Brandy Clark Does Her Part to Keep Traditional Country Alive With '12 Stories'

Brandy Clark
Becky Fluke

Many people inside the country music business are buzzing about singer-songwriter Brandy Clark, and with good reason. Her new album, "12 Stories," will be released on Tuesday, and the reviews have been nothing but positive. Clark's mindful of the attention. "If I can just be a small part of what keeps traditional country in country music, I'll feel pretty good," she tells Billboard.

In all seriousness, she is very humbled by the comments that her music has elicited. "It feels better than if they were saying 'This is a pile of crap," she says with a smile. "A lot of work went into this record – not just from myself, but the co-writers, musicians, and (producer) Dave Brainerd. It was a long process of getting it out to the point where you're hearing it."

Leading the promotional drive for "12 Stories" is the set's first single and video, for "Stripes." "That song seems to push a lot of buttons with a lot of people, women in particular. It's kind of a fantasy – that thought of 'I just caught you cheating on me. I'd shoot you right now, but I'm too vain. I don't look good in orange, and I hate stripes. I can deal with prison, but I can't deal with that part of it. It's probably the most fun song on the record."

Clark is especially proud of the writing process on the song, which features one of the coolest lines from a country song this year: "There's no crime of passion worth a crime of fashion." 

She smiles when talking about writing the track. "I wish I could say that was my line when we were writing it. I wrote that with Matt Jenkins and Shane McAnally. Shane and I both remember when Matt said that, and how obvious that is, but none of us had thought it. He just says it, and we were like 'Yeah, that's it." 

As a writer, Clark always tries to keep an open mind -- just in case one of those drops of magic just happen to fall. "I just always pray that I am cognizant of that, that my ears are always open. Because it's not always going to be my tongue that the words roll off of. That's the great thing about collaborating."

Being able to play a different character in her songs is definitely a perk of the job, says Clark. "That's the great thing about being a songwriter is that escape. When you're writing a song, you're writing a part for someone to play. Being the artist on this record, I get to play these parts. Nobody wants to play a boring or vanilla part. Everybody wants to play the rocky road, or more interesting part. If I just wrote about my own life, I'd write boring songs. I'm really drawn to things that are going on in other people's lives. Some of my characters are composites – with a couple of people in there. I love doing that."

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She does it rather well. She has enjoyed cuts by artists such as Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, and Darius Rucker. In addition, The Band Perry hit the top with "Better Dig Two," which she co-wrote, and she is in the running for the CMA Song of the Year award for "Mama's Broken Heart," which she penned with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally for Miranda Lambert. 

Finding out of her nomination was a career moment for the Washington native. "It was surreal. I had two songs in the last fifteen, so I knew there was a chance. I was doing a Skype interview at the time, and I picked up my phone at the end of it. I had 25 text messages. I thought 'This is good. I don't know which song this is for. But, it's good. I grew up watching the CMAs. So to not only be nominated, but nominated in a televised category is crazy."

As an artist, Clark says she hopes she can live up to what people are saying about her and her music. "I'm just doing what I love and what comes natural to me. That's why I've landed on a more traditional sound. It's just what I naturally do well."