- - Monday, June 22, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Brandy Clark may have a new album in the works, but her focus is on her upcoming tour, including a show at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

Want to know why that’s a huge stroke of good fortune for the area’s country fans?

Shane McAnally, who has penned tunes for Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert and others, summed it up when he gave Miss Clark the highest possible compliment after raucous applause followed a set she played in Nashville. “That girl’s gonna save this town,” he said, according to Slate.

And that was in 2013, before her latest batch of award nominations, honors and critical acclaim.

Some of her latest triumphs include winning a coveted opening slot in support of Alan Jackson, who praised her songwriting and singing to People magazine. After touring with Mr. Jackson, she took a bit of time off to plan her next album and is now back on the road playing club dates and reconnecting with her fans.

“This has all gotten to a point [where] my reality is much bigger than my dreams,” said Miss Clark of the tour with Mr. Jackson, her three Grammy Award nominations, a performance on the most recent Grammy Awards with Dwight Yoakam, a Song of the Year win from CMA and her songs being covered by Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert and others. “Now I have to dream bigger,” she said.

While Miss Clark has played the guitar since grade school, the Washington state native initially found Nashville success as a songwriter with music that recalls the realism and dark humor of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Barbara Mandrell, Merle Haggard and other major traditional artists.

Although she enjoyed that songwriting success, Miss Clark’s desire to perform continued to simmer.

“Most songwriters at some point wanted to be performing artists,” she said. “I know a few that never wanted the performing side of it, always just wanted to write songs — but really just a few. I grew up always wanting to do both.”

And she did, starting in earnest when she was just about 20, forming a band with her mom and a friend. The trio would write songs together and perform at fairs, festivals and other local events.

Soon her parents encouraged her to attend Belmont University in Nashville, where recognition for her work and artistry led to a publishing deal.

“At some point during those early years, I became more of a songwriter than a performer,” she said. “I knew people who had record deals, and some were so unlike me in so many ways — it seemed they cared much more about the aesthetics than I did — [that] I thought I wasn’t cut out for that part of the business.”

The woman who became Miss Clark’s manager convinced her otherwise after hearing some of the demos.

And Miss Clark found her earlier training as a performer quickly paid off with onstage confidence.

“Even when I wasn’t pursuing a record deal, I always performed. In a lot of those performance situations, it was just me and a guitar,” said Miss Clark, who has gone on to tour with such diverse artists as Mr. Jackson, Jennifer Nettles and Eric Church. “When you start out with it all on you, you learn to figure it all out pretty quickly.”

And, just maybe, nudge country music back to songs about the human condition.

IF YOU GO

WHAT:Brandy Clark with Sam Grow

WHEN: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va. 22305

INFO: Tickets $29.50 by calling 703/549-7500 or visiting www.thebirchmere.com

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