100 Greatest Women, #93: Brandy Clark

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

#93

Brandy Clark

2008 Ranking: New Entry

Since she first surfaced as a songwriter and then later as an artist in her own right, Brandy Clark has become one of the most significant female voices in contemporary country music.

Brandy Clark was born and raised in a small logging town in Washington state. One of her earliest influences was the film Sweet Dreams, where Jessica Lange turned in an Oscar-nominated performance as Patsy Cline.  Although she was playing guitar and writing songs since an early age, Clark’s energy during her teenage years was largely dedicated to sports. She attended Central Washington University on a basketball scholarship, but soon shifted her interests back to music, eventually transferring to study music business at Belmont University.

Clark worked at Leadership Music after graduating college, and eventually landed a publishing deal.  Soon, she was scoring cuts with Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers. LeAnn Rimes was the first major artist to release a Clark song to radio, taking “Crazy Women” to the top forty in 2010.  She co-wrote “Mama’s Broken Heart” with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally, which was recorded by Miranda Lambert in 2011.  When it was eventually released as a single in 2013, it became a #2 hit, and earned Clark Grammy, CMA, and ACM Nominations for Song of the Year.  Her next big hit as a songwriter, “Better Dig Two,” was a #1 hit for the Band Perry, and earned Musgraves another ACM nomination for Song of the Year.

Clark released a self-titled EP in 2012, which garnered buzz in critical circles.  She then released her full-length debut, 12 Stories, on Slate Creek Records in 2013. The album received universal critical acclaim, and led to several industry award nominations, including Best Country Album and Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards.  At the 2014 CMA Awards, while enjoying a nomination for New Artist of the Year, she became one of the few female songwriters to win the CMA for Song of the Year.  The winning composition, “Follow Your Arrow,” was a minor hit at radio for co-writer Kacey Musgraves, but helped power her debut album to gold-selling status.

Radio didn’t pick up on any of the three singles from 12 Stories, but one of them, “Stripes,” earned Clark the Song of the Year award from the British Country Music Association. It also led to a major label deal with Warner Bros. Records, and they released her second album, Big Day in a Small Town, in 2016.  The album earned Clark another Grammy nomination for Best Country Album, and it produced her first top forty radio hit, “Girl Next Door,” which peaked at #39.  As Clark continues to enjoy success as a recording artist, other artists continue to mine her songwriting catalog.  Terri Clark (“I Cheated On You”), Toby Keith (“Drunk Americans”), and Musgraves (“Biscuits”)  have sent Clark songs to radio in recent years, and her compositions have also shown up on albums from Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Sunny Sweeney, and Darius Rucker.

Clark’s most recent release is Live From Los Angeles, which was originally a vinyl exclusive for Record Store Day, before its digital release in 2017.  Clark is currently doing her own headlining shows throughout the country, while also opening for Sugarland and Dwight Yoakam at larger venues.

Essential Albums

  • 12 Stories, 2013
  • Big Day in a Small Town, 2016
  • Live From Los Angeles, 2017

Essential Singles

  • Better Dig Two (The Band Perry), 2012
  • Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert), 2013
  • Stripes, 2013
  • Follow Your Arrow (Kacey Musgraves), 2014
  • Drunk Americans (Toby Keith), 2014
  • Girl Next Door, 2016

Industry Awards

  • British Country Music Association Awards
    • International Song of the Year
      • Stripes, 2015
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • Song of the Year
      • Follow Your Arrow, 2014

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Next: #92. Kelly Willis

Previous: #94. Wilma Lee Cooper

5 Comments

  1. Love her songwriting and her singing. Saw her at the Bluebird and the Nashville City Winery. She doesn’t disappoint.

    favorite songs:
    Hold My Hand (BC & Mark Stephen Jones)
    What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven (BC & Mark Stephen Jones)
    You Can Come Over (BC, Jessie Jo Dillon & Mark Narmore)
    Love Can Go to Hell (BC & Scott Stepakoff)
    Just Like Him (BC, Shane McAnally & Jessie Jo Dillon)

    I’m happy to see her on this list but I would have her much higher.

  2. You kind of have to wonder what country radio has against her that they’ve gotten no further up the Billboard C&W singles chart than #39 so far (with “Girl Next Door”), because she helps to define the balance between traditional and progressive values in country. But then again, I also suspect it’s because of her gender and the continued proliferation of what remains of Bro-Country.

    C’est La Vie.

  3. Brandy Clark is one of the finest singer-songwriters out currently. I love how detailed her songwriting is. 12 Stories and Big Day In A Small Town are fantastic albums. Brandy is on her way towards greatness. I got to mention this, your “Getting to Know Brandy Clark” article you guys did on Brandy a few years ago got me to checkout her music and I become a fan of hers because of that article.

  4. @Playboy Casanova,
    So glad to hear that the feature made a new fan!

    @bob,
    I remember when I placed Miranda Lambert at #90 last time around, I knew she’d rank much higher whenever the list was revisited. I feel that way about Brandy Clark this time around.

  5. Girl Next Door should have been a breakthrough for her at radio. Both albums have been solid for me but I haven’t been completely taken by either. Mamas Broken Heart and Follow Your Arrorw are exceptional. Excited to see where she continues to go. Also always nice to see better representation in country music.

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