November 11, 2008
Reba McEntire isn’t the only country star recharging her creative batteries with a career change this month. In an announcement on her website last week, Terri Clark informed her fan club that she would be exiting BNA Records and concentrating her efforts on international markets, specifically her native Canada.
As you all know, I have been struggling over the past couple of years at trying to find and write songs to finish an album for BNA records. Over the course of the past few years, the record business, and radio has changed dramatically. I recently came to the conclusion that I no longer feel as though I can creatively “fit” into a certain “box” or model, and have come to a very difficult crossroads in making the decision to part ways with my record label, and forge ahead independently.
Terri Clark’s first top ten single, “Better Things to Do,” was released in 1995, the same year that fellow Canadian import Shania Twain exploded onto the mainstream scene. The pair represented the diversity of the genre, with Twain implementing a number of rock and roll and pop elements to make an ultimately universal brand of pop-country, and Clark rarely straying from the modern country style that first attracted her to Nashville. At first, this diversity meant that both artists could thrive, and Clark excelled at rowdy rockers and even scored hits with more thoughtful material such as “Now That I’ve Found You” and “If I Were You.” A rare female hat act, Clark weathered the constant shifts of contemporary music better than most of her contemporaries.
After a creatively rich, yet commercially unsuccessful stretch in the early part of the decade, she experienced a resurgence in 2003 with the release of Pain to Kill. Nominations for the female vocalist prizes from both the ACM and the CMA followed, and the two organizations acknowledged her again in 2004, the year that she issued her gold-selling greatest hits package.
But efforts to maintain her radio popularity amidst industry changes remain futile, despite her move to Joe Galante-led BNA Records in 2006. Clark attempted two ditties that seemed desperate attempts to meet the desires of the radio audience, “Dirty Girl” and “In My Next Life.” Clark’s decision, while certainly born out of personal desires, will result in a sad (and seemingly permanent) absence from mainstream country radio.
Ultimately, her Nashville career will be considered a success, with ten Top Ten country singles and sales of almost five million copies in the United States, but unfinished business (most notably a CMA award, an honor that she’d coveted since childhood) means that the story seems incomplete. Her music, at its best, was a welcome antithesis to the pop-country pervading the radio dial. The smarts, sassy attitude and intelligence (often marked by a wicked sense of humor) she brought to the table will continue to reap benefits as she starts a new chapter in her career and in life.