Since her debut in the UK at the CMA Songwriters series and Country 2 Country festival in 2015 Brandy Clark has made the UK a regular tour stop. Last year she headed over on the ‘Big Day In A Small Town’ acoustic tour and this October sees her step it up a notch and bring the full band to the UK for the first time. We had a chat with Brandy before the tour kicked off…
Brandy, thanks for spending some time chatting to us today. You’re back in Europe in Amsterdam tonight. How excited are you for the show?
So excited! I’ve been to the UK now a couple of times so it’s exciting to come to Europe and break new ground and meet new fans… and also ones who’ve had to fly to the US or UK to see a show! I’m pretty excited about it!
It’s the start of another European tour for you. You’re making it quite a regular thing…
Oh yeah. I’d love to come once a year if I can. It’s something that manager, my booking agent and myself have as a priority for us. This part of the world really embraces me so I’m going to embrace it back and try to give you guys as much of my music as I can.
What is it that keeps bringing you back to the UK and Europe to play shows?
Oh it’s 100% the audience! Not that other countries aren’t beautiful because they are but it’s the audience. For me it’s hard to come over here because of the time change which really hits me hard so that part of it is difficult but other than that what makes it really worth it to me is the audience! The way that you guys love singer-songwriters and love country music I would be missing a huge opportunity if I didn’t come over here! I think that the US loves the storytelling aspect too but there’s a veracity here at which you guys consume music and consume singer-songwriters that is unlike any place that I’ve been. The first time I came was for the CMA songwriters series and I also played C2C that year and I was shocked, as that point I’d just had ‘Twelve Stories’ out, people knew every word to every song!
It must be fun playing some smaller venues after playing on large tours with the likes of Miranda Lambert?
Oh yeah! I love doing both things. When I tour with somebody like, you mention Miranda as a great example, I was out with Tim and Faith a couple of weekends ago playing huge arenas, those people who are there are mostly there to see Tim and Faith or Miranda so it’s great for me to play a venue, no matter what size, where every seat is filled with someone who is here to see me! It’s actually a different kind of pressure when I’m opening up a show for somebody versus the headliner on the ticket, I don’t worry about ticket sales or anything like that whereas when it’s my show I definitely worry about putting butts in the seats! I hope to continue to graduate to bigger and bigger venues but I don’t think that it would matter to me if I was playing arena sized venues because I’d also want to do smaller venues. Last year I did an acoustic tour in fall and I decided that I’m going to do that at least a quarter of every year. This year the majority of my year was all acoustic and there’s something about my music that translates really well that way and I don’t want to ever lose sight of that. In fact, in some way it informs the way that I want to grow things bigger. Even in a full band show I want it to always have that feel of intimacy. I had the chance to see Adele and that was something that blew me away about her – she had the power to transform an arena into a small club! There’s really something in that!
Your latest release ‘Live in Los Angeles’ is out now. What was the thinking behind this release? Was it just one of those shows where you thought it was special and needed releasing or was it planned?
You’re exactly right in your first train of thought! The place where that was done, Hotel Café, they have the ability to record shows there so if I’m playing a place where they record off the soundboard I usually do it; just to kind of check myself and see what works and how I can make myself better. The audience was as much a part of what led to that being released as the performance, the audience that night was amazing and it was just one of those special nights. I’m sure it was someone at the label or management who came up with the idea of “let’s release this live” so originally it was just a Record Store day exclusive and that was so well received that we decided to release it digitally and so it’s one of those things that was just a happy accident! So much of what I do is about the live performance and if someone hasn’t seen me live they don’t know that. It gives someone who hasn’t seen me live that experience on some level.
Moving on to your songwriting a little. You clearly have a great working relationship with the likes of Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves. What is it about working with those guys that you enjoy? You’re clearly not afraid to push boundaries with them a little bit?
I think that it’s right there! There’s a like-mindedness in not being fearful of pushing a boundary. It’s not just pushing a boundary just to push it but more of a ‘lets tell the truth here’ and sometimes the truth can push the biggest boundary.
You’ve obviously written some songs with them in the past that challenge a lot of the preconceived ideas of what country music can and can’t talk about. How big a risk is that as an artist?
Well it doesn’t feel like a risk to me because that’s where I fit artistically. To not be afraid to say something that’s a little left of centre or that someone else isn’t going to say – that’s how my first record was born – it was songs I was frustrated that weren’t recorded! Other artists would say “oh my God I love this song… but I cant record it! I need a single”. The song ‘Hold My Hand’ was recorded and never saw the light of day, so I was real frustrated because that’s my favourite song that I’ve ever written, and so that’s where my first record came out of so to me it’s not a risk it’s just what I have to do artistically to have a place! Lucky me because I get to tell those stories!
Breaking down those barriers on sexuality and gender is something we are particularly keen to see. Do you think that there is a change happening already?
Oh yeah! I definitely do! Its so different now than it was five years a go and thank God for that! It’ll be a different world when we’re all just people and nobody has to be in a box. You talk about sexuality and there are so many country music fans who are gay or transgender or whatever… or just straight! That makes straight sound boring and it’s anything but boring! There are a lot of country music fans who aren’t that, who aren’t heterosexual, it’s got to feel great for those fans too to say “oh that’s me on stage!” There was a time in America, I don’t remember it, but my Mom tells me about the first interracial couple of TV so I cant imagine how it would feel for that couple to be represented!
Are there any plans for the follow up?
Oh yeah! My head is really in that place right now! I’m putting together songs, not just writing them but going back and listening to my catalogue over the years. I write a lot of songs and my job as a songwriter I feel is to write them and be done with them then write another the next day. Sometimes I miss things that are really great so having people like producers, management and label remind me of things that I’d forgotten about. For me too it’s about finding that centre piece song. For ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ it was obviously the title track where it all started so with this next record it’s finding what I’m going to build it around and the heartbeat of the project.