Brandy Clark Talks Grammy Nominations, ‘Shucked,’ and Why 2023 Was Her Best Year Yet

Brandy Clark has been consistently crafting lyrical masterpieces for over a decade. Now, she’s finally getting her flowers. 

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On Friday (November 9), her stellar self-titled record helped Clark earn six Grammy Award nominations. She’s tied with pop heavyweights Taylor SwiftBillie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo for the most nods. It’s an accomplishment that has shined a brighter spotlight on the gifted singer/songwriter’s incredible talents.

“It feels really amazing,” she tells American Songwriter. “Somebody told me a long time ago to write what you know, and if it matters to you, it’ll matter to someone else. It’s a good reminder of that to me.”

Released in May, Brandy Clark offers listeners a powerful, emotionally raw collection of songs that tell real and relatable stories. Although the Washington native has never shied away from lyrical honesty, her latest LP finds her diving into that well deeper than ever before.

“I think about songs like ‘Dear Insecurity’ and ‘Buried’ in particular. I don’t know how you get much more vulnerable than those songs,” notes Clark. “It’s a good reminder that we all feel the same things. That’s what I think connects us as humans.”

For the first time, Clark teamed up with friend and fellow expert lyricist Brandi Carlile. She took on the role of producer, offering the same thoughtful vision that steered celebrated records from Tanya TuckerThe Secret Sisters, and Lucius. This melding of creative minds created a type of magic that has connected with even longtime fans in a distinct way.

“I just got done touring for the year, and when I played these new songs off the record, they do hit differently,” says Clark. “I’ve always had vulnerable songs on records, but I think the production on this album is so vulnerable as well because of what Brandi Carlile did with these songs. As a producer, it’s pretty understated. All of it is just such a gift for me to feel the way it’s being received.”

After Clark got word of her Grammy nominations, she shared an emotional moment with Carlile as they soaked in the moment.

“Tears don’t come real easy to me because once they start, they don’t stop,” Clark admits. “But I did cry when Brandi and I FaceTimed because I really can’t say enough about what she’s done for me. She reminded me why I ever started writing songs.”

Carlile’s role in the creation of the record sparked a series of events that shifted Clark’s perspective and approach to songwriting.

“I gave her two dozen songs, and she helped narrow it down to 10 or 11. I asked her why she chose the ones she chose. She said, ‘Well, they were all great songs, but I chose the ones that when I listened to ’em, I felt like you had written them in your bedroom,'” Clark recalls. “That was such a great thing for me to hear at this point in my life and career because four records in, I’ve had a chance to share 40-plus songs with the world. About the time I was making this record, I felt like, ‘Do I really have anything to say that anybody cares about? ‘That’s where I was.”

“When she said that, it changed the way that I look at my creative process moving forward,” she continues. “I don’t want to spend time writing songs that I don’t care about. I want to spend my time writing songs like ‘She Smoked In the House,’ which I wanted to keep working on because I wrote it for my grandma, and it mattered to me. I’m always reminded by the listener that we’re all so much more. So many people tell me, ‘Oh, that was my grandma,’ or ‘That’s my mom,’ or ‘That’s me.’ And that’s why I write songs: to connect.”

One of her other major personal successes this year was the Broadway debut of Shucked, the comedic musical Clark co-created with longtime collaborator and fellow hit songwriter Shane McAnally. The production, which was made with accomplished playwright Robert Horn, was an endeavor that was ten years in the making. 

“There were so many ups and downs in that process,” Clark says of the journey to Shucked’s New York City debut. “To see it open on Broadway and be received the way that it was… there are times in life for me, at least, where I think, ‘Am I walking down the right road?’ That was one I questioned a lot because it was a rabbit hole. There was so much time involved, and there were so many stops and starts.”

Between the release and promotion of her record, Shucked’s ongoing shows, and performing for fans, Clark has also walked through doors she never thought she’d see open.

“I think it’s been the greatest year of my adult life because I’ve really seen a lot of perseverance pay off,” she explains. “I’ve felt a change in my audience. I’ve felt a change in the sorts of things I’m being asked to do.”

Clark was selected to honor the late K.T. Oslin during this year’s ACM Awards and celebrate the career of Trisha Yearwood during her induction to the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. 

“Those are things I always wanted,” she says. “I’ve always been good at sticking with things. Sometimes, I have felt like maybe my weakness is that I wouldn’t let go of things. Most of my songwriter friends wanted to be artists, and they let it go at some point. Then, they became hit songwriters with a dozen or more No. 1 hits. 

“There have been times in my artist career where I’ve thought, ‘Did I take the wrong fork? I’m over here toiling away, making my own records. Does anybody care? They’re over there having massive commercial success,'” Clark reflects.

“This year, I saw that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I see that my ability to hang on really is a gift from God and not one that I should be upset about. It just might take me longer to get where I’m going, and it might not be where I thought I was going. Right now, I wouldn’t trade places with anybody.”

[RELATED: Brandy Clark Reflects on Lost Love In Heartfelt New Track “My Favorite Christmas”]

Now that 2023 is rapidly coming to a close, Clark is enjoying some much-deserved time off. She hopes this period of creative recalibration will lead to her next musical endeavor, whenever that spark of inspiration may ignite.

“I haven’t had a ton of time to write. It’s just been a crazy year. I’m giving myself a little bit of time to refill the well, and then I’m going to jump back in. It’s funny, [“Buried” co-writer] Jessie Jo Dillon texted me, and she’s like, ‘Let’s do a writing trip the week before the Grammys.’ I said, ‘I’m in!’ I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and try to write things that matter.”

Photo by Victoria Stevens, Courtesy of Sacks & Co.

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