FAIRFIELD — Carlene Carter loved the summertime when she was growing up.
Not because it meant she didn’t have to go to school, but because she got to travel on the road with her mother, June Carter Cash, and her stepfather, Johnny Cash. They would perform at county fairs around the country.
“I fell in love with all the rides at the fairs,” Carter said.
Though she grew up with country music legends, life was pretty typical. Carter saw music as the family business.
When she didn’t get to travel with her mom and stepfather, Carter would spend time with her grandmother or aunt.
“Grandma was always playing her guitar,” she said. “It was an awesome way to grow up.”
That spirit of adventure still lives in Carter, decades later. Now a grandmother, she’s getting ready to release a new album, “Carter Girl.”
Carter will feature some of the songs from the new album when she comes to Vallejo for the June 19 Wednesday Night Ramble.
The show came about thanks to keyboard player Mike Emerson, who has played with Carter and is a member of the North Bay All Stars, the house band for the Ramble.
It’s an icebreaker gig for Carter as she prepares for a music festival in Switzerland.
“I haven’t played that many dates in the last year and thought we ought to play a show before we go,” Carter said. “So we’ll rehearse for a day and come to the Empress.”
She’s also making a short film about the Carter family, since the tunes on her new album are Carter family songs.
“It’s really more about my love of the music,” she said.
Carter said she was raised to believe she could do anything she put her mind to. She started writing songs and went to college with the idea of becoming a piano teacher, if things didn’t work out in music. About three months before she was to graduate, Carter got a record contract and left school.
“I wish I’d finished it,” she said of school. “I’m getting my master’s in another way.”
A lot of that learning came from a rough ride she had about a decade ago with the death of her mother, stepfather, sister and boyfriend within a year.
“My head was spinning,” Carter said. “Every time the phone rang, I thought someone was dying.”
There was trouble with drugs and an arrest.
“I got my life together,” she said. “A lot of things changed for me.”
It’s those life experiences that help inspire her songwriting.
“I’m constantly honing something in my brain. I’m constantly thinking about music,” she said. “I want to write from my heart. Most of my music comes from the heart.”
Carter listens to a variety of music, including country artists such as Elizabeth Cook and Americana musician-singer Paul Thorn.
Blues and rhythm and blues are also her favorites.
“Carter Girl” should be released in early 2014. Carter wanted to work with Don Was and is working with his schedule. Mixing should be done in July.
It will feature duets with Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.