in the songs. It was so autobiographical and such an honest record.”
“Strawberry Wine,” a coming-of-age tale of young love, has become Carter’s signature song, but the album also spawned “We Danced Anyway” “How Do I Get There,” which hit No. 1, and “Count Me In” which sailed into the top five. The 25th anniversary editions of the album have been remastered will be released on CD with two bonus tracks. There will also be a digital deluxe release with ten additional songs, seven of which will be available digitally for the first time.
“That’s exciting,” Carter says, “because on this 25th anniversary we’re releasing a lot of those songs that have never been heard before that didn’t make the album, songs that we spent a lot of time cutting and considering for the final product. All of that was the stuff that I had done with [producer Jimmy] Bowen so I’m really thrilled. My time with Bowen was really special to me and I’m just really excited to have those songs be available for people to hear them.”
A Nashville native, Carter grew up in the music business as her father was legendary guitarist Fred Carter Jr., who was also a singer and owned Nugget Records. “My father was such a gifted musician on every instrument. His focus was on guitar, but he was part of the A Team,” Carter says of Nashville’s world renown session musicians. “People respected him so much and they loved his personality. He was a force to be reckoned with and I was this little piano playing nerd at home trying to write songs and sing.”
Carter’s father encouraged her musical aspirations, but she admits to battling insecurity. “Dad believed in me. I was singing little demos at his studio, and he just thought I had something different, but I didn’t feel like Nashville was looking for different at the time. They find one thing that works and back then it was power singers and that was not me at all. So that’s what made it difficult in the beginning was that I was different sounding. I was playing guitar at the time, and there weren’t girls playing guitar and so it was like they couldn’t process what I was initially and I had less of a country sound. I was eclectic. It was like this combo of Edie Brickell, Fleetwood Mac and Sheryl Crow.”
Talent and perseverance won out and Carter signed a record deal and found a champion in Bowen, a legendary record exec, who had produced Frank Sinatra’s Grammy winning “Strangers in the Night” before moving to Nashville where he helmed different labels and worked with Reba, Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, Hank Williams Jr. and the Oak Ridge Boys, among others.
Carter’s Did I Shave My Legs for This? was first released in the U.K. on Patriot Records. “The European version of Did I Shave My Legs for This? is very different from the US version that came out a couple years later,” Carter says. “I told Bowen I wanted to go overseas and go as far as I could to hone my performing skills and he said, ‘Well you just have to ask Charles Koppelman,’ or whoever was head of Capitol EMI Worldwide, ‘and if he doesn’t have any problem with it then I don’t either.’ I had that meeting and they agreed to send me over there. So the UK version of Did I Shave My Legs for This? got mastered at Abbey Road. I got to oversee that and stayed in a flat right there at Abbey Road for a while and then they put me on a tour with an artist over there called Jimmy Nail. He was famous overseas and had put out a record called ‘Crocodile Shoes.’ We played these gorgeous historical theaters and wonderful venues. That was like cutting my teeth over there. It was amazing to just have that whole experience.”
Carter deliberately chose to develop her skills in Europe before tackling her hometown. “I respected Nashville so much and the talent, I was kind of terrified of the bar being so high,” she admits. “I wanted to make sure that if I ever got a chance to perform over here and really be an artist that was worthy and credible, I wanted to bring it home for real and so that’s why we went overseas.”
When Carter returned stateside and began working on the U.S. version of the album, the project was groundbreaking in several ways. “That was the first album in Nashville to be done on Pro Tools,” Carter says of the innovative recording technology. “Bowen is the one that brought Pro Tools to Nashville, and I know that because we were in the studio and people were trying to sneak in and see what we were doing because they had heard of this Pro Tools thing that Jimmy Bowen had brought to town.”
Carter’s songs also broke new ground with their innovative production. “‘How Do I Get There’ was the first record on country radio to ever have a drum loop in it and that was something I just fought to be the case, not to be the first on country radio, but it had to be on the album,” she says. “And no country record had ever had a drum loop in it ever because that’s how I feel my rhythm. I don’t feel rhythm on the down beat like 1 and 3, I have like funky rhythm like 2 and 4, which isn’t typically what country music is, but ironically ever since that record, country music has morphed over into that.”
Carter’s album was also unique in that she co-produced the tracks, although she wasn’t credited at the time. “Bowen said, ‘I’ll pay you to co-produce this record with me,’ and he did,” says Carter, who co-produced part of the record with Bowen and the remainder with songwriter/producer Chris Farren.
“I was one of the first female artists to produce a record, to co-produce with him, but I didn’t get credit for that and I carried that over into my Chris Farren sessions. I never missed a day in the studio. I always had my ducks in a row. I always had my notebooks, most of the union sheets. I filled out a lot of that stuff. We had assistants and stuff when Farren came in, but I know that with Bowen I filled all of that stuff out because I had to learn how to do it all. . . I didn’t get the production credit that I deserved on that first record. That’s hard, but it still stands the test of time and I know it’s because Bowen put me out there creatively at the helm to follow my dream and my vision for the sounds.”
Carter’s vision launched one of the most successful debuts ever by a female country artist, and with the re-issue of Did I Shave My Legs for This? a new generation of country fans are sure to embrace those memorable songs. Carter has recently joined Tik Tok and is happily reconnecting with fans. “All these people saying, ‘Wow! We are so happy you’re here. We’ve re-found you. Where did you go? What happened?’” says Carter. “I’ve had eight records out. We’ve been touring non-stop for 25 years. It’s not like I quit, but I did move to California and left the Nashville community and that was hard. When you leave town, you have to re-enter, that’s just how Nashville is.”
Carter signed with an LA-based manager and lived there for 20 years, acting and doing music for film and television. “I was just getting asked to come do all this stuff, so instead of having to fly out there and back all the time, I just moved out there. Then I ended up getting pregnant with my son and you form a life when you’ve got a baby,” she says, “and then they start school and it’s like all of a sudden 20 years went by. Then when COVID hit two years ago and things were too crazy to stay there, we moved to Florida on [Highway] 30A. It’s an hour flight to Nashville and all of my friends come. It’s Nashville South down here, so I get to see everybody, and my brother and mom are here. That’s why I decided to come here. Now I’m back in the south where my heartbeat is.”
Carter credits social media with helping her reconnect with fans. “I feel like I have tapped back into where all my people are. I’m terrible at Tik Tok but I’m trying to get better at it. There are over five million people that physically purchased the entire album at a store. They are out there somewhere and now it’s their kids and grandkids. I like the comments I get. I can’t even believe it, and it’s more successful than it was back then, which is unheard of, so the prayers keep getting answered over and over and over. It just thrills my soul to see people hash tagging ‘Strawberry Wine” or ‘Did I Shave My Legs?’ It’s mind blowing the ripple effect this record has had from generation to generation to generation and all the loving comments of how much it meant to them.”