In April of 2015, singer/songwriter/actress Sabrina Carpenter, then not yet 16, unveiled her debut album, Eyes Wide Open. Fueled by youthful exuberance and irresistibly buoyant singles such as “Eyes Wide Open” and “We’ll Be the Stars,” the album reflected Carpenter’s life over the previous three years, during which she rose to fame playing rebellious Maya Hart on the Disney Channel hit series Girl Meets World.
The gestation period for Carpenter’s sophomore album, EVOLution, out Oct. 14, was shorter, but clearly encompassed even more growth. “I’m living in an adult world,” notes Carpenter, who’s 17 now. “I’m very lucky to do what I love, but it does come along with roller coasters of emotion. Thank goodness that artists take inspiration from emotion, because it allowed me to put all feelings and all these stories into the songs I’ve made.”
For the aptly titled EVOLution, Carpenter, who has been singing “since I opened my mouth,”sought to “work with people who are young and hungry — people like me.” She enlisted Ido Zmishlany (Shawn Mendes, NEEDTOBREATHE), with whom she’d co-written last spring’s pulsing, lovelorn single “Smoke And Fire,” to collaborate on a number of tracks, including the album’s first single “On Purpose,” which segues from eerie, piano-driven verses to twinkling, soaring choruses. “He has one of those genius minds that allowed us to always take something and make it better, to really pop it,” Carpenter says of Zmishlany, who also teamed with her for the sinuous, jazz-tinged “Feels Like Loneliness” and the slyly percolating “No Words.”
Carpenter joined forces with rising Nashville tunesmith Jimmy Robbins for “Run And Hide,” another favorite. “I love how raw and acoustic that one is. We wrote it in an hour and a half with a guitar and a microphone attached to a computer. It’s about communication: Even though we have social media, it’s gotten worse in ways, because there are so many filters and things that come between us that aren’t real. I’m basically saying here that I want to get away from the false, to find the real people and feelings and not be afraid of the world.”
Pop veteran Steve Mac (James Blunt, Shakira) and Priscilla Renea contributed the deceptively snappy “Thumbs.” “‘Thumbs’ gave me this incredible “Black and Gold” vibe, along with lyrics that were so original. I would have never thought to look at my hands and write a song that’s about taking in the world and seeing that we’re all in this same life pattern.”
The new maturity showcased on EVOLution extends to Carpenter’s more confident, distinctly sultrier singing. “My inspiration has come from people with huge, soulful voices, and were all-around artists in every area,” says the singer, whose mom introduced her to 20th century greats from Judy Garland to Etta James and Patsy Cline, while her dad showered her in the Beatles and Rush. “Then you find the legends on your own, like Michael Jackson and Prince and David Bowie.” Carpenter cites fellow musician/actors Justin Timberlake and Jared Leto as current artists who “aren’t afraid to take risks in all genres, in everything they do in the world of art.”
Carpenter is optimistic that “there will be time for all my passions. I was always the type of person that wanted to learn four instruments at once, or be making a movie while writing an album.” But she adds, pointedly, “I can’t imagine my life without music,” and EVOLution marks her determination to keep moving forward in that arena. “I don’t want to make puns of my songs, but it’s a thumbprint,” she says. “It’s my next step, a part of my journey that I’m super proud of.”