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For the past decade, 37-year-old songwriter Brandy Clark has crafted some of country music’s biggest hits for artists like Miranda Lambert and The Band Perry. “It’s always been a pretty regimented process,” she says of working on Nashville’s Music Row. “I go to an office around 10:30 every morning and I’m constantly looking for ideas within the books I read, the movies I watch or the conversations I have.”
The past year, however, has proven to be far less predictable for Clark; since the release of her debut album, 12 Stories, last October, Clark has stepped into the spotlight and is the only woman to have received a nomination in the CMA’s Best New Artist category. Here, we catch up with the singer-songwriter in advance of what is sure to be a major red-carpet appearance for her at the CMA Awards.
You’ve had so many accomplishments to date but this year has been epic in a different way. What’s been the biggest highlight for you?
Oh wow, I would have to say the overall [experience of] getting to share my music with the audience. Being on the Jennifer Nettles tour and now on the Eric Church tour, I get to have that give-and-take experience with an audience every night …it’s been very rewarding.
Has the experience of being on the road and not working from Nashville every day changed your approach to songwriting?
Yes! In fact, it’s the only thing that’s been hard for me — touring has gotten me out of the groove, so to speak. But I’ve just sort of had to tell myself, “OK, I’m not going to write good songs every day because I don’t have as much time right now. But it’s also important to remember that you have to write some bad ones to get to the good ones.
Which song do you love to perform most?
Can I have two?
“Hold My Hand” because I love how it draws people in and it usually comes after a big burst of energy — and then the song “Get High.” I feel like no matter what kind of crowd I’m dealing with, that song saves me and it sucks people in if they’re not engaged.
How does it feel to be nominated for Best New Artist? Where were you when you found out?
Pretty surreal. It took me a few days for it to sink in because I just didn’t expect it — it just blows my mind. I’m also the only independent artist in that category, so all of it is just like — I feel like the big underdog. I was at my house and it was early in the morning when I found out — I just sort of held it in and processed it all.
Do you get nervous at awards shows?
Oh yeah, but for me it’s never until they read off the names for the category — that’s the moment I think, “Oh man, I can actually win this and I actually want to win this.” Up until that moment there’s just the feeling of it being such an honor to be nominated.
And if you win, how will you celebrate?
You know what, I’ll probably party and stay out all night. I’m not a big partier but a lot of the people involved who would have had so much to do with me winning are [partiers] — so I feel like I would need to stay out with them!
We’ve seen a lot of women wearing tuxedos on the red carpet. Is that something you’d ever try?
I’m more into dresses, believe it or not. I mean, even though I’m sort of a tomboy in my everyday look, when it comes to red carpet I want to look classy and elegant. Tuxedos are both of those things, I just don’t think I’m the woman that could pull it off. I like clean and simple designs, and I think I look best in jewel tones.
Do you have any good luck charms? Or any rituals that help alleviate butterflies in your stomach?
Nope, because for me, butterflies help a little. If I’m not thinking, “Holy shit, this is Madison Square Garden — I might forget the words to this song,” then there’s something wrong!
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