Brandy Clark may have grown up more than 2,000 miles away from Nashville, but country music was always around her.
“I think music just hit me the way it hits everybody,” Clark said. “It hit me right in the heart.”
The pride of Morton, Wash., Clark has come a long way from that tiny logging town in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. After writing songs for other country music stars, she decided to hold on to some of those songs for herself and record her own album.
Clark will be in Alexandria, Va., at the Birchmere to perform songs from her CD “12 Stories,” on Wednesday.
Although her parents listened to more of the pop country songs of the early 1980s when she was growing up, Clark’s grandparents had the biggest impact on her musical career.
“My grandma and grandpa, they listened to Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn and George Jones and that kind of stuff,” Clark said. “We were riding around in my grandma’s car listening to that stuff. She also had a huge influence on me because she was such a huge character. I think she was the first huge character in my life and I tend to be drawn to huge characters.”
Putting “12 Stories” together was an incredible experience, according to Clark.
“It sounds like such a crazy word, but it was magical,” Clark said. “I was able to do it with [producer] Dave Brainard and he really just devoted himself to it for at least a solid six months. … He and I became very close after that and this was kind of like our child that we birthed together.”
Unfortunately for Clark, it would take about two years before their child would reach the masses. It got to the point for Clark where, by the time the album did come out, she didn’t think it would ever see the light of day.
“As joy-filled as the making of it was, that part of it was the opposite,” Clark said. “There was a lot of rejection and there was a lot of doubt. I was like, ‘Wow, maybe what I thought we did that was so great really wasn’t.’ The other thing that was frustrating was I saw friends of mine make records in less time than what it took to do what I had to do.
“But I got some songs recorded by other people that became big hits and that helped my record.”
There were more than just a few hits. In 2013 alone, Clark had written hit songs for artists Kacey Musgraves, Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, Pam Tillis, Gretchen Wilson and Sheryl Crow. Before that, she had written songs for Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert and The Band Perry.
“That never gets old,” Clark said. “It never gets old for your song to get recorded by a great singer or a great artist. That’s always an amazing feeling.”
One would think at some point a singer/songwriter would greedily hold on to a few of those hits for themselves. Clark, however, said she never gets tired of writing songs for others.
“I enjoyed making my own record and I hope to be successful enough with it to make a whole lot more records,” Clark said. “I never really write for myself, I just try to write for characters. I try to put myself in the character of a song. So I don’t get tired of writing for other people for that reason.”
In the end, Clark said she hopes fans can just sit back and listen to some good country music.
“I hope they say, ‘Wow, that’s country music,’” Clark said. “And that they can feel like country music is alive and well. Even more than that, I hope they find themselves in their songs because that’s who I really write songs for.
“As songwriters, we can really get into impressing each other and try to outwrite each other and really lose sight of the audience. I just want to write songs that the audience can find themselves in – where they can say, ‘Yep, that’s me.’”