Country star Brandy Clark celebrates Grammy nods ahead of holiday special

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Brandy Clark (Part 1)

She has written some of the biggest hits in the past decade of country music.

Next week, Grammy nominee Brandy Clark performs the holiday special “Christmas from Here, There and Everywhere” on the Grand Ole Opry’s Circle TV on Dec. 22.

“The last couple of years I started doing a writing retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico,” Clark told WTOP. “Then COVID happened. … My manager was talking to Circle TV and mentioned that we could do a Christmas special from Santa Fe. They loved that idea, so I tried to have guests that I would have invited to the writing retreat.”

As such, the show features special guest performances by Melissa Etheridge, Shane McAnally, Ashley McBryde, Reyna Roberts, Charlie Worsham and, of course, Cam.

“[Cam] does ‘Silent Night’ and it’s stunning,” Clark said. “I did ‘Deck the Halls,’ ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Jingle Bells’ … Shane McAnally did a song he, Kacey Musgraves and I wrote: ‘Christmas Makes Me Cry.'”

Born in Morton, Washington, in 1975, Clark grew up listening to country radio.

“The only radio station that came in really well was a country station,” Clark said. “Ronnie Milsap was the first concert I ever went to. … Then my grandparents were listening to Loretta [Lynn], Merle [Haggard] and George Jones. … The really big influences I remember were Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Judds.”

How did she wind up moving to Nashville in 1998?

“I’m really lucky that I had encouragement from my parents, because otherwise I don’t think I would have,” Clark said. “If I brought it up and they said, ‘That’s crazy,’ I would have let it go because it’s a vulnerable dream to have. Instead, I had parents who said, ‘You need to move to Nashville if you really want to do this.'”

In 2011, she co-wrote Miranda Lambert’s smash hit “Mama’s Broken Heart.”

“I wrote that with Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves,” Clark said. “He had this idea called ‘Ain’t your mama’s something.’ … His sister had gone through this breakup and her mom wanted her to put on makeup and go back out. … I remember it being a pretty easy song to write. … Miranda heard it and recorded it and the rest is history.”

In 2012, she co-wrote “Better Dig Two” for The Band Perry.

“That was with Shane and Trevor Rosen of Old Dominion,” Clark said. “[Trevor] started playing that opening lick … and we started writing it from the very top line: ‘I told you on the day we wed I was gonna love you till I was dead.’ … That song was actually called ‘Put Me in the Ground.’ Band Perry wanted to change it to ‘Better Dig Two.'”

In 2013, she co-wrote “Follow Your Arrow” for Kacey Musgraves.

“She came in with this poem that she had written for a friend that was going to Europe that said, ‘Smoke lots of joints and kiss lots of boys, follow your arrow,'” Clark said. “That song ended up being CMA’s Song of the Year. … It really was a game-changer for Kacey and a song that when I tell people I’m a writer on, they freak out.”

That same year, Clark finally got the spotlight with her debut studio album “12 Stories” (2013), earning Grammy nominations for Best Country Album and Best New Artist.

“It changed my life, no doubt about it,” Clark said. “I was playing a show with Lee Ann Womack that night in Albuquerque, so I got on the plane and I knew my album was nominated. … Then we landed and people in the band turned on their phones [and] started screaming on the runway because I had been nominated for Best New Artist!”

At the Grammys ceremony, she got to perform with the legendary Dwight Yoakam.

“That was incredible,” Clark said. “I still have people that come up and say, ‘I saw you on the Grammys with Dwight.’ That was their introduction to me. We performed ‘Hold My Hand.’ … I always say that it was the best two minutes and 40 seconds of my life.”

Her second album “Big Day in a Small Town” (2016) earned two more Grammy nods for Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance for “Love Can Go to Hell.” The track “Daughter” cracked up Wolf Trap when she opened for Tanya Tucker.

“I was writing with Jessie Jo Dillon and Jeremy Spillman,” Clark said. “Jessie had been out the night before and had seen this guy — who will remain nameless but he’s a pretty popular artist — doing some really degrading things to women. … I said, ‘I hope he has a daughter, because all of the things he’s doing to women won’t be so funny.”

Her latest album “Your Life is a Record” (2020) is nominated for two Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance for “Who You Thought I Was.”

“I was at the Americana Awards a couple years ago and John Prine came out,” Clark said. “Everybody stood up for a long time [and] he said, ‘Well, I’m John Prine, but I’d like to go back to being who you thought I was.’ It really hit me as a human who’s messed up at times wanting to go back to being who different people thought I was.”

Sadly, Prine died of COVID-19 earlier this year, as did country legends Joe Diffie and Charley Pride in a tragic 2020. Clark hopes her holiday concert will lift people’s spirits.

“I hope to make people forget what’s going on this year … maybe get lost in their childhood at Christmas and maybe feel a little closer to people that they can’t be with right now,” Clark said. “I hope they’ll laugh, there’s some funny songs, and there’s some tender, touching moments. I hope everyone who watches it feels a little less alone.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Brandy Clark (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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