A couple of years ago, Sabrina Carpenter would tell people that she wanted to experience heartbreak. It was in jest, mostly — but also it wasn’t. As a young singer-songwriter, Carpenter desired the artistic clarity of emotional pain.
“To my friends, I was always like, ‘I just want to know what Adele’s feeling,’” Carpenter tells Billboard in between bites of ravioli during a breezy early-fall afternoon in lower Manhattan. “Like, how she made these gut-wrenching records. And I [just became] so fascinated with that… like, ‘Damn, I just need some of whatever Adele was drinking!’”
She pauses. “And… then I got it.” Carpenter takes a hard swallow and adopts a careful-what-you-wish-for grimace, the lightness of her conversation dropping away for a few seconds before quickly coming back. “It was super-eye-opening, and I am grateful for it all,” she recovers. “But it’s still tricky to navigate.”
At 22, Carpenter has already experienced more of life than most artists her age, as a particularly prolific dual-threat former child star. The Lehigh Valley, Penn. native had finalized a label deal with Disney Music Group’s Hollywood Records at the age of 14 as a home for her family-friendly pop; in the same year, she signed on to co-star in the Disney Channel series Girl Meets World, a job that lasted over 70 episodes.
Her warm on-camera presence drew the attention of young viewers, while her breathy, agreeable songs drew millions of streams and cracked Billboard‘s Pop Songs chart on four occasions. Before hitting the legal drinking age, Carpenter had already appeared in over a dozen movies and TV shows, and released four full albums. When the volume of that work is brought up, Carpenter exhales slowly, sets down her mocha latte, and nods.
The gap between Carpenter’s 2019 album Singular: Act II and her in-the-works next album is already the longest of her career, and even if the upcoming project (release date TBD) hadn’t been informed by a breakup, Carpenter believes it would have still been markedly different than her previous output. For one, she has new collaborators — Julia Michaels and JP Saxe, the “If The World Was Ending” duet stars and real-life couple that Carpenter says have worked on “more than half the record” with her. That record will also be her first on her new label home of Island Records, which finalized a deal with Carpenter in January, and was created primarily in New York City, where she’s stayed most of 2021 after spending years on the opposite coast.