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Terri Clark kills the pain

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2003

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The disc was a long time in coming as Clark started working on it Dec. 13, 2001, tracking three songs. "Then, we waited another couple of months, and I was writing like a madwoman, looking for songs, turning the town upside down."

Clark feels that wasn't such an easy task given the results of "Fearless." Despite attracting good reviews, she never had any breakout songs from the album with "A Little Gasoline" being the single that did the best.

Clark thinks that "coming off an album that didn't sell as well as it could, I'm not sure that I was getting the A list of songs. I was able to get some songs just via networking."

Clark acknowledges she has no proof about not getting the top songs. "That's just me talking. I don't know. I know that when a really really great song is turned into a publisher, they're going to (pitch) it to someone who has just had a platinum album."

The Tim McGraws of the world have no difficulty whatsoever getting a crack at recording the best songs floating around Nashville because those albums are guaranteed to be big sellers, the type of album almost any songwriter would want to have a song on.

"It's hard," she says of looking for material. "It's a long search. I don't know if it's easier for a Tim McGraw to find really great songs, but it took a long time to put this album together. It was a challenge. I wanted to be very particular as to what I cut."

Stage of life also factored into the type of songs Clark was willing to record. "I wanted to be able to relate to the songs as a 34 year old," says Clark. "There's a little bit of maturity from having lived already."

Clark gets personal on "The One You Love," a song co-written with Gary Burr, based on sad events including a friend's sister dying from leukemia and another friend getting divorced. The song is a downer in describing the inability to help. "When someone's slippin' away/Right before your eyes/How useless we are/Is a painful surprise" sings Clark.

Written a month after 9-11, "There was a cloud of hopelessness over everybody," Clark says, adding, "It's such a downer, and I have such an energetic driving show. There is no happy ending. That song doesn't come with a box with a bow on it and all nice at the end."

"It was fast, and it came quick," Clark says. "It took two hours to write. The songs that come to you the quickest are sometimes the best songs. You feel you're channeling something. The words just flow out of you like that. I was a very very easy song to write because the story was already there. I found the way to put it in a song."

"I just think that song is going to be a gift to a lot of people," says Clark.

Clark worked with several new songwriters for this disc, including Carol Ann Brown, co-writer of the closing "God And Me."

"I had it written it on a sticky note next to my computer," says Clark of the title.

A friend of a friend - Brown - came over to write with Clark. She figured "we'll get together and write some uptempo thing."

"She showed up at my house. Right off the bat, I ask, 'what is your religious belief?' The woman walks, in and we get heavy right off the bat. And she's Catholic, which is interesting. The song is not about religion. It's more about spirituality. It's not putting anyone down for their beliefs. It's where you can find God yourself. When Keith Stegall (a former Mercury executive who has produced her and been a long-time supporter) heard the song, we weren't really sure if it fit the record. If we put it last and there's nothing else, I didn't think it would stick out that much."

The song discounts the televised church for a personal relationship with God. "There's so much I'm afraid of/And I'm really not that strong/But there's one place I can go to/Where all the fear is gone," Clark sings.

Clark calls this the "most personal song I've ever written. I'm starting to realize that writing. - I'm not really a big crier or somebody who gets really emotional about things - songwriting is cathartic in that way, and even things I don't understand about myself, if I write about it, I understand it a little bit better when I'm finished."

Clark describes herself as "probably more spiritual than religious. There's so much that we don't know still. To presume that everybody knows everything is bogus. But there's a lot out there. There could be other planets for all I know," Clark says, laughing. "There is a God. I know that for sure. He created us, and he probably has a great sense of humor too."

"I think everybody thinks about it," says Clark of God. "The two things sure in life are death and taxes...Then you start to think about the big picture. A lot of people have their own beliefs - there are Hindus, Christians, Muslims. I think we're all worshipping the same God. I really do. I think people have different packets of what that comes in."

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