Hailing from Morton in Lewis County, the country singer-songwriter says she’s “on cloud nine” after being nominated for Grammy Awards in the best country album and best new artist categories.
Brandy Clark was getting off an airplane last December when she found out she had snagged not only a best country album Grammy nomination but was nominated for best new artist as well. The nomination catapulted the relatively unknown Clark into the spotlight in a way she never expected, and even a month later she was still trying to process what it all meant.
“All Grammy voters are musicians and singers and writers, so to be nominated for a Grammy is huge for that reason,” said Clark, who grew up in Morton, in Lewis County. “I wish I could be more articulate. I’m still a little bit blown away by it.”
Being a songwriter on Music Row is as close to working a normal, anonymous office job as most professional musicians will get, and Clark said that by her early 30s she had largely given up on trying to make it as a solo artist.
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Though Clark co-wrote hits like the No. 1 single “Better Dig Two” by The Band Perry and “Mama’s Broken Heart” by Miranda Lambert, it’s understandable why many saw her name next to Haim, Bastille, Iggy Azalea and Sam Smith — all fellow best new artist nominees — and asked “Brandy who?”
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It was Smith who took the Grammy, but Clark certainly isn’t a stranger to accolades. She was nominated for a Grammy last year for her songwriting credit on “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and picked up a 2014 CMA song of the year award for “Follow Your Arrow,” a song she wrote with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally.
She was also a CMA new artist of the year nominee in 2014 and was Music Row Magazine’s breakthrough artist of the year. After a year of heavy touring in 2014, Clark is back on the road, this time with Alan Jackson as part of his 25th anniversary tour.
Her album “12 Stories” earned her the Grammy nomination for best country album — also up for the honor are albums by Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church and Lee Ann Womack.
“Those are records I really love,” Clark said of her fellow nominees. “To be in the same breath as all of them is pretty surreal.”
Clark, 37, has deep roots in tiny Morton, where her father, Woody, was a logger until his death in an accident in 2001. Her mother, Sally, still lives there.
Clark cut her teeth on country music by heading over to her grandparents’ house to lose herself in Merle Haggard and Patsy Cline records. Even though it was the early ’80s and pop country had already become the predominant sound, it was those older artists who drew Clark in.
“I fell in love specifically with Patsy Cline’s music,” Clark said. “That real classic country sound is what I fell in love with, what I’m still in love with and want to keep alive in country music.”
Clark split her passion for music with basketball, and she rode an athletic scholarship to Central Washington University. However, the pull of music soon became stronger and Clark took the plunge and moved to Nashville in 1998, where she enrolled at Belmont University and started carving out a place in Music City.
During that time, Clark also honed her skills as a talented storyteller with a keen eye for observation, and she credits the small logging town she grew up in with helping her find her voice.
“I think I grew up in the perfect environment to be a country songwriter,” she said. “I was in that small town with a lot of big characters and I think the right values placed on everything, on work and family, on supporting your community. I think it primed me to be in industry I’m in.”
Those characters come to life in “12 Stories,” and whether it’s a mother who just wants to relax with a little marijuana or a woman who keeps herself from going to jail because she doesn’t “look good in stripes,” Clark nails it with gritty, world-weary humor.
“ABC can tell one story and HBO can tell a story that’s a little more graphic, and in a lot of ways a little more real,” Clark said. “I joked and said (‘12 Stories’) is what the soccer moms listen to when they drop their kids off, but they might not listen to it with their kids in the car, whether it’s ‘Get High’ or ‘Take a Little Pill,’ but those things are going on and they’re part of life.”
Grammy nominations are also part of Clark’s life, even if she never would have predicted that for herself.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Clark said. “I’m on cloud nine and I hope I stay there a while. I’ve been at this a long time and had some big successes, but I never felt more validated than when those Grammy nominations came down.”