Brandy Clark’s songs have been recorded by an impressive list of artists including Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, and Kacey Musgraves. Along the way, she has garnered numerous awards and nominations and received a 2014 CMA Award for Song of the Year (Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow”). But in the midst of composing hit songs for others, Clark — a Nashville resident by way of Morton, Washington — has found time to record two solo albums. Currently, she is touring in support of Big Day in a Small Town, her 2016 release that received a Grammy nomination for best country album. On Friday, May 5, Clark will return to Birmingham to perform at WorkPlay. Recently, she shared her thoughts on writing for herself and others by phone from New Orleans.
Weld: If you will, talk about the evolution of Big Day in a Small Town.
Brandy Clark: The song “Big Day in a Small Town” was written right after I released [her 2013 album] 12 Stories. I don’t even know if 12 Stories was out yet. I started to compile songs around that, which is always really helpful for me in making a record — to have a song that’s kind of a centerpiece and ones that fall into that theme.
Weld: Your writing career has spanned over a decade, but your solo recording output has been relatively sparse. How do you decide when the time is right to release an album?
Clark: Now I’m at Warner Bros., so there’s a certain time commitment that I have to them to turn in records, so that dictates some of it. For me, it’s just about when a bunch of songs feel like a record. I don’t have to make records until I have the songs.
Weld: How you do know when a song is best suited for you or another artist?
Clark: Usually when I can’t imagine anyone else singing it or when I don’t want anyone else singing it, I know it’s for me.
Weld: How would you describe your writing process?
Clark: I try to write as much as I can on tour but certain days are easier than others. When I’m in Nashville, I’m writing every day I’m there. Out here, if I have a few hours, I’ll write down ideas that I’ll take to other writers. If I’m not being creative, I tend to get a little depressed. I have to have output and input. If I’m not working, I’ll read or listen to podcasts or do things that inspire ideas.
Weld: Both as a writer and recording artist, how do you feel about forging your career in the era of YouTube, iTunes and satellite radio?
Clark: For me, it’s a beautiful thing because an artist like me probably would have never seen the light of day. When I first moved to Nashville, if you didn’t have a major label deal you were nowhere. My first record was put out on a small independent label — iTunes and social media were all that we had. A lot of artists are getting discovered that way so I’m all for it. I still believe that cream rises and it blows up through word-of-mouth.
Emporium Presents: An Evening with Brandy Clark and Charlie Worsham will take place at WorkPlay on Friday, May 5. Tickets to the 18-and-over show are $20 and can be purchased at workplay.com. Showtime is 8 p.m.