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Terri Clark has no fear about "Fearless"

By Jeffrey B. Remz, October 2000

Think Terri Clark and uptempo, twangy, rock-leaning country songs, otherwise labelled "turbo country," comes to mind.

Well, the turbo's toned down a lot on her fourth release, "Fearless," with the title emblematic of where the Canadian's head is at these days.

"That's why I called the album 'Fearless' because it really was in every way. I shot at something new - new producer, we flew a guy in from New York, who never played on a country record before, new writers. Everything about is really fresh for me."

"I don't know that there was really a decision to be made," she says about the change. "It was whether I was going to follow my heart of evolving (musically). Everyone evolves. My musical tastes have grown over the past five years. I don't know anyone who listens to the same album for the past five years. Same goes for me in making an album. I don't want to keep repeating an album. What I like to do is to try to incorporate it (my tastes) instead of the same old, same old."

Apparently, Clark has spent time getting more and more into the territory of Mary Chapin Carpenter, with whom she wrote two songs, and Kim Richey. There still is a bit of twang, though far less.

Same thing when it comes to more uptempo songs. There's nothing so overtly uptempo as "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," for example, though "A Little Gasoline" comes close.

Clark acknowledged she harbored concern that the change would leave some of her fans behind.

"I had those concerns, but it's hard to describe the feeling doing this," says Clark, tired but sounding upbeat from her Nashville home after a night of enjoying the Country Music Association awards. "It's so liberating in one way. You have to worry about the other things - radio, the fans. Usually, if you please yourself first, it's easy to please the others. I've never worked so hard in promoting an album because I love it so much. They let me do what I wanted to do. I'm passionate about it."

The passion apparently runs in the family. Her grandparents played country professionally in Canada, opening for folks like George Jones and Little Jimmy Dickens in Montreal. Her mother sang folk songs.

The 32-year-old artist was not exactly in need of a change based on her first three albums, a self-titled 1995 debut, "Just the Same" the following year and "How I Feel" 2 1/2 years ago. The latter hit the Top 10.

On the singles end of the equation, Clark did even better, having 7 songs reach the Top 10, including "You're Easy on the Eyes" occupying the top spot two years ago.

Clark, aided by her good looks and a friendly personality, moved onward and upward from the get go with hit singles from her debut, "Better Things to Do," "When Boy Meets Girl" and "If I Were You."

The former singer at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville, also did well with a remake of Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," although Clark actually sang it based on the better known Linda Ronstadt version" and "Now That I Found You."

So, if the music ain't broke, why fix it?

Clark indicated she was in need for a change.

"I think it's a different phase," Clark says. "It's like phase two. I don't know that it's a huge departure. There's no one who has accused me of doing the same thing. It's a different take in songwriting and production. The production is more acoustic, more organic. Less is more in my opinion. I like less than more as far as the records I like to listen to - Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin and stuff like that. I ended up incorporating it into some of the stylistic approach. I sort of twisted it up with me, and we got this record."

One noticeable change is in the production. Mercury A&R head Keith Stegall produced Clark's first three discs, two with Chris Waters.

Steuart Smith and Clark produced this time except for "No Fear" and "A Little Gasoline," both more radio friendly, which all three produced.

"He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him," Clark says, adding that Stegall told her, "'Maybe it's time for you to look at another producer.'"

"I definitely know what kind of record I want to make, but I don't know who I could go to in Nashville."

Smith was suggested. He has done much producing, although not for more mainstream artists, and session work.

The Washington, D.C. resident came to Nashville where Clark played him "No Fear," "Good Mother" and "maybe one other song that I already had. He flipped. I don't think he was expecting this. I don't think he heard what he was expecting to hear. We started working together. I tried to get him to play on an album, but he was busy...I knew of his work."

Work started in July 1999 with all recording done at Clark's house save drums and bass.

And Clark was no expert at having her own studio since it was only installed six months previously.

The "fearless" aspect was at work again.

"I definitely went out of my safety zone for this. Everything was not the way I had been raised."

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