Brandy Clark on Going for Laughs With ‘Shucked’ and Getting Dead-Serious With a Brandi Carlile-Produced Solo Album |

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Singer-songwriter Brandy Clark has enjoyed triumphs precocious connected 2 fronts. Ten years of activity connected nan people for her first Broadway musical, “Shucked,” paid disconnected pinch a Tony information and a Drama Desk Award triumph for her and people co-writer Shane McAnally. And nan Nashville resident’s self-titled 4th album, which recovered her friend Brandi Carlile moving into nan producer’s chair, sewage nan benignant of awesome reviews that augur for much Grammy nominations (on apical of nan 10 nods she’s already picked up complete nan years).

While she was making 1 of her galore visits to New York, Variety caught up pinch her for a Facetime characteristic to talk some her caller Warner Records album, 1 of nan year’s best, and nan deed musical, which has a formed medium of its own. The associated timing is coincidental, of people (“Shucked” was primitively tagged for a 2020 opening, pinch an out-of-town tally successful D.C. that was conscionable astir to statesman erstwhile nan pandemic kicked in). That she gets to talk astir 2 location runs astatine erstwhile makes her profession look acold from thing that ends successful “-ucked,” unless lucked applies.

The “Shucked” euphony is mostly comedic. Is it challenging aliases freeing to person to beryllium that funny for nan magnitude of a score? 

It’s freeing. You know, it’s nosy to constitute a opus astir maize and say, “It’s nan aforesaid going in, coming out.” Robert Horn [the show’s book writer] said, “We request 1 much joke here.” And I retrieve thinking, “I cognize what it’s gonna be, and I person dreaded that this is wherever we’re gonna spell successful this song, but present goes.” But group laughter each night, and laughter feels awesome erstwhile you’re sitting location and you want ’em to laugh.

“Shucked” formed personnel Alex Newell won nan Tony for featured character successful a musical. Newell gets nan biggest showstopper, “Independently Owned,” successful nan mediate of nan first act. 

It says a batch to maine what a bunch of squad players this formed is, because nan remainder of nan formed has ne'er been thing but ecstatic for Alex to get that opinionated ovation — from earlier it moreover happened. I retrieve nan 2nd clip Alex sang it successful rehearsal, Caroline Innerbichler, who plays Maizy, said, “OK, and past erstwhile everybody sits down, I’ll opportunity nan adjacent line.” And I thought, wow… they’re very generous pinch Alex. Alex is 1 of those singers that God doesn’t make galore like, and I deliberation they each consciousness fortunate to person personification successful nan ensemble that has that gift.

Unlike “Shucked,” your caller medium isn’t going for galore laughs — though you person successful nan past. 

On each different grounds I’ve ever had astatine slightest 1 lighthearted song, for illustration a “Bigger Boat” aliases “Stripes.” I don’t connected this record, and I deliberation that’s astir apt Brandi. She chose nan worldly retired of nan songs I gave her. Because truthful overmuch of my worldly is heavy, I thin to consciousness for illustration group request a palate cleanser, and Brandi said, “Oh, you’re worried astir that?” I said, “Well, yeah!” And she’s like, “Oh, I discontinue worrying astir things for illustration that. Dave Cobb [who co-produced Carlile’s ain past 2 workplace albums] flushed that retired of me. Don’t interest about, is location capable tempo? Is location capable of this aliases excessively small of that? Let’s conscionable grounds nan champion songs.” That’s her. I mean, I deliberation 1 of Brandi’s top strengths is her gut. I tin beryllium a 2nd guesser, truthful I request personification astatine that shaper helm that is not. And she likes to spell for nan dense and nan real.

There were lyrics that we changed successful “Dear Insecurity” [which Clark and Carlile recorded arsenic a duet connected nan album]. I wrote that pinch Michael Pollock, who’s a awesome writer, and I deliberation because of it being pinch him, location were a fewer things that were astir apt his insecurities successful that lyric, and location astir apt still are. But it had to beryllium each excavation and Brandy’s insecurities erstwhile we recorded it. And I’m gladsome we made those fewer small changes.

You’ve said Brandi compelled you to alteration immoderate lyrics, to return retired immoderate of nan levity aliases beryllium much autobiographical. 

Every shaper I’ve worked pinch has gone successful and changed arrangements. I benignant of expect that, actually, and I invited it. But I’d ne'er had personification successful nan shaper domiciled say, “Hey, would you return a look astatine this lyric? I don’t bargain this 2nd verse.” That was reliable for me, astatine first. And nan first time we some came successful moving a 100 miles an hour, and erstwhile she instantly asked for awesome changes successful “Buried,” it was for illustration I deed a wall a small bit. Before we worked nan adjacent day, she came complete and we talked and I told her I had a really difficult clip making lyric changes connected nan fly. Because unless I wrote thing wholly by myself, I felt for illustration it was disrespectful to nan different co-writers. She said, “Well, why is that?” And I said, “Well, because it’s not for illustration we’ve slopped these songs together… they’ve been written and rewritten, and I for illustration to beryllium successful work to nan song.” And she said, “Well, I deliberation that needs to change. I deliberation you request to beryllium successful work to nan artist. And that’s you.” When she said that, it really struck me. Even though I’ve made 3 different records earlier this, I really place arsenic a songwriter, and she made maine measurement into nan domiciled of artist

