rowing up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canadian country star Terri Clark, was just a little cowgirl with big dreams. In 2004, these dreams continue to come true for the talented troubadour.
She moved to Nashville at 18, paid her dues playing and waitressing at the famous honky-tonk Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, and now, a little more than 10 years later, she is on a hot streak.
Catching up with Clark via telephone during a tour stop in Phoenix where she was trying to stay cool inside the concert venue, she spoke about how hot this summer has been for her. Her new album - "Greatest Hits 1994-2004" - barnstormed onto the charts, debuting at number 4 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and sold more than 63,000 copies in its first week, while the new single "Girls Lie Too" hit number 1.
She's currently in the midst of opening the cross-country sold-out tour with Toby Keith called the "Big Throwdown." Just a few weeks into it, she says things are already "running like a well-oiled machine."
"It's fabulous," she says. "His guys and him have treated us so well, and the show is stellar...it's great to be a part of that. His crowds have been receiving us really well. In combination with having a greatest hits album at the same time, things couldn't be any better for me right now."
Adding to the career-year Clark has been enjoying in 2004, Clark was invited to one of the biggest celebrations in country circles on June 12 when she became the first Canadian female member of the Grand Ole Opry - one of the highest honors in country music.
Despite her career successes to date, for a young cowgirl from the prairies that sang "Delta Dawn" as a nine-year-old with big city dreams, the Opry invitation was almost a little too surreal for Clark.
"You think back to that time in your life and how you have chased a dream your whole life...it's one of those things that you are almost afraid to believe that something that incredible can happen," she explains. "But you are more afraid to believe that it can't happen, so you go after it, you work for it, and then when it does happen it feels like you've stepped out of your body, and you're looking at someone else's life.
"I'm still walking on cloud nine," she adds. "There is no higher honor, and I will do my best to make them proud."
What was an even higher honor, and a personally more meaningful evening, was Clark's previous appearance on the Opry stage before she learned that she would be invited to join the venerable institution. On April 26, her octogenarian grandpa - fiddler Ray Gauthier - made his Opry debut when he joined Clark's band and played a passionate version of the Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys classic "Faded Love."
"He used to be a professional musician back in Montreal," Clark says. "He and my grandmother supported five kids playing country music...it took him until he was 88 to make the Opry stage, but I'll tell you that was probably the highlight of my life so far seeing him up there playing."
While her grandpa was done playing professionally by the time she was born, Clark has many musical memories that he's passed on to her. "I got stories about my grandpa and Jimmy Dickens sitting up all night drinking whiskey and shooting the you know what," she says. "I also have some musician's union cards from 1966 with all these signatures on them. It's something I will cherish forever. I'm thinking of having them framed along with some pictures and having a little display of it. Because it's amazing - maybe this winter when I have some down time."
Down time is something that this homegrown girl has little of these days. With the ThrowDown tour continuing to rock around the U.S. into the late fall and work on a studio album that will be out the early part of next year already started, there is little time to rest. Clark is just taking it one concert at a time and in between she's trying to find time to work out, so she can keep her "girlish figure."
"I think just taking it a day at a time is the best thing for me to do because I get pretty overwhelmed with this scheduling and all the stuff that I have to do because there is a lot of work to do too," she says. "At the same time, I am having the time of my life."
While Nashville is where Clark's career blossomed, and she's lived in the United States for her entire adult life, her Canadian roots are still an integral part to her songs, her lifestyle and her career.
"Being raised in Alberta with the salt of the earth people and the cattle farmers and the ranchers and the cowboys and the prairies that's a huge part of what made me who I am," she says. "And, who I am is what people are attracted to as an artist."
"America has been great to me," she adds. "This is the land where dreams can come true, and anything is possible, and that has definitely been proven in my case. I have become a little more Americanized just because I have been here since I was 18, but I'll never forget where I'm from, and that's why I have a Maple Leaf tattooed on my shoulder."