I can’t say I’ve ever paid too much attention to The Grammy Awards and probably not really noticed the nominations at all. Last week however, that all changed. No one likes a smart ass but I felt a small pinch of self-belief that my musical instincts had not completely disappeared. I should qualify this wholly but telling you I’d be the worst A & R person ever….I would let platinum selling artists drift in and out of my office without even reaching for my pen…..but when it comes to real songwriters I hope I can still say I’d recognise a real one from an imposter.
So when Sturgill Simpson and Brandy Clark were so notably nominated in last week’s announcement there was a certain amount of punching the air over here in AC Towers. We’ve talked about Sturgill and we’ll talk again but this week we’ve moved all the other records out of the way, in fact we’ve put every other artist on hold while we pay due respect to singer and songwriter, Brandy Clark.
If you don’t know Brandy’s work then prepare to laugh, be outraged and have your heart broken. If you think country music should be about depression, guilt, drugs, prison, single-parenthood, pills, marijuana then stay with us…if you think female singer songwriters should look and sound like the girl next door, well go next door. (That’s one of Brandy’s in case you wrongly credit me)
One of the other things I love about Brandy – and there are many – is her determination to succeed against, what many perceived to be, considerable odds. She was the Nashville go-to songwriter…i.e. she shouldn’t be seen as an artist, she wasn’t young and cool and she wasn’t likely to make it as she was no Miranda/ Carrie/ Martina (supply your own name here). Why wasn’t she just content to be a successful songwriter and know her place? One almost hears, ‘Dam it girl what makes you think you can be a country star?’
Most of that was to underestimate the considerable attributes of Brandy Clark. She grew up in a logging town called Morton in Washington State and experienced losing her father in a mill accident shortly before 9/11. Leaving her basketball scholarship behind she moved to Nashville – she’d fallen in love with country music – where she became a successful writer on other people’s records. Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry and most crucially Kacey Musgraves have all recorded major Brandy songs.There were however some songs that wouldn’t be touched by anyone in town. Those songs became the album 12 Stories in 2014 which was followed up by this year’s Big Day In A Small Town.
To hear the artist behind these songs and find out what gives me hope for country music you need to listen to Another Country this week. We’ll spend two hours with Brandy talking about her songs, her career and the songs and artists that made her.
It all starts this Tuesday evening from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland FM. Join me if you can.
On Sunday I will be talking to the man at the centre of the Blair years and The New Labour project, Alastair Campbell.