NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Since I have interviewed well over 200 musical artists, I have featured quite a few veterans, an attorney, and even a chiropractor. But this is the first time I have ever interviewed an Army veteran who has a doctorate in theology. And she is a gorgeous woman who looks like she belongs on the cover of Vogue magazine.
After hearing songs that feature her powerhouse vocals, I had to find out more about the beautiful, talented Brei Carter.
Brei Carter was born in Louisiana, and when she was still a child her family moved to the West Coast. At 6 years of age, she competed in her first talent show and sang Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Eventually, her parents would divorce, and Carter returned to Sterlington, Louisiana, where she lived with her grandparents.
She remembers, “It was amazing. My grandparents had been married for more than 40 years. It was so much love, going to church and singing in the choir. My aunts, my mom, all would sing.”
Even though she could sing, she was a little intimidated by all the great vocalists in her family. She entered pageants and would do dance routines and monologues. Carter played various instruments but never really sang much in public until college, when she took some lessons and sang in a gospel choir.
She graduated from the University of Louisiana in Monroe with a business degree, after which she promptly joined the Army. She had several relatives in the Army at the time, and it was a period in her life when she felt that she “needed more structure.”
“I grew up in a military family. I had relatives in every branch,” she explains. The Army provided a path for young Carter to “find her way.”
And while she signed up as “enlisted,” they quickly moved the ambitious female to officer’s training.
She reported, “I didn’t want to be an officer. Officers are boring. I wanted to do exciting stuff.”
However, after she completed her basic and individual training, she returned to college, where she joined the ROTC and eventually gained her officer’s commission.
The army paid for Carter’s master’s degree in international relations and business.
Carter’s bubbly personality often got her in trouble because she couldn’t stop smiling, even as a U.S. Army officer.
They said to her, “Soldier, you can’t smile. You can’t be happy. This is not your happy time.”
But in the end, it truly turned out to be her happy time because it was an experience that she wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
She informs, “If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would do it 10 times over.”
Besides the military, many of the Louisiana Carters were ministers including, her stepdad. Therefore, she used her Army scholarship money to get a theology degree in counseling.
She admits, “I’m a God-lover. I would not be here had it not been for God’s grace. I don’t put my religion on anybody but I don’t shy away from what God means to me, either.”
Even though it was in her always heart, it wasn’t until 2014, when her biological father passed away that it hit her that she was supposed to “do country music.”
Her mother told her that when she was a little girl, she couldn’t get her out of her cowboy boots. Now the country crooner owns close to 100 pairs.
Carter remembers that as a child in Oregon, her dad’s twin, Aunt Edna, was in a country band.
“I was little, but I remember my father singing Charley Pride’s ‘Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” she recalls.
Not only that, her mother loved Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Patsy Cline.
After her father’s funeral, she revisited these memories. She finally realized, “I’m supposed to do this. This is in my DNA, my blood. This is who I am.”
People would say to her, “Why not R & B?” To which she replied, “Country picked me. It’s who I am. I’m not trying to force myself to fit into a mold. I must be true to myself. Country music is my life.”
Last week, Carter released her debut full-length album, Brand New Country.
And while each song is a bit different than the other, they all have a piece of Carter in them. She wrote the song “Stronger than That” with William Burton. She explains, “We’ve all been through things. There are obstacles that we face every day. As long as you have breath in your body, you’re stronger than that and you can overcome.”
The somber “Love Don’t Look Like This” explores mental health issues resulting from domestic abuse. “When I heard it, I knew that was my song and I had to do it. Abuse is across the board, and this song explores what love looks like and what it doesn’t look like.”
However, not all of Carter’s songs have such a serious nature. The song “Paybacks” has words like Sometimes I cry/ When you cross my mind/ And I might get lonely/ Some of the time/ But today I’m not cryin’/ No today I ain’t blue/ I’m no longer buyin’/ Anymore lies from you/ lyrically you get Loretta Lynn, but sung with the soul of Aretha Franklin.
“Here’s to Nowhere” is probably the countriest tune on the album. It showcases the one-light town she grew up in, Sterlington, Louisiana, where everyone knew everyone.
Carter honors one of her biggest influences, Charley Pride, by singing her rendition of “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” to which his wife gave her blessing. Pride opened the door for African Americans to be in country music along with Darius Rucker and Mickey Guyton.
She agreed but advised, “We still have a long way to go. Some people say the door is open, but I think it is just cracked a little bit. Especially for women of color. I’m hoping to be listed as one of the ‘Women of Country.’ That’s huge today. Women overall have a hard time in country music with all the bro-country, male country still heavily dominating. I’m looking for the day when people don’t look at gender or color, but they just love your sound.”
Carter has quickly established herself in the songwriters’ community as a smooth and sometimes edgy songstress who melds country, soul, and Southern pop into one fused style.
Her first single at country radio, “Gave Him a Girl,” was immediately recognized as “cute and catchy” by country music journalist and historian Robert K. Oermann. And the autobiographical title track “Brand New Country” is exactly what it says as it miraculously melds fresh lyrics with an uptown beat without losing the country twang.
But what matters to me most is authenticity. With Brei Carter, you get what you see. And while she covers a variety of topics and styles on her debut record, Brand New Country, you get a diverse collection of songs that are all equally a part of who she is.
– – –
Track Listing for Brand New Country
“Brand New Country” $ (Brei Carter, Shawn Hubbard)
“Smiling” * (Brei Carter, Josh Courson, Jason Wyatt)
“Roadmaps of Memories” ^ (Curt Ryle, Hollie Jett)
“Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” * (Ben James Peters)
“Cowboy Romeo” * (Brei Carter, Jason Wyatt, James Breedwell)
“Paybacks” * (Brei Carter, Jason Campbell, Terry Smith)
“Stronger than That” * (Brei Carter, Wayne Burton)
“Country Choir” * (Corey Lee Barker, Shantell Odgen)
“Sippin’ on a Good Time” ^ (Curt Ryle, Kelsey Hart, Tony Mullins)
“Cowgirl” ^ (Brei Carter, Carli Vintaj)
“Here’s to Nowhere” * (Brei Carter, Corey Lee Barker)
“Propane” @ (Brei Carter, Misha Fair)
“Gave Him a Girl” * (Brei Carter, Mason Douglas, Jason Wyatt)
“Love Don’t Look Like This” ^ (Marilyn Crawley)
“Yours” * (Corey Lee Barker, Charley Woods)
“Ride in the Desert” featuring Josh Waters + (Brei Carter, SP Fredrick Perine, Shawn Hubbard)
* = Produced by Jason Wyatt
^ = Produced by Curt Ryle
+ = Produced by SP Fredrick Perine
@ = Produced by William Washington WLPWR
$ = Produced by Bridgetown