Sunday night is the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, and one of country music’s best talents is up for two awards. Brandy Clark has spent the past three years recording her own music, including her most recent album, “Big Day in a Small Town.”
The talented songwriter spent more than a decade writing songs for other artists. And now the small town girl has hit the big time, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.
Clark writes songs in the tradition of the country music classics her father taught her as a young girl -- unadorned stories about the real struggles of life.
Songs like “Three Kids No Husband” on her own recent album, about a single mother raising her children on her own.
“Any great song, what it does to me is it makes people feel a little less alone in whatever their emotion is,” Clark said.
Clark moved to Nashville in 1997. She began her career writing songs for other artists.
“How is it working with a songwriting partner you don’t know, and here you are, going to expose this part of yourself, and yet, you’re not really sure who this other person is yet?” Dahler asked.
“It’s a lot like a blind date. Except you have to get naked pretty fast if it’s going to be good, you know? I mean I guess that would be the way I would put it,” Clark said. “‘Cause if you’re not going to, like, just throw it out there and really bare your soul, it’s not going to be great. And, you know, you can usually tell pretty fast.”
After 13 years of toiling away in Music City, Clark finally got her big break. The great Reba McEntire had recorded two of her songs in 2010.
“I actually remember crying and thinking, ‘Wow! This can really happen.’ You know? Because you always think, like -- you dream, but you know, your dreams kind of have to be bigger than you ever really think you can grab, I think, or nothing ever happens,” Clark said.
Clark’s star as a songwriter began to skyrocket. Her hit for Miranda Lambert, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” was nominated for Song of the Year at 2013’s Country Music Awards.
And she won the award the following year for Kacey Musgraves’ song “Follow Your Arrow.”
“Was that enough for you? Or did you always aspire to also perform your song?” Dahler asked.
“You know, it’s funny. I came to Nashville with the aspirations of being a recording artist. And then somewhere along the way, I thought, ‘Well, that’s probably not going to happen for me,’” Clark said. “And I was always really, really happy with songwriting successes. I never thought, ‘Oh man, I need more than this,’ until I got the opportunity to make a record.”
But that long-lost dream led to a debut album, “12 Stories,” which received a Grammy nomination in 2015.
“I love the high of being on stage and having it be me who is singing those songs,” Clark said. “And a lot more than I even realized I would love it. You know, when-- when it came around for me and I-- and I have had some pretty amazing performance experiences, -- I’m so happy that-- that my life took that fork in the road when it did.”
For her follow-up the road would lead back home to Morton, Washington, a mountain town halfway between Portland and Seattle. It’s where she would listen to the likes of Merle Haggard with her grandparents.
“For me, 9 years old was a pivotal age because I saw the movie ‘Sweet Dreams’ about Patsy Cline. And I had also seen the movie ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ about Loretta Lynn, which ironically, I’m in the same category as this year for Best Country Album. And that to me feels like a real pinch-myself moment,” Clark said.
“Big Day in a Small Town” was inspired by her hometown and the tragedy that brought her back there.
“My dad was killed in a logging accident several years ago, and right after 9/11 happened,” Clark said. “He was killed in July and then September -- I remember thinking, ‘Man, since my dad has died, the world has gone to hell.’ And thinking, like, ‘That’s a song.’ But way too close to me at that point. And then, years later, sat down and wrote that. Not very many things bring you home, and a death is sometimes what’ll bring you home and brought me home.”
After 15 years as a professional, Brandy Clark still worries she’s written her last great song, but thinks she may have discovered the secret ingredient.
“Somebody said once there are seven songs, and we’re just all rewriting them,” Clark said. “I think the key is to write about little moments. And somebody’s like, ‘Oh wow, I’ve never heard it like that.’
“But then there’s always, you know, just some simple love song that doesn’t really reinvent the wheel, that the world goes crazy over.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Dahler said.
“No, I’d love to write one of those,” Clark said, laughing.