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Despite the "poor poor pitiful me" blues, Clark voices optimism

By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 1996

The second time may prove to the charm as well for Terri Clark.

Or she could fall into the dreaded sophomore slump and see her career go down the tubes as many artists have after a successful first album.

But the Canadian does not think that is in the cards with "Just the Same," her album released on Election Day.

"A few of the songs, we had before we had before we even cut the first album. We already had a little bit of a catalogue built up. Going into it, I felt the material was even stronger. We had 'Poor Poor Pitiful Me' (the first single). Once we did the basic tracks, we were very confident about that. The songs are the most important aspect. They are the canvas that you paint on."

Giving a seasonal reference, Clark says, "You got to have the tree before you decorate it. We were on a way that I think was definitely showing growth for me as an artist."

Clark says that none of the 11 songs appearing on the new release were leftovers from the debut. "We had done some demos of 'Just the Same,' 'Neon Flame,' 'Hold Your Horses.' All were recorded before the first album. We just decided to hang onto them."

Clark hit it big last year with her debut with "Better Things to Do" hitting the top of the charts right out of the box. "If I Were You" and "When Boy Meets Girl" also did well.

As for her songwriting, Clark once again teams up with Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters for a good chunk of the new album. While the disc mixes between ballads and uptempo, Clark seems equally as home with a swing sound ("Neon Flame").

Regarding the writing process, Clark says, "Every song is different. I just write a real sincere lyric. I think that's what country music is all about. I don't like to put all kinds of stuff in there. You don't need a whole lot to make a good country record. I like that bare bones approach."

She cites The Judds as a reference point for a simplistic style that appealed to her. "I like to keep a lot of that acoustic feel," she says. "(Guitarist) Brent Mason did a lot of some really great guitar work. "

"I feel the songs were meatier on this album. I'm real proud of that first album, and I'll always believe in it. I believe it's full of really really good material. This one digs a little bit deeper in terms of life experiences. It's a real aggressive approach."

There are reasons. "My life changed so much in the last year - drastically - personally and professionally," Clark said.

And that has not necessarily been all for the good. While her singing career soared, her marriage crashed. She and her husband tried to work out their problems, but were unable to do so.

The personal problems also influenced her songs. "It was bound to come out in some songwriting," she says.

Clark says she thought the title track was "best vocal performance I've gotten yet on a record. I sang it from my heart. It shows. It's real important to feel what you're singing."

The song is about a failed relationship, but with an undying love: "There's no way to know the future/But one thing will never change/I'm gonna love you...Just the same."

While the songs are based on experience, Clark says she tries not to get too personal to keep some sense of emotional distance.

"I try to take myself out of it," Clark says, adding, "I feel pull from other people's experiences too and couple that (with my own). I try to be a little broad with it so I don't lose it when I sing it."

"There are a lot of people who go through doldrums in a relationship and are looking around for something else," she says.

Several songs on "Just the Same" address those issues, giving a women's perspective to relationships. "Something in the Water" is "definitely a women's song," says Clark of the uptempo song.

Clark makes it clear in the song that women are enduring the same problem. While water is a metaphor for what caused the problem, the song returns to the water theme at the end: "Thirsty for something else/The way that it used to be/Now ain't enough for me/'Cause the love I ain't getting/Is like drinking from a dry well."

"I guess it's a woman's anthem for being set up with things the way they are," Clark says. "I try I move on and be happier."

Clark says she wanted to stick with her songwriting partners. Her attitude pretty much followed the "if ain't broke" theory.

There clearly was a certain comfort level in writing together once again. "We pretty much took the same approach. Our confidence level was built up because we had some hit records together."

"With my schedule the way it is, right now, I don't have time much time to test out failures and successes right now," she says of trying other partners. "I go with what I know what works right now."

On each album, Clark also wrote one song solo. "If I Were You" was on the debut, while on "Just the Same," Clark contributes "Keeper of the Flame." The song is about a love being dashed out. Once again, it could have described her failed marriage.

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