Interview: Brandy Clark on her biggest 'pinch me' moments
“I feel like my life is a little bit like a dream,” says Brandy Clark.
If so, she must never want to wake up.
The Nashville singer/songwriter, who co-penned such hits as Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” released her debut album, “12 Stories,” last fall, and she has been floating ever since.
Clark’s clear, silky voice carries the tales of people that you either recognize yourself or your neighbor in they are so richly drawn and cinematic in their detail. There’s a realness to the characters: The woman who prays to Jesus, but still buys a lottery ticket in “Pray to Jesus,” or the gal who can’t quite stop herself from stepping into that elevator that will lead to a night of adultery on “What Will Keep Me Out Of Heaven” or the person hit with a dose of insecurity when her lover’s ex walks into the room on “Hold My Hand.”
NPR called “12 Stories” “country music for drinking and thinking.” The album made NPR’s “Best of 2013 list,” as well as Rolling Stone’s and New York Magazine’s. Earlier this year, we named her one of the 5 country artists to watch.
“I’ve definitely felt lifted up by the press, the love that I maybe didn’t feel from record labels in some way, the press maybe made up for it,” says Clark over sushi in Hollywood. She’s just finished taping “Ellen” and is grabbing a bite before heading to the airport to board a red-eye to catch back up with the Jennifer Nettles tour. She’s the opening act.
Clark recorded “12 Stories” in 2012, but it sat on the shelf as she shopped it around and could find no major label takers. Released on an indie label, it has struggled to find a wide audience so far, in part because terrestrial country radio isn’t playing a lot of women these days as it remains obsessed on bro-country, the country equivalent of frat-boy rock. Satellite radio, however, has been a big supporter, especially in first single, the tongue-in-cheek “Stripes,” which also got a boost from its use in Beats Music’s Super Bowl ad.
“XM radio is playing ‘Stripes’ a lot and it’s amazing what that’s done,” Clark says. “Every night in my set, I play ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ and ‘Better Dig Two’ and people go crazy, but not far behind that is ‘Stripes’.”
She hopes that mainstream radio will gravitate toward “Stripes,” which humorously tells of a woman who has decided not to kill her man solely because she would not look good in prison stripes. But if radio doesn’t come around, “that’s ok too,” Clark says. “I didn’t make this record for everybody but the people who wanted to hear it. And every night when we sell out of the album at the shows, I know it’s hitting the right ears.”
When Clark meets with fans after the show, 75% of them say they hadn’t heard of her before, but she’s having an amazing conversion rate: 10% of Nettles’ audience is taking home “12 Stories.”
Ask Clark her biggest “pinch me”moment of the last few months and she can’t pick just one. “Jake Owen called me and left me a message that made me cry,” she says. “It was about a minute and a half long about what my record meant to him and that was really nice.” Or maybe it was the other night when she was playing “Stripes” in Milwaukee. “I saw a mans come from the back of the audience come up the aisle and start to motion for everyone to stand up. Everyone stood up and started clapping during the song, so that was definitely an ‘Oh my God’ moment and hard for me to keep my composure.” Or, she mentions, appearing on “Ellen” and “The Late Show with David Letterman” have been highlights. And then there’s the CMA, Grammy, and ACM nominations. You get the idea. “I grew up my whole life watching those award shows and even though you dream of this, when you get in the middle of it, there’s a part of you that always thinks it will just be a dream.”