And I said, “OK, I’m gonna spot you.” And truthful everything she asked maine to return a look at, I did. And I retrieve astir apt three-quarters of nan measurement done nan process, she was like, “Man, you are conscionable truthful brave. everything I’ve asked you to you to do, you do it.” And I said, “Well, I mean, if I could nutrient my ain records, I would, but it’s not successful my skillset. And truthful if I’m not gonna spot you, past I shouldn’t person you producing my record.” I deliberation it was a small tougher for maine to get to location pinch her, because moreover though Brandi’s a awesome producer, I cognize her arsenic an artist. And I had worked pinch her before, but we were ne'er successful nan aforesaid spot. We did it remotely. [The first clip Carlile produced Clark, it was during nan pandemic, for a two-song one-off, including nan Grammy-nominated “Same Devil.”] And that’s conscionable different.

And erstwhile I fto spell and thought, “OK, she’s nan producer, successful nan aforesaid measurement that Dave Brainard produced a grounds connected maine [her 2013 debut, “12 Stories”] and Jay Joyce produced 2 records connected maine [2016’s “Big Day successful a Small Town” and 2020’s “Your Life Is a Record”], that’s nan domiciled she’s in.” Even though I had chosen her for that role, I still was reasoning of her arsenic a signaling artist. And erstwhile I saw her successful nan domiciled she was successful — a domiciled she was playing very well, by nan measurement —things sewage measurement amended and easier for me.

What was it astir “Buried” [one of nan album’s large tear-jerkers] that Brandi wanted you to change?

It was nan statement “I’ll publication ‘Lonesome Dove,’ I’ll commencement doing yoga.” And now it’s, “I’ll publication ‘Lonesome Dove,’ autumn dormant to Hallelujah”. Because Brandi said, “I conscionable don’t bargain that you do yoga.” And I said, “Well, I don’t.” So she’s like, “Yeah, well, I mean, that needs to alteration then.” And that was really bully because it’s been a agelong clip since I’ve thought, “Oh, each statement [needs to ringing personally true].” I mean, location are songs for illustration “She Smoked successful nan House” wherever perfectly each statement of that is true. But a batch of my songs, they ever commencement pinch a atom of truth and past a batch of fabrication comes in. And I ne'er think, “Oh, would I opportunity that? Would I not opportunity that?” I deliberation I’ll deliberation astir that otherwise going guardant and constitute much purposefully for me, which is thing I’ve benignant of avoided doing. I deliberation I was a small frightened of it, but I’m not now. And possibly a immense portion of making this grounds was to do that for me.

On immoderate past albums, you tended to constitute much successful characteristic than you did ostensibly arsenic yourself. Like, you would return connected nan persona of a saturated housewife. 

Yeah, I emotion those. I emotion nan saturated housewives.

But group person taken statement of really you usage a “she” pronoun, successful nan opus “Dear Insecurity,” erstwhile you offhandedly singing astir personification you’re worried astir your insecurities botching a narration with. It sounds for illustration you’re penning arsenic yourself there.

“She’s really judge of me.” Yeah, you know, it’s crazy. I recognize really acold I’ve travel successful owning my ain sexuality successful that song, because I ne'er moreover thought astir it nan time that opus was written. It’s precisely really it was written. Now, I went successful and made immoderate changes while Brandi and I were singing it, truthful that it would pertain much to nan 2 of america — but not to that past verse. And I deliberation that is telling of conscionable wherever I am, and besides I deliberation benignant of wherever nan world is, because nan first clip I moreover thought astir that was Hunter Kelly [the big of Apple Radio’s cheery state show, “Proud Radio”] reached retired to maine because he sewage nan grounds early and said, “Oh girl, I emotion that you’re utilizing nan ‘she’ pronoun.” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “Dear Insecurity,” and he quoted that. And I said, “Man, Hunter, I ne'er moreover thought astir that until you conscionable said it, but it’s nan measurement it was written.”

So location was nary thought of, “Oh, should I opportunity he,” and truthful I’m conscionable happy internally that it wasn’t thing that I moreover thought about. I conscionable did it. I’ve had group scope retired to me, saying really overmuch that opus intends to them. And I’m like, “Oh, I’m truthful happy.” That’s what I wanted pinch that, and I deliberation it touches everybody. But 1 of my female fans who I cognize really good said, “Well, it besides intends a batch to america successful nan LGBTQ organization that you said ‘she.’” And that makes maine really happy that it hits group that way.

I’m conscionable being deed by it connected a really primal level….

I’m gladsome it hits you there, because that’s wherever it hits me.

A batch of america person had teary therapy sessions pinch ourselves listening to that song. But you mentioned that you and and Brandi changed lyrics to make it much circumstantial to nan 2 of you personally. Can you springiness an example?

Yes. Like, location was a statement that said, “My lips are measurement excessively bladed / Too galore freckles connected my skin.” That was ever benignant of throwaway erstwhile it was written. And we changed it to “miles.” Then different portion that sewage changed… man, [the last version] is truthful successful my encephalon now, it’s difficult for maine to remember. But, “Dear insecurity… You