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

By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 1996

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"I like writing myself," she says. "I'm usually a ballad writer. I've never been able to (do) an uptempo song."

But Clark says she is also quite content to write with others, a process she says is "more fun to bounce other things off of (somebody)."

Clark didn't write everything, most notably the current single "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." Clark became enamored of the song due to Linda Ronstadt. Warren Zevon wrote the original.

"Actually, I haven't heard the Warren Zevon version," Clark admits. "I wish I'd a written it."

Clark liked Ronstadt's cover. "I'm just a huge fan. I grew up listening to her, I think she's a wonderful singer. I love her version. I'm glad that I get to do it every night."

If you're getting the notion Clark appeals to women, you're probably right. She is part of the resurgence and growth of women in country. She came aboard Mercury at the same time as Kim Richey. Shania Twain, of course, became one of the greatest sellers ever with eight million copies sold of "The Woman in Me." While often criticized, Twain also opened doors to female artists.

Women are "really making great music," Clark says. "Time came to sell a lot of records. Shania Twain is a good example of that. Ten years ago, that just didn't happen. The guys make great music. Right now, in particular, there are a lot of real successful women in music."

Clark says the reason could be that the genre has "caught on that (country) needs to sing songs for women. Real important."

As to why there has been a growth of women in country, Clark is stumped. "I really don't have an answer," she says.

"I don't think there's any standard thing that's happening," she says.

Clark may be about the only woman out there who wears a hat. "One reason I wear a cowboy hat - and I've always worn one off and on - is that it is important for me to identify myself, to separate myself from the pack. It's important to try in some way so people know who you are."

One thing that Clark has known for a long time was that she wanted to be a country singer. The Medicine Hat, Alberta native says, "There was always country music around the house." Her mother was a folk singer and her grandparents also were into music.

"I really got into country music when I was 13 or 14. When I was 15, I knew I wanted to do this for a career."

But her singing in those days was mainly confined to her bedroom.

After finishing high school, she crossed the border to reach the promised land of Nashville.

Only problem was that it took awhile for her deliverance. Clark worked as a singer in the house band at the famous Tootsie's Orchard Lounge. She also did the usual odd jobs of selling boots and waitressing.

The dreams were delayed for years. Despite persistence, she was not exactly getting a record deal. "I was starting to get really frustrated with the music business," she says. "I was tired of being told 'no, we have too many females that we have to make. We can't sign you until we break one of them.'"

At one point, Clark sang for Keith Stegall, a Music City musician and producer. They talked about working together and Clark sang back-up vocals on a Stegall-produced disc for Bryan Austin a few years ago.

Clark's publisher brought Stegall a tape of Clark singing "The Inside Story," a song that landed on her debut. When Stegall heard the tape, lightning struck. "It's happened to me not a bunch, I can count on one hand," he recalls. "I hear something in the voice and the lyric that really moves me."

But Stegall says he told Clark to cool her heels. "'If you can be patient and just continue to write and try to not go nuts...it's tough to do that. The time will line up completely and maybe something will happen,'" he says. "I had no idea I'd sign her."

When Stegall went to Mercury Records as head of artists & repertoire, the folks who hunt for talent, Clark finally signed on the dotted line. "I was more relieved than anything," Clark says of the deal.

"She was one of the first people I called," Stegall says. Another label was interested, but it was only to put out singles. If they climb the charts, the act usually gets to put out a record. Stegall called her management company, saying, "'I'm not talking about singles. I'm talking about a multi-platinum deal.'"

An hour later, Clark gave the go ahead.

Clark was relieved. "After getting so many doors slammed, when I make up my mind...I don't let much get in my way. I just go for it."

"Life is too short to not try I follow your dreams and do what you want to do," she says.

Of course, just getting a record deal doesn't pave the road with gold.

But it just about did for Clark thanks to the cute and snappy "Better Things To Do." "I really believed in 'Better' as a song," Clark says. "I felt if radio stations put it on the playlist, people would like it. In a way, I was surprised. In a way, I wasn't."

The album came out in August 1995 with 12 songs - unusual for Nashville where 10 has been the standard - and went gold (500,000 in sales) in April.

With the single taking off, Clark took off on the road, doing shows with the likes of George Strait. She did another 70 with him this year.

Clark gained most of her concert exposure doing a 45-minute opening set for George Strait.

Clark says, "Just being in front of many people, the show has definitely improved. The show's gotten a lot better. It's more paced. I'm not as scared to go out in front of those big audiences any more. I look forward to it more than anything. It's been an incredible growing experience. It's helped my album sales."

Stegall agrees. He says he thought "she's grown as a vocalist just because she's been on the road. Her confidence has picked up a little bit."

And now Clark can worry again about sales. She admits to anxiety about how "Just the Same" will do, saying that was only natural. But she has much confidence in the disc as well.

She also can probably worry about something else.

"I'm completely out," she says, referring to songs.

Such problems for someone who may be third time lucky as well.

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