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Terri Clark kills the pain

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2003

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One part of the disc that's also different is the production chores. Instead of going with Stegall again, Clark went with Gallimore, for awhile anyway.

Gallimore was slated to produce the entire album, partially at Stegall's behest.

"He's the hottest producer in town," Clark says of Gallimore. "He's got a great ear for songs. He's got great access for songs. Keith and I have worked together for so long. The record label felt I hadn't reached the level we all hoped I would. Keith thought it would be taking a fresh approach to do that. Byron was really ecstatic to do the record. I discussed the vision I had. I'm not sure Byron had heard a lot of what I had except for the radio."

Clark says she told Gallimore, "I want to really keep it country - fiddle and steel. Whatever you want, but I want to keep it a country record."

But due to scheduling issues, Gallimore couldn't produce the entire disc at one time. He offered to put the recording on hold until July or suggested Clark produce the rest. But after serving as a co-producer on "Fearless," a process Clark says was "tedious," she did not want to handle that chore.

She, instead, turned to a willing Stegall. He produced songs penned by Clark. Stegall produced Clark's 1995 debut and her three subsequent albums.

Stegall figured heavily into Clark getting a contract, no quick turn of events.

Clark lived in Montreal until she was eight when she moved to Calgary with her divorced mother and sister and later nearby Medicine Hat. Music was part of the family as her grandparents opened shows in the Montreal area for the likes of Johnny Cash and George Jones and also released several albums.

"I actually have their 1962 musician's union card, and they have George Jones' signature on them," Clark says.

"I heard a lot of country music coming from my parents and my grandparents," she says. "I remember sitting by the speaker and thinking they're singing to me."

Clark's mother, more of a folk enthusiast, had a bunch of guitars in the house and showed her daughter her first three chords when she was nine. "She sang to me instead of (reading) bedtime stories," Clark says.

Clark did well in talent contests in the province. Area musicians encouraged her mother to take her to Nashville.

"It was a big step and a big move, but I wanted it really bad," says Clark, who started writing songs when she was 12 or 13.

After finishing high school, Clark headed with her mom to Nashville. Clark found a place to live and started playing for tips at Tootsie's lounge, and her mother headed back north of the border.

Clark, who also sold boots and waited tables, plied her wares for seven years, "just me and a guitar. I didn't form a band until I got my deal."

Stegall, then a producer, eventually heard a demo of Clark and took her under his wing. Sony offered a development deal. Under that arrangement, a label may pay for recording several songs for an artist, but there is no guarantee of any music ever coming out.

Following a private audition for then Mercury head Luke Lewis, Mercury offered an album deal, and Clark signed a contract at the label where Stegall then worked as the person signing new talent.

"It was frustrating," says Clark of the long time spent pursuing her dreams. "I was putting time limits on it. Okay, if I don't have a deal, I'm going to be a dental hygienist. I was married at the time. We were struggling to make ends meet. It was frustrating. I believed in myself. I knew if somebody gave me a chance, I knew I had a good shot. It just seems to take forever."

Once she had a deal and a record out, the success didn't take forever. Right out of the chute, Clark's career was flying with "Better Things to Do," "When Boy Meets Girl" and "If I Were You" all top 10 singles.

"When we wrote 'Better Things,' (Clark with Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters), I knew just in heart of hearts that song was hit. Was it surprising that it was successful? It all happened so fast. It definitely altered my life. It was something I waited for so long. I was going through a divorce at the same time everything hit, so I didn't enjoy it probably as much as I should have after working for it."

The albums "Just the Same" and "How I Feel" followed in 1996 and 1998 with Clark doing well, but not reaching the upper echelon. And then it was time for a musical switch with "Fearless."

"I think this album carries some of the steam that 'Fearless' has, but more powered," Clark says of "Pain to Kill." "It really pops out there. They are different records, but I think this one really lends itself to a melting pot theory. I think of the past four albums, you can hear a bit of those in this one. It's a good reflection of who I've been as an artist, where I've been and who I've come to be today."

"Having succeeded, it's a lot easier to take the successes in stride, the failures in stride," says Clark, talking about the pressures of the new album. "I'm going to do the best I can. I'm going to survive. I'll live. Too much pressure, you're not going to make the right decisions."

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