100 Greatest Women, #48: Terri Clark

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

#48

Terri Clark

2008 Edition: #51 (+3)

When Mercury records launched Terri Clark in 1995, they billed her as country music’s first female hat act. Over the next decade, she’d show a lot more staying power than most of her male contemporaries, adapting to the big changes in country music along the way.

Clark grew up in Medicine Hat, a town in Alberta, Canada. Her grandparents had been country stars on the Canadian country music scene, and her mother had sang in local coffeehouses. Terri taught herself to play guitar by listening to her grandparents’ country records. She was inspired to pursue a country career of her own by the female stars of the new traditionalist movement in American country music, particularly the mid-eighties work of Reba McEntire and The Judds.

As soon as she graduated high school in 1987, she headed all the way to Nashville. She headed downtown and walked right into Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge, the legendary Broadway watering hole. Impressed by the young woman’s talent and grit, the managers hired her as a house singer. Clark worked odd jobs around town while moonlighting at the establishment, until a batch of self-written songs caught the attention of Mercury records, and they promptly signed her to a recording contract.

She wrote or co-wrote eleven of the twelve tracks on her self-titled debut, including the three big hits: “Better Things to Do,” “When Boy Meets Girl,” and “If I Were You.” The album went platinum and Clark received several industry award nominations, including the CMA Horizon Award in both 1996 and 1997. Her sophomore set Just the Same went gold, and featured a revival of the Warren Zevon classic “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” that Clark had learned from Linda Ronstadt.

As Clark prepared her third set, the mood in country music had shifted. The hat act era had faded away, replaced by the big pop crossover sounds of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. Clark resurfaced with the surprisingly soft, pop-flavored ballad “Now That I Found You.” It was a smash, and while she had an even bigger hit when she revisited her kickin’ country style (“You’re Easy on the Eyes”), How I Feel found her exploring wider musical terrain, covering artists as diverse and Melba Montgomery and Kim Richey.

The platinum sales of that third album inspired her to dig deeper, and in 2000 she released the introspective Fearless. She co-wrote with both Richey and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and mournfully covered the Carlene Carter classic, “Easy From Now On.” Clark received the best reviews of her career, but the album was largely ignored by American radio and it became her first studio album to not sell gold.

When she returned two years later with Pain to Kill, Clark wryly noted that nobody at country radio was chomping at the bit to hear the new Terri Clark record, and she knew she had to come back strong. “I Just Wanna Be Mad” hit in late 2002, and it returned her to hit-making status. Despite women being practically wiped off of the radio dial that year, Clark’s turbo-country managed to break through. The song went to No.2 and, on the strength of “I Just Wanna Be Mad” and “I Wanna Do it All,” her album went gold.

By 2004, Clark was a staple in the female vocalist races. “Girls Lie Too” became her second #1 hit, and it powered her Greatest Hits collection that year to gold sales. The Grand Ole Opry invited her to become a cast member, making her the first and only female Canadian cast member in the history of the show, a distinction she still holds fourteen years later.

Mercury attempted to launch her sixth album with “The World Needs a Drink”, but it delayed the release when the single stalled at No. 26. They tried again with “She Didn’t Have Time,” a tender story song about a resilient single mother. While it didn’t do much better at radio than its predecessor, Life Goes On became Clark’s highest charting album to date upon its release, despite its exclusion of the original lead single. But sales were disappointing, and Clark and Mercury decided to part ways after a decade together.

In 2007, Clark made her debut on BNA Records with a pair of singles, “Dirty Girl” and “In My Next Life.” Although “Next Life” topped the Canadian country singles chart, it did not perform well enough in the United States for BNA to move forward with releasing Clark’s planned studio album.  This ended up being a fortuitous turn of events, as Clark took the opportunity to launch her own label in the United States and focus specifically on the Canadian market, where she remained on a major label.

After releasing a live album in 2008, Clark released a string of successful studio albums to some of the best critical notices of her career.  The Long Way Home released in 2009, and featured four top twenty Canadian country hits.  In 2011, Roots and Wings earned her the Canadian Country Music Association award for Female Artist of the Year, her first victory in that category in seven years.  At the Juno Awards in 2012, Clark won Best Country Album for the first time, giving her a third Juno a full eleven years since she won her second.  A covers album followed, Classic, which featured appearances from legends like Reba McEntire and Tanya Tucker.  In 2013, she won the Fans’ Choice Award from the CCMA, her eighth victory in the category and first since 2007.

More recently, she released Some Songs in 2014, which featured five of her own songs and two co-written by Brandy Clark.  After co-hosting America’s Morning Show on Nash FM, she was named the new host of the Country Gold radio show in 2016, which has earned her nominations from both the CMA and the ACM for Broadcast Personality of the Year.  The following year, she launched an ongoing tour, Chicks With Hits, with fellow nineties stars Suzy Bogguss and Pam Tillis.  In 2018, she was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, while also enjoying one of her biggest hits to date.  “One Drink Ago,” a collaboration with fellow Canadian star Dallas Smith, reached #3 on the Canadian country singles chart, and is the first single from her eleventh studio album, scheduled for release in 2018.

Essential Singles

  • Better Things to Do, 1995
  • Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me, 1996
  • Now That I Found You, 1998
  • You’re Easy on the Eyes, 1998
  • I Just Wanna Be Mad, 2002
  • Girls Lie Too, 2004
  • A Million Ways to Run, 2010

Essential Albums

  • How I Feel (1998)
  • Fearless (2000)
  • Pain to Kill (2003)
  • The Long Way Home (2009)
  • Roots and Wings (2011)

Industry Awards

  • Canadian Country Music Association Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • Terri Clark, 1996
      • Just the Same, 1997
    • Fans’ Choice Award, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2013
    • Female Artist of the Year, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2011
    • Rising Star Award, 1996
    • Single of the Year
      • Better Things to Do, 1996
      • I Just Wanna Be Mad, 2003
    • Video of the Year
      • No Fear, 2001
  • Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, 2018
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • President’s Award, 2004
  • Juno Awards
    • Best Female Country Artist, 2001
    • Best New Solo Artist, 1997
    • Country Album of the Year
      • Roots and Wings, 2012

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Next: #47. Cousin Emmy

Previous: #49. Janie Fricke

5 Comments

  1. I’m enjoying this series of articles. I saw Terri Clark last month at CMA Fest – both her own set at the Forever Country Stage and her June 5th appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, where she brought out Dallas Smith as a surprise guest.

  2. TC has had so many great songs. I like all your essential singles and albums. “Girls Lie Too” is one of my favorite funny country songs and the video was great too. “You Tell Me”, her duet with Johnny Reid from “The Long Way Home”, is one of the most frequently played TC songs in my i-tunes library. (Maybe Leeann will comment on her songs with Vince Gill)

    Saw TC a year and a half ago at the Nashville City Winery and she still sounded great. Hadn’t seen her since 2001.

  3. Terri Clark is one of the greatest artists to come out of Canada. She have a great voice and a natural charm. I love her Fearless and Pain To Kill albums. I still adore Now That I Found You. It such a laid back tune. Girls Lie Too is still one of the funniest country songs of the 00’s.

  4. I have heard Terri’s unreleased BNA album “My Next Life” and the irony is it’s one of her best. I’d put it in the vein of “Pain To Kill”, possibly a little more pop-leaning.

    I also liked the latest “Some Songs” album – but then again I’m also a Jason Aldean fan. Imagine an Aldean album sung by a female, and you have “Some Songs”….it shares producer Michael Knox. I liked it a lot.

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