We spoke to ten-time Grammy nominee Brandy Clark, who is bringing The Art of the Storyteller Tour to the Center for the Arts Homer on Monday, June 20. It will be an intimate night of music and stories including new unreleased music as she is currently working on her next record.
Every songwriter has a story to tell and she is giving local singer-songwriters the chance to share their story by having a different special guest each night of the tour. The Rollin’ Rust, a very talented indie-folk group from Central New York, is joining her in Homer.
315Music: How far back can you remember wanting to become a musician?
Brandy Clark: As far back as I can remember, my mom always tells this story; we went to see a show. It was a family of musicians. I remember all the kids were playing different instruments. I specifically remember a kid named Morgan who played the organ. I leaned over to my mom and was like, I want to get my hands on one of those microphone things. So it started really young and when I was about 9 I really wanted to play guitar. A guy came to our house and was playing my grandfather’s guitar and I was so interested. Not long after my parents bought me a kid-sized guitar and I started taking lessons. Also, I played a role in “The Music Man” and that was huge for me. Every time I was exposed to any form of music my interest in that whole world just grew deeper.
315Music: How has your passion for songwriting over the years shaped your life?
BC: Well I always wanted to write songs as soon as I learned that all the songs weren’t already in existence. That discover, you know all the songs aren’t just out there, people are making new ones. For me a lot of that came from watching “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” about Loretta Lynn and there is a scene where she is writing her first song while working in the garden. It dawned on me then, and I began to start trying to write songs. As I got older, I paid more attention to who was writing these songs on each record. When I saw the Broadway tour of “Phantom of the Opera” and I was like wow, one guy wrote all this. Everything wanted to make me write more.
315Music: When the muse moves you, what is your process and how do you find peace in songwriting?
BC: You know it depends. I typically get ideas when I’m not writing. Last night for example I’m laying in bed reading a book and I got a couple of ideas and I jot them down. Today I was co-writing and those are ideas I will bring in. My search never ends, and that’s unique to me. I feel that most songwriters always have their antennas up.
I love working with people that really want to dig and write something cool and different. People that aren’t afraid that it’s not commercial enough. I don’t like to edit as I write. I love a great editor but no one who is going to stifle. One thing I struggle with is turning off my inner editor and just letting the songs come out. I don’t spend as much time alone as I used to or need to, but after this tour is over I’m planning on holing up somewhere and spending time with myself and the four walls just to see what I can come up with. I like to spend time…. it’s not so much where I am, but how I spend that time.
315Music: Who are some of your influences throughout your journey?
BC: Definitely Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline were major influences. Dolly, Merle Haggard and then even pop song writers like Carol King and like I mentioned, Andrew Loyd Weber.
I’ve always loved Musical theater and my mom was a huge musical theater fan. At the end of the day I just love a really well written song and that’s what I hang onto. Also, songwriters that may not be massively famous, Like Rachel Peters, Dean Dylan… the other night I went down a rabbit hole of Muscle Shoals writers that I loved. So all over the map, but the common thread is great songwriting.
315Music: You’ve worked with an incredible amount of people, what are you most proud of as your own original songs and your favorite collaborations?
BC: The first part of that is tough. But there are three for me. The songs that are most dear to me are “Hold Me Hand,” “Get High,” and a new song I’ve been performing but is not yet recorded, “Up Above the Clouds.” Those songs to me are my cornerstones. I am always nervous about starting a new project, like oh do I have this song…but with this new record it’s a great feeling. You don’t get that one song on every record, or even every year.
As far as songs with other artists I’ve worked with I’m really proud of bringing Kacey Musgraves “Follow Your Arrow” to life with her. She came in and had a vision for that song and it came from a note she had written to her friend who was heading to Europe. She new she wanted arrows on the album artwork. I’m not sure if she had the title but this note she wrote to her friend said “Kiss lots of boys, smoke lots of joints and follow your arrow…” She did have that. I loved bringing that to life for her because that song was so true for her and it’s true for a lot of people. It’s not the biggest hit that I’ve been a part of, but it’s one of those songs that has made the biggest impact. I’m really proud of that.
315Music: When the world was standing still, how did you spend the first year of the pandemic?
BC: Well I had released a record March 6th of 2020 and then everything shut down. I was lucky to do some press on it but never got to tour with it. Just like everybody else. I did a lot of virtual sorts of things to keep that record in front of people. I also wrote a lot. I was caught in California for a lot of the pandemic, which is not a bad place to be stuck.
The restrictions were a lot tighter there then some other places so I feel like that kept me healthy and knock on wood not getting Covid. I wrote songs that most likely may never see the light of day, and just like everyone lived in an uncertain world. I kept thinking it’s going to change in a couple weeks, clearly it didn’t, but i just tried to keep working even in the compromised way. I didn’t even know what Zoom was. I remember heading to the airport after being on the Today Show and got a call about a work session and that it was being moved to Zoom and I had no idea what the meant. A week later the whole world ran on Zoom.
315Music: What do you think the role of music plays in your life and in society?
BC: I think it can be so many things, but I think it’s a reflection of society. When we are holding ourselves to the highest level of truth-telling that is the reflection of society. It can also be an escape and a healer. Music brings us together, even in the sad emotions. Music makes us feel a little less alone in our alone times.
315Music: What is your favorite part about playing shows again in person with an audience?
BC: Specifically with this “Art of the Storyteller” tour, which my manager and I have been cooking up for a while, this is just the beginning of the journey. In fact, a lot of this tour we will be figuring it out which is so exciting. For me and I hope for fans, the thing that excites me the most is the interaction with the fans. I am already an intimate performer but this is going to take it one step further with the intimacy. There will be many back stories to songs and songs that aren’t usually on my set lists which really puts the focus on the art of storytelling. It’s such an important part for me and and an art form. I love storytelling in so many mediums, but the place where I choose to tell stories is through the music. Hopefully, people will hear new stories and new songs.
Performing live is a 50/50 game. We are part of it and the audience is part of it and if half of it doesn’t show up 100% the show is not as great as it could be. If both sides show up equally…and I feel like my fans are amazing and know the songs and are excited to come, so if I show up as well — which I try to every night — we all get to have an amazing experience. It’s a real high and it keeps us writing and getting back on the bus rolling to the next venue!
315Music: So a couple of fun questions to end. When you are on the road what is your go-to food?
BC: I love after-show food. I try to stay away from it…..but, I love getting on the bus and there is some kind of local food. Pizza and hot wings or whatever ends up on the bus, I try to stay away from it. However, on the last night of the run, I always let myself indulge. There usually isn’t much time to go and try places so we are usually just eating on the bus.
315Music: You can teleport into any historical music moment, what do you choose?
BC: Man, I think I’d go back to when chord structures were first discovered. You know I can’t imagine what it was like for the first person that was like if I put these three notes together it works. I think that would be so amazing to witness. It would be the beginning of it all. Without that we don’t have Bob Dylan or Hank Williams and the truth is I would want to see that first person that played C, E and G together.