Country music and Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark is an out lesbian in the music industry’s most conservative field, country music. Photo credit: Chris Phelps

Brandy Clark bares all and rises to the top

Brandy Clark is no stranger to adversity. An out lesbian in the music industry’s most conservative field, country music, Clark has gone up against all odds to achieve success.

Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark photo credit: Chris Phelps

Having garnered an abundance of Grammy nominations and written songs for country music’s biggest names, from Kacey Musgraves to Reba McEntire, Brandy proves in a COVID-19 challenged industry you can still rise to the top.

How is it navigating being an out performer in what is considered the most conservative genre of the music industry, country music?

Brandy Clark: I was out before I ever had the opportunity to make a record. In fact, I initially thought it would prevent me from making a mainstream album or getting signed to a record label. However, I am happy things worked out the way they did because I did not have to hide a part of who I am in secrecy. Had I received a record deal prior to coming out, I more than likely would have done whatever I had to do in order to succeed, including cloaking who I am. By the time I had the opportunity to make a record I was already out and in a long-term relationship. Truthfully, it was never a big deal to anyone other than me.

Was it more of a challenge coming out in your personal life or being out within the music industry?

BC: I would say my personal life because I was somebody who had a lot of worries about my sexuality, yet I never dealt with anything other than absolute love from my immediate family. Moreover, in the music industry, your personal life stops mattering once you start achieving success. It ends at that point. I am also signed to an L.A. label (Warner Records) so to them it is fortunately a non-factor.

You have written some of country music’s most iconic hits which have been recorded by its biggest names including Kacey Musgraves, Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow, and LeAnn Rimes. Which collaboration is most dear to you?

BC: Wow… I can honestly say I do not have any body of work that I am not proud of. I know I sound like “Suzy Sunshine” but I am one of the lucky ones in that the artists I have worked with have been pleased with everything.

I will say Kacey Musgrave’s “Follow Your Arrow” was amazing to be a part of because I did not expect it would have such an impact on the charts and fans alike.

What are you most proud of in your career thus far?

Brandy Clark photos by Chris Phelps
Brandy Clark photos by Chris Phelps

BC: I am really proud that I decided to take the fork in the road and pursue an artist career when I did. It is a totally different beast than solely writing songs. It has always been a dream of mine which came along later in life when I felt the time had passed. When I had the chance, which I always longed for, I took it on all the way which led to me being nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys. Sticking with it when it would have been easy for me to give up on the dream of being an artist is what I am most proud of. I loved achieving the dream of being a successful songwriter. Yet becoming an artist when I thought I did not stand a chance felt even better.

In March you released your third studio album, Your Life Is A Record, which has received stellar reviews in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and The Wall Street Journal. The New Yorker even described you as the best songwriter in country music. What was your inspiration behind this latest record?

BC: I did not realize what it was until it was almost completed. In the end, it is the breakup record, personally and professionally. I had experienced a major breakup in my personal life. Additionally, my last album was worked heavily on country radio, and although it cracked the Top 40 it was not the mainstream success I had envisioned. That was heartbreaking to me. My manager advised me to stop knocking on the doors of country radio and walk through the doors that are open. Hence, I was encouraged to make a record without worrying about the confines of anything. To have the encouragement of my label, manager, and producer to go down this route was reassuring. Ironically, this album has been worked at Americana and Triple A radio.

As of November 2020, you have been nominated for 6 Grammys. Do you think 2021 will be your lucky year?

BC: I hope so. You never, never know with that. I do hope the Grammys will feel the same way about this album as they have in the past about my previous two albums.

Being as you are a songwriter in addition to a singer, do you feel the negative moments in life allow you to create better material than when things are going well in life?

BC: Yes. I wish it were different, but anytime I go through anything major it gives birth to such creativity. For example, when I lost my father at 25 as well as when I lost my grandmother, it was followed by incredibly creative periods of my life. I would guess that 90% of all writers feel this way. I do not know why that is, maybe it is a form of therapy. Nevertheless, it is easier for me to create when there has been tragedy. So, good things should come out of this year. Introspective periods create better material, too, such as when there is a new relationship, new job, etc. but there is something about those lower times which can get creativity flowing. I draw as far back as childhood when I am writing. My first publisher told me my gift as a songwriter was neither lyrics nor melody, but rather empathy.

Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark photos by Chris Phelps

How has COVID-19 affected you professionally or personally given the adjustments the music industry is experiencing?

BC: Professionally, I released my record and it hit. I was the last person who got to play The Today Show in studio before quarantine. Me and my team had to pivot quickly as to how we would promote the new album with the tools we have: print, web, and radio. I also started doing many live streams and launched a weekly web series, You Can’t Come Over (But You Can Come In) where I have fellow musicians join me to perform. My Who You Thought I Was Tour has been moved from March 2020 to March 2021 which affected me the most in conjunction with a musical I was slated to perform in which was put on hold. Personally, I have my good days and my bad days. There are times when the state of the world gets me down, whereas there are other times where I am grateful to slow down, appreciate what I have taken for granted, and reflect overall.