Sunday, June 15, 2003

Brandy Clark, July 12th, 2003

Few writers are as fortunate as singer/songwriter Brandy Clark, whose life experiences have already provided a mother lode of song ideas deep enough to last a lifetime. Reared in Morton, Washington, a town of only 900 people in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, Clark’s upbringing left such a profound impact on her life that her lyrics can’t help but reflect where she came from. Her life, complete with a mother and father who supported and encouraged her in all her creative endeavors, a brother who was equally creative and a somewhat eccentric convertible-driving grandmother living next door, all provide rich fodder for her songs.

Brandy's exposure to a diverse array of music also made an impression on her creativity. "We listened to everything from Patsy Cline to Phantom of the Opera, and my dad listened to Air Supply and Fleetwood Mac. People are astonished at some of the music I know, simply because that’s what I grew up with. Plus, my grandmother exposed us to her music, too. Once a week she’d take us up to a view point, where you could see Mt. St. Helens, she was obsessed with the volcano, even before it blew. She would take us in the convertible she still has today and she would play her favorite 8-tracks. One we used to listen to all the time was Magic Organ, which was Floyd Cramer playing all these songs like ‘Little Brown Jug’ and ‘Top of the World.’"

Clark started penning songs at an early age, and she now laughs about the experience. "When I started writing songs as a little girl, I wrote about things I knew absolutely nothing about like love and heartbreak. I thought all songs should be like ‘Crazy’ and ‘I Fall To Pieces,’ so that’s the kind of songs I tried to write. My mom really encouraged us to be writers, and she even paid us minimum wage to go into our rooms to write. Looking back on it, I think she just wanted quiet so she could watch soap operas. But she always used to tell us ‘You should write what you know’."

Clark abandoned her music for a time in high school, devoting her energies instead to sports, eventually attending college on a basketball scholarship at Central Washington University. She soon found that wasn’t what she was destined to do, so she quit basketball and moved back home, obtaining an associates degree from a community college. During that time, the teenager found out about the music business program at Belmont University, so she enrolled and moved to Nashville. Upon graduation, Clark landed a job with Leadership Music, a job which led to her eventual publishing deal.

Publisher and Leadership Music alumnus Stephanie Cox was in need of someone to teach her Peachtree Accounting, which Brandy was proficient in, and soon found herself teaching Cox the basics, although she was careful not to let Cox know she was an aspiring songwriter. "I never wanted to be unprofessional by letting her know I was a writer, but I guess she found out anyway," Brandy confesses. "One day when I was over there she asked ‘Why haven’t you played songs for me?’ I told her I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. Then she asked again, ‘When are you going to play me songs?’ I asked her if she had a guitar, and when she said she did, I said ‘right now'."

Not only did Cox like what she heard, but she also encouraged the young tunesmith to devote herself to writing full-time. Tabitha Daly, executive director of Leadership Music, had also been pushing her to meet another alumnus who was a hit songwriter, Beckie Foster. "We really hit it off, and Beckie wanted to know how we could work together. I told her I also really wanted to work with Stephanie, so Beckie and Stephanie went out for coffee, and worked everything out to co-op my publishing."

Of Clark’s writing, her two publishers have nothing but praise. "Brandy is a writer/artist whose enormous talent is matched only by her intense commitment to her craft," contends Cox. "Her passion and determination are balanced with an intuitive wisdom from which her original ideas and insightful perspectives are born. She unwittingly raises the bar for everyone around her."

Foster echoes that sentiment: "Brandy has the ability to paint vivid little scenes of life with her lyrics, which make her songs very poignant and evocative, and that’s what I love about her writing."

When asked what it means to her to be a songwriter, Brandy muses, "I’m really proud to get to write on forms next to ‘Occupation’, songwriter. For some reason, that feels really good." Songwriting to her also means leaving something of lasting value to this world. "I want to write songs that speak to a generation, that people remember that time by. But I want to have staying power too, as much staying power as you can have in this business. I want to write songs that matter to people. I would love to write something that singers love to sing forever."


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