With the release of her debut album “12 Stories” back in 2013, Brandy Clark instantly proved that she wasn’t a wallflower when it comes to her music. While in the midst of bro-country, Brandy released gutsy songs like “Stripes”, “Pray to Jesus” and “Hungover”, her style was a welcome and refreshing change from what was the in thing at the time. Since then, Brandy’s music has continued to resonate with fans here and across the pond for being about real-life success, struggles and everything in between.
After the release of “12 Stories”, Brandy signed with major label Warner Bros Records and released the highly anticipated album “Big Day in a Small Town.” Produced by Jay Joyce, it was a bigger and bolder version of the Brandy Clark fans have come to know and love.
During her recent European tour, we got to talk with Brandy while she was in Sweden about the difference between working on music whilst on an independent label vs a major label, what inspires her, what song she finds difficult to perform live because of the personal meaning to her and more.
CC: Hi Brandy, it’s great to speak with you today. Firstly, happy belated birthday! How did you celebrate?
BC: Thank you! Well it felt like I celebrated forever because I had just gotten to Amsterdam, so it was my birthday was seven hours earlier than in the States. I walked around Amsterdam and had a beautiful day and a lot of well wishes, so it was a really good time.
CC: You’re currently in Sweden as part of your European tour, have you had chance to explore?
BC: I did today, I walked around a little. I’ve had the least amount of time to explore here, I got to explore in Germany and Amsterdam a little bit more but this is such a beautiful place. From what I can see of Stockholm, it’s so beautiful.
CC: The last time we spoke, it wasn’t too long after your appearance at C2C. Quite a lot has happened since then and you’re about to tour the UK for the second time. Due to demand, an additional show was added in London, which is awesome. It must be pretty cool to be able to do that outside of the US?
BC: It is! You know, it’s crazy to me and I felt this way in Germany the other night – well in every place we’ve been – it blows my mind when anyone knows my music that I can’t touch or a place that I’ve not been, that always blows my mind. It doesn’t shock me if I play a show in Nashville and a lot of people come or in my home state of Washington, but other places? That just floors me, that people go out and they find music. That’s a great thing for an artist like me and it really does just blow my mind.
CC: A UK fan favourite is Charlie Worsham and you guys went out on a tour together earlier this year. How was that?
BC: That was great. You know, Charlie is one of my favourites. He’s just a great artist, he’s a great artist, a great musician, singer and songwriter. Being on tour with him was amazing because I felt like every night the level of musicianship was just so high on his end of things, so you want your end of things to be just as good.
CC: Your second album “A Big Day in a Small Town” was released last year and was the first release on a major label. How did the experience differ compared to working on “12 Stories”?
BC: Well the level of pressure was a little higher. Having “12 Stories” be a success, there was a pressure to make “A Big Day in a Small Town” be a success as well. The time we recorded was much quicker because with this record there was a budget and with the first one there really wasn’t, so I could spend a month and do nothing but that – that was pretty great.
Some of the ways we worked on releasing it were different than “12 Stories”, we had some different opportunities but both ways were really fun and there’s nothing like the first time. With “12 Stories”, experiencing all those things for the first time, that’s pretty great.
CC: What I loved about “A Big Day in a Small Town” was it had all of the elements that fans fell in love with in the first place but everything was bigger and bolder. I particularly liked the transition between tracks, I thought that was really funky.
BC: Oh thank you. Yeah, I worked with Jay Joyce on this record and he’s really great. It was his idea to do those transitions and we came up with them together, you know what they were going to be, the musicians that were in the studio were involved in that as well but that was his call. I’m really glad that I was open to it and that it worked out the way it did.
CC: Country music is known to be about real life, but I think artists such as yourself and Lori McKenna really take it up a notch with your song writing. It is more real day to day life rather than a glossy version. Has there ever been times you’ve written something where you thought “that’s a bit close to the bone”?
BC: Yeah, I’ve written things where some of my songs are more me than others. There’s songs on “A Big Day in a Small Town” like “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven”, that was inspired by the death of my father which was many years ago now but I had that idea after he passed away. He was killed in an accident in July of 2001 and then a couple of months later 9/11 happened. I remember watching the ticker tape on CNN and all the terrible things that were happening and thinking man, since my Dad has died the world has gone to hell.
I had that idea but it was several years before I sat down and wrote it because it really was just too close to home. That one for me hits real hard, real close to home and every once in a while, I’ll play it in a show but most times I don’t because it’s real hard for me to get through it.
CC: I did wonder if there are any songs that were maybe a bit too personal that are difficult to perform live.
BC: That one I definitely do feel that way about.
CC: You recently released a live album recorded at one of your shows “Live in Los Angeles”. How did that come about and how do you choose a particular show to record?
BC: That came about completely organically, some places you play have the ability to record the show and usually if they do, I try and make that happen. I like to go back and listen and kind of hear not just the songs but what I’m saying in between the songs so I can see what works, what could work better so that was the reason why we recorded it – but it went so well that night that we decided, well it wasn’t me, it was the label (Warner Brothers) that said let’s to turn this into a live album. It was a longer show than what’s on the record, so we had to cut some songs but I feel really lucky that I got to do it…easiest record I’ve ever made. So that was real cool.
CC: I think it’s quite a good way for fans who maybe can’t attend a show, they’re still experiencing some aspect of it this way.
BC: That’s how I felt too.
CC: During your set on Miranda Lambert’s tour, you opened with a new song “Favourite Lie”. Does that mean new material is in the near future?
BC: Yes it does. In fact, part of why I’ve started to play new songs in my set is just to see and try a few things out that I’m thinking about for my next record, so I can see how the crowd responds to them. It’s my goal to make a new record this year, I don’t know when it’ll come out but that’s where my head is right now other than touring – figuring out what my next record is going to be.
CC: What would fans be surprised to know about you?
BC: Wow, that’s a great question. A lot of people think I’m this badass, I don’t know if that’s the right word to use but I see that a lot because of my songs. I think people would be surprised that I’m not a substance abuser is what I was trying to get at there, I’m not somebody who is getting high all the time or drinking all the time – not that I don’t ever do those things but I’m more straight laced than my songs.
CC: I’ve seen on social media that you like to binge watch TV shows. So, what kind of shows do you watch in your downtime? There’s never enough Netflix suggestions!
BC: I love “Narcos”, that’s one of my favourites and I love “The Crown”. I pretty much just watch Netlfix, I don’t really have any episodic television that I’m watching right now. I love “Breaking Bad”, which is a series that’s a little bit older, but I watch a lot of that and this is crazy but a lot of the time it helps me fall asleep at night. I like TV shows that are about the seedier elements of life, “Narcos” and “Breaking Bad” are about drugs and people dealing drugs, which is probably some of where I draw inspiration from.