Ten-time Grammy nominee Brandy Clark will bring her global ‘The Art of the Storyteller’ tour to the UK and Ireland in August. One of her generation’s most respected and celebrated songwriters, Brandy’s songs have been recorded by Kacey Musgraves, Sheryl Crow, Leann Rimes, Reba, Miranda Lambert and many more. Her three solo studio albums have been veritable treasure troves of joy, each one slightly different but each one dripping in authentic storytelling, biting lyrics and wonderful melodies.
We were thrilled to catch up with her to talk about her career and the upcoming tour.
Thank you for giving us your time today, Brandy. Its been a while since we saw you in the UK. Do you have fond memories of your previous visits here?
Thank you too. Yes, it’s been a while, thanks to Covid! The last time I was over was just before the global shutdown and I was in Denmark. Two of the girls in my band were talking about how the world was just about to shut down and my friend and I, who was there, were like, ‘Wow, they’re being so dramatic!’ (laughing) Turns out they were correct, right?
The last show I played was in Scotland and it was one of my favourite ever shows. When the world shut down and it felt like we were never going to play live ever again I remember thinking, ‘Well, at least I went out with a bang!’
I love coming to Europe and the UK to play. There are no better fans, anywhere. The appreciation that those audiences have for songs and songwriters is unparalleled. I’m bringing a frequent co-writer of mine with me this time, Jessie Jo Dillon, and I’ve told her that she is going to be blown away by the way people treat songs and the writers over your side of the Atlantic.
The tour is called ‘The Art of the Storyteller’ which is giving me ‘An Evening With…’ vibes. Can we expect chat, stories, new songs, old songs and songs recorded by other artists then?
Every night its a little different but I tell a lot of stories about why I wanted to write songs. I’ve done about 8 shows in the USA just to work it out before I come over. I’ve been blown away by the response.
We’ll take a trip down memory lane together – I’ll talk about and play songs that I loved as a kid too. Each show was 90 minutes to 2 hours and yet it felt like about half an hour, you know? (laughing) There’s a lot of variety in the show, my players, who also have their own duo called Tattletale Saints, will take a section of the set too. We’ll visit all the albums I’ve recorded and some of the songs cut by other artists too, it’s a rollercoaster ride but an easy rollercoaster! (Laughing)
Each of the three albums you’ve recorded are very distinct albums that saw you grow and evolve as a songwriter. Do you have a favourite album, phase or cycle that you look back on most fondly or is that like asking to choose between your kids?
That’s tough. First albums, there’s typically an innocence in the making of them. ’12 Stories’ will always hold a special place in my heart. I never thought I’d ever get to make an album of my own and there is so many songs on there that I was so upset hadn’t been recorded by other artists! (laughing)
With ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ we went with a bigger sound and a conceptual idea about a whole album that takes place in a small town. We had some heartbreak with that record, there was a push at Country radio that didn’t get the results I wanted but then that lead to recording ‘Your Life is a Record’, which was probably the most freedom I’ve ever had when making an album. There were no rules on that album, I wanted to just make the most emotional album that I could make at the time.
Each album has had a certain amount of heartbreak attached to it for different reasons and a certain amount of dream come true also!
So would now be a good time to ask how album number four is shaping up?
I’m working on it right now! I’m writing and it’s shaping up nicely. I’m just trying to figure out who to work with as a producer on it. That’s always a big piece of the puzzle but I’m working on it.
Are you tempted to self-produce this one?
I might co-produce this one, I’ll say that! (laughing) We’ll see. It’s funny that you should ask that because I’ve never thought about myself as a producer but lately I’ve been getting some opportunities to produce other projects that aren’t mine. I have to pay attention to that because somebody sees that for me and thinks I would be a good fit. Maybe that’s in there?
Producing feels like a whole other side of creativity and it could feed that part of me that the songwriter side of me feeds, so I have to pay attention to that.
Is there a song you’ve recorded on one of your albums that you feel has gone under the radar at all in terms of attention or acclaim? For me it’s ‘The Day She Got Divorced’, which I never tire of listening to.
Thank you, that is one of my favourite songs too. That song could have been on my last record I think. I think about that a lot, it would have been cool to re-imagine it for ‘Your Life is a Record’ because we had all the Memphis strings and horns on there that is very Bobbie Gentry-esque and that song would have suited that perfectly.
With ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ it would probably be ‘Three Kids, No Husband’. That’s a fan favourite, for sure. With ‘Your Life is a Record’ it’s probably ‘I’ll Be the Sad Song’, maybe? If you have a great song that you feel like isn’t getting enough attention, though, it probably means that there are other songs that are, and that isn’t a bad thing, you know? (laughing)
It’s been 11 years since Miranda Lambert released ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’. If I could take you back in time and let you give yourself a piece of advice, what would you say to yourself?
‘Don’t worry, it’s all gonna work out’, for sure! (laughing) Right before that I was feeling, for a long time, that I might have chosen the wrong path. I knew that I was writing the best songs that I could possibly produce, that’s all you can do but I wondered whether my best just wasn’t resonating with other people.
Miranda recording ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ changed my life, for sure.
You’ve also worked really closely with Brandi Carlisle in recent times. How did you get together and what special magic happens when you do?
So, we met through a woman that we both work with, named Tracey Gershon. Tracey phoned one of us, I can’t remember which Brandy / Brandi she was trying to reach but it was the wrong one! (laughing) It was her that said we needed to meet.
I’ve always loved Brandi’s energy, her music, her writing, her voice but I think what’s special about us is that we have a lot in common. We’re both from Washington state, we’re both named Brandy, we’re both gay and we’re both singer songwriters who don’t quite fit in Country music or Americana, or, in her case, Rock. Brandi is more diverse than I am.
Washington state is, often, a mis-understood place. When I moved to the south I felt like I had moved to a foreign country! (lauhging) Everything was so different. When people come up to where we are from they say things like, ‘wow, this is so redneck, so country!’ because their perception of Washington state is just Seattle. Brandi and I have that in common.
Talking about you and Brandi ‘not fitting in’. Have you ever had a phase in your career where you have been anxious about that?
Definitely! (laughing) I’ve got to a point now where I don’t worry about it anymore. When I first started working with my manager I said that I was worried about fitting in and she was like, no, you don’t fit in but you do stand out!
I’m lucky to have a team around that feels like that and a fan base that cares about my music.
When ’12 Stories’ first came out streaming wasn’t even that much of a thing, there’s been so much change in the industry in the last decade. Streaming has changed the game for so many people. When I first moved to Nashville, if you weren’t on Country radio or on a major label, you might as well forget it. We produced ’12 Stories’ completely independently and it was trailblazing at the time – the way the industry has diversified and changed has really helped me to find my crowd and my fans.
If you are an artist that streams really well in 2022 there is no reason to sign a record deal anymore. I know artists who aren’t even massive streaming artists but they own their masters and they make six figures a year, that’s amazing.
What are your thoughts on writers beginning to push to get paid when they have a song put on hold by an artist, label or A&R rep? Many writers I talk to lament the fact that they can have songs on hold for up to and over 2 years and still receive no financial reward for that.
I had that happen to me. One of my first hits, ‘Better Dig Two’ was put on hold by The Band Perry. They held that for 18 months and then took it off hold and didn’t record it. They then changed their minds later and went back in and recorded it.
The only time I’ve heard of songwriters being compensated for having songs on hold was with Garth Brooks! He had held a bunch of songs and then paid the writers of the songs he didn’t record some compensation too. That’s really amazing, but then we are talking about Garth Brooks, right? (laughing)
Paying writers to hold songs would be great and it might make artists and labels a little more selective about what they hold too. It would make everybody involved a little more intentional and invested in what is being held. I always tell songwriters who are upset that a song of theirs didn’t get used – it’s not always the best ten songs that get used, it’s the right ten songs. Artists sometimes leave great songs off their records because it didn’t fit the vibe or feel of the project but it doesn’t mean the song wasn’t a good one. Thinking of it that way helps me too.
The worst aspect and the thing that scares me sometimes is when an artist holds a song of mine for a year but then tries to write something like it at the same time. That’s worrisome to me.
Is there anyone you haven’t managed to write a song with yet that is on your collaborator bucket list?
Well, listen, If I could write with Adele……………(laughing) I’m blown away by her vocals and with a twist of production many of her songs could also be Country songs, right? That would be incredible.
I’d love to work more with Brandi Carlisle. Her and I do have magic together and we could do some great things. I’ll tell you an artist in Country who has always been a massive inspiration to me, Eric Church. His writing is so phenomenal, I love the commitment he has to writing to great songs.
If I could resurrect somebody, I’d love to write with Merle Haggard. I’ve been listening to a lot of his stuff lately. When I’m in creative mode I listen to his songs a lot. Dolly Parton too. I mean, I’d love to write with Dolly, that would be amazing.
Buy tickets to see Brandy Clark on her ‘The Art of the Storyteller’ tour and at the Long Road festival right here