By Beverly Keel
SEPTEMBER 8, 1997: As the elevator doors part, Deana Carter steps wearily into the lobby of Capitol Records, preparing herself for the onslaught of journalists. One hand holds a small carry-all, and the other clasps several sheets of paper bearing the heading "Things to know about," followed by reporters' names and questions they're likely to ask.
After signing a few CDs for a Capitol employee, Carter sits down for a moment in the lobby. She's wearing a black short-sleeve shirt, black pants, and suede boots with a slight platform. "I should've worn my Candies," she says, glancing at my sandals. "My stuff is scattered everywhere."
With five CMA nominations and sales of 3 million for her debut album, Did I Shave My Legs For This?, Carter is country's girl of the moment. Her blonde, wholesome good looks will grace the covers of several magazines this month, while several of her singles, including two No. 1s, continue to get frequent radio airplay. "From the outside looking in, I still feel like it hasn't hit me yet," Carter says. "Everybody else is saying, `Aren't you freaking out?' But it's been more gradual for me. When I got nominated for a Grammy, that was the monumental turning point--being there and looking around wide-eyed with people who are as famous as you get.
"I was thinking, `I'm almost there, this is my dream. You're rubbing elbows with all of these people, and they actually have to be nice to you--not that they wouldn't be--because you're looked upon as credible,' " says Carter, who met idol Bruce Springsteen at the awards show. "Normally, I would be running around waiting on these people: `Can I get you some more water or juice?' "
The demands of a grueling schedule have taken their toll on Carter, 31. The smiling, bubbly creature in her videos has been transformed into an exhausted, overworked, but appreciative clone. Since her album was released a year ago this week, she has seen her dreams come true. But her health, happiness, and marriage have often taken a backseat in the process.
After spending the last three weeks on the road, she returned home last Sunday night. She spent Monday recovering from strep throat before meeting with 23 reporters on Tuesday and Wednesday. She spent Wednesday afternoon at the Hermitage Hotel, conducting more interviews and preparing for her triple-platinum party that evening. She left at midnight for a show in New Orleans.
People in several different offices make commitments and promises on her behalf, all with the best of intentions. It seems as if every label worker needs her to do just one more interview, one more radio call; to autograph just one more CD. There are more requests than she possibly has time for.
"I say, OK, I'm going to work really hard and bust my butt until Sept. 1, and then my husband and I will take a week off. Then we'll plow through CMA week and then go out with Alan Jackson. You take it in weeks and months.
"I always try to prioritize my husband and me first. I'll say, `You've got to give me one day with my husband.' " As it turns out, Carter has only seen her husband, songwriter Chris DiCroce, three days in the last month. "One week is healthy to be apart, it keeps the honeymoon rocking," she says. "Two weeks, it starts to get a little stressful, and three weeks you're fighting on the phone. So we try to plan it where we don't go more than 10 days without seeing each other. I think you just get on autopilot. When I look back and think about how little I've seen my husband and dogs and my house in the last month, I'll freak out. I just have to go forward.
"The hardest part is when I come home, and Chris has been in the house--he just built me a deck. I feel like I'm in his space, so there's an adjustment period where it's almost like you're dating again."
This sudden success has allowed Carter to relax a bit about her finances, but not nearly as much as people think, she says. "The money comes in stages. Capitol has their bottom line, and my money comes from them. A lot of it won't come in until the third quarter of next year." In addition to artist's royalties from album sales, Carter will also receive publishing royalties from the songs she has written on her album. "My publishing deal is a joke," she says. "It's your lowest deal on the totem pole because I got it five years ago, and it hasn't changed very much. But my record deal is great. It's the same company, it's just that they are trying to get the kinks worked out now."
Carter has splurged on a $172,500, 1.37-acre farm and on a new Land Rover loaded with the works. "We bought a house, but we didn't pay outright cash for it," she says. "There was some radio show that had all of this gossip about where we lived and what we paid for it. It's a very modest little farmhouse in Williamson County. We did a down payment like everybody else and started making payments."
As one of People's 50 most beautiful people in the world, Carter has found that such attention has only made her more critical of her looks. "I'm an American female, I mean the Barbie syndrome," she says. "It's like I will never live up to that. I'm so hypercritical of myself. I always have to lose the proverbial five pounds. Isn't that sad...? It's not like I'm a teenager and should have a 22-inch waist anymore."
Despite being twice as old as LeAnn Rimes, Carter says she doesn't worry much about aging. "The only thing I worry about is getting saggy knees and arms," she says. "I worry about having kids and not being able to snap back. Being in my 30s, it's getting a little bit harder."
Carter and her husband just broached the subject of children recently, but career demands will likely postpone any new family additions until the century's end. "I would like to get another album done," she says. "We've got the whole year next year planned for touring. I'm looking at the end of '99, maybe. Isn't that amazing?
"I was thinking about this in the summer--OK, if I get pregnant right now and had a baby by May, that would still work out because I could go out with Alan Jackson and do my album while I'm pregnant. But it's not going to happen, knock on wood. I need to wait until I'm through with Alan Jackson next year. I want to be pregnant in private and have enough photos, like Pamela Anderson, so you'll rarely see me."
Make no mistake, Carter, a former janitor and a former therapist for stroke victims, isn't complaining about anything. She's excited to be nominated, interviewed, and played on the radio. This is the best it gets. "I don't think I'd change a thing, honestly," she says. "Looking back, I'm really happy the way things turned out. I wouldn't change it. I would just sleep."
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