Mackenzie Carpenter burst onto the country music scene when her viral sensation “Can’t Nobody” not only landed her a place on Sirius XM’s prestigious list of “Highway Finds,” but also earned her a record deal with The Valory Music Co. Since then, “Huntin’ Season” elevated her to the forefront of several artist to watch lists, amping the excitement for her well-received, debut EP (released earlier this year). With CMA Fest kicking off in just a few days, we had the incredible opportunity to check in with Mackenzie and talk all about her exciting CMA Fest schedule, how her EP is a well-rounded definition of who she is as an artist and songwriter, her upcoming Grand Ole Opry debut, and so much more!

(Interview by: Jeffrey Kurtis/Photo by: Harper Grace

1) The 50th CMA Fest is coming up in just a few weeks and you’re a part of it. What are you looking forward to most about being on the lineup for this milestone event?

To get to play CMA Fest will be so special because it is an event I’ve loved going to ever since I moved to Nashville. The environment and the talent are unmatched so to now be on the lineup for my first time, especially given that it’s the 50th anniversary, is a dream come true.

2) You play the Dr. Pepper Amp Stage on Sunday at 11:45 AM. Why do fans absolutely need to add your performance to their calendars and what can they expect from it?

My set is going to include a sneak peek at some new songs coming out soon so if you like being in on the know, you better come by!! Also, my brother is in my band and he has a mullet so you really won’t want to miss seeing him in action either.

3) Besides the performance itself, are you taking part in any other events throughout the weekend inside Fan Fair X? Autograph signings, etc?

My CMA Fest schedule is packed! On Friday, I’m performing at the Spotify House and Whiskey Jam at Whiskey Row. Saturday, I’m playing in a round at FGL house and then I’ll be back again on Sunday to play the Dr. Pepper Amp stage before heading to Fan Fair X for a meet and greet at 2! Come see me!

4) You mentioned being part of the lineup at the Spotify House at Ole Red. Tell us more about that event? What time are you playing? What will fans get from this show that they won’t see on Sunday at the Dr. Pepper Amp Stage?

A trip over to the Spotify House is always a highlight of CMA Fest for me—they always have an amazing lineup and the best food. I’ll take that stage for the first time ever there on Friday at 11:30am. I can’t wait because the crowd is so close to the stage. It’s always electric and the room has such a fun energy.

5) Let’s talk about your self-titled, debut EP. Fans at this point should be pretty familiar with “Can’t Nobody,” “Huntin’ Season” and “Don’t Mess With Exes,” but how do you feel the EP as a whole is the perfect definition of who you are as an artist?

My debut EP is so special to me because these are songs I have been holding onto for a while. I feel like this project is just the start of me introducing myself to the world. There are heartbreakers like “Jesus, I’m Jealous” and “Can’t Nobody,” fun kitschy Country tunes like “Huntin’ Season” and “Throw You Back” as well as sassy girl groove with “Don’t Mess With Exes.” I feel like it gives people a little sneak peek into different facets of who I am – which is what I want to continue to do as a singer-songwriter.

6) “Throw You Back,” the perfect kiss-off in our opinion and one of the more tongue and cheek songs from the EP has absolutely been starting conversations. Tell us more about that song. What inspired it? How did it come together? Etc...

“Throw You Back” was inspired by my late grandfather. He gave me a book that said, “if today was a fish, I’d throw it back” and I took that and ran with it—which was extra special because (along with “Huntin’ Season”) I got to write it with my brother and give a nod to our grandfather. His old Jaguar is in the music video in honor of him.

7) “Jesus I’m Jealous” is just such an incredible song. Why do you think that message is one that absolutely needs to be heard right now?

I think we all desire to love and to be loved but it’s also one of the hardest things to do and I think it’s important to be honest about feeling the emotions and longing. Steve Moakler and I originally wrote “Jesus I’m Jealous” as a conversation with Jesus and it turned into a beautiful message about sharing your heart while also trusting Him with it, knowing everything is going to turn out just the way it’s supposed to.

8) You’ve already had so much amazing stuff happening for you this year, and to add to that list...you’re making your Grand Ole Opry debut this month (June 2023). What does it mean to you to be able to stand in that circle and play your songs for that audience?

The opportunity to make my Opry Debut is definitely one of the highlights of my year. I cannot put into words how special it is to me. My dad has super special memories of listening to the Opry with his dad, and now I will get to share the memory of stepping into the circle for the first time with my family. Cue the tears!

9) Earlier this year we were lucky enough to catch you at The Listening Room with your brother Micah, Megan Moroney, and Ben Williams. So, then you know that we got to see a rare performance from Jimmy James! We have to ask...is there a possibility of this becoming something you take on the road because the four of you together is a show in and of itself?

Wow, that was such a fun show. Jimmy James is a very special character that we would love to continue to share with the world when and if the timing is right! We still write songs together and love to do shows when everyone’s schedule allows.

10) We always end with this one, but what one piece of advice can you offer to someone who is just starting out and trying to break into the music industry?

Someone told me this quote about how you can drive across the whole country in the dark only seeing as far as your headlights. I think it was such good advice because you don’t have to have all the answers you just have to start and the next steps will reveal themselves. The worst thing you can do is nothing.


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