Eight years after Holly Williams released “The Highway” as the title track of her 2013 album, Canadian country star Terri Clark, reincarnates the mournful track under a painfully relevant new context.
“The song is about having what you know ripped from you,” says Clark. “In this case, it’s not just what I know, but my fans, staff, band, venues, bar owners, bus drivers—everyone’s livelihood. We are the last ones that get to get back to doing what we love to do and need to do.”
“The Highway” first resonated with Clark several years ago when she left the road life for a morning show she committed to that had her up daily by 3:30 a.m. The demanding schedule kept her from performing and took a toll on her mental health as she “wasn’t doing what [she] was put here to do.” Clark recalls, “Every time this song played from Holly’s album, I would start weeping.” Fast forward to 2020, and the lyrical content took on a new meaning. “I heard it for all of us,” she continues. “I want so badly to get back out there, so this holds such a universal sentiment at the moment.”
During the most extended break she’s ever had, Clark began tracking the tune with just acoustic guitar and a vocal, at home in Canada. The band recorded their segments remotely from their respective home studios and sent them in for what the artist describes as a “homemade” track. A similarly crafted music video rolls vignettes of a seemingly distant past of roadshows. The footage inventories crowded festival stages, intimate interactions with loyal fans backstage, stage guests, bus moments, and the thousands of miles between sold-out shows.
“The song is performing so well, more so than I ever intended,” Clark says. “I wanted to sing this song because I felt like it was so appropriate, and it seems to have touched people in the same way. She continues, “The video is for fans—something to smile about and memories to look back on. I also want to honor my fellow industry folks during this tough time and remind them what we have to look forward to.”
With an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, Clark delivers “The Highway” in her characteristically traditional country tone. The artist’s belief that a song can “never have enough steel guitar” is confirmed with competing whines from the pedal steel and the fiddle on this grieving rendition. Good music, in her opinion, is music that makes you feel something. That’s what traditional country music does to her soul. “When you feel something, you can sell it. And that’s my forte,” she explains.
Clark acknowledges this downtime would have been an opportune time to write but admits she needed time to “nest.” However, she feels confident her return to touring live shows will provide a wellspring of inspiration she could not find at home.
“This forced stop was great, seeing family, taking that time you always fantasize taking away from the road,” says the artist who’s been touring relentlessly since 1995. “It gives you pause to what really matters. When you exist without something you’ve lived with for 25 years, you can go back with a fresh perspective. I’m going to have so much fun and appreciate it even more.”
Listen to Terri Clark’s new single, “The Highway,” below.