Women in Music 2016

Brandy Clark Producer, Dave Brainard, Calls Grammy Nominee a 'True Genius'

Dave Brainard's birthday just happens to be next Monday. What could be a better present than a Grammy Award? Sunday night, the Nebraska native could achieve just that for his role in producing 12 Stories, the critically-acclaimed debut album from Nashville sensation Brandy Clark, which is nominated for Best Country Album. Brainard – also known for his work with artists such as Ray Scott and Jerrod Niemann – tells Billboard that he is trying simply to take all the attention in stride.

"It settles in with different layers," he says. "I'm the kind of guy who kind of keeps his head under a rock. I just work in the studio, and I know what drives me. I always try to be surrounded by things that drive me and challenge me. I want to enjoy everything to a certain extent, but I don't want it to affect me too much. So, I'm just trying to walk that line between basking in the accomplishments and making myself that there is a long way to go, which there is."

The producer knew the minute he first heard what Clark was working on, that he wanted to be a part of it. "When I first heard Brandy's work tapes, I felt something I had never heard before. I thought the potential of it was so great," he says. "There was a part of me that didn't want to take the project on, but ultimately I realized that it was such an opportunity for me to grow that I had no choice. From the beginning with Brandy, it raised the bar in terms of being innovative and trying new things. Once we got to the point that we were going to be successful from a creative level, we were sitting in the studio listening to a board mix of 'Crazy Women,' we looked at each other, gave each other high-fives, and said 'We didn't screw this up.' So, from there, we just finished it out."

What makes Clark – who has penned such hits as "Mama's Broken Heart" and "Follow Your Arrow" so special? Brainard says that's an easy question to answer. "She is an interesting mix of things. I think she is a true genius, and she only does what she does, and from my experience of working with singers, the worst thing you can have is someone who does so many things. Brandy does one thing – and she knows no other way. Even in trying to suggest a change in the melody, she always reverts back to the original thing she does, and that's a strength," he says. "She's very pure in that, she's focused, and her artistry is what it is. On top of all that, she's very wise, and she surrounds herself with people who challenge her. She always keeps her ego in check, and is always focused on whatever it takes to write the perfect song or give a great interview. She's very self-aware, and stays true to herself."

What is his philosophy in the studio as a producer? "I see the production process as a stewardship, and I feel that anytime I work with an artist. I'm a curious person, and I love taking the time to get into someone else's world like that," he says. "I'm very adaptable that way. I am finding that I do have a stamp, though that's not my natural instinct. I always try to learn the artist first, and what their goals are, and try to put it all into one brand, so it all works together."

When asked about some of the producers that have influenced him, he said there were a couple that stood particularly tall. "There's been multiple producers who have made impact on me. First of all, I would have to say 'Mutt' Lange, though I don't really emulate him as a whole, but there are elements of his production that really influenced me as a whole – like his arrangement technique and his repetition," he says. "Another one would be Allen Reynolds. Moving to town and seeing him at a ASCAP 101 Production seminar really changed me into more of a philosophically driven person in the studio, because I saw the way he approached things. When you hear those records, you hear the dynamics and you hear the space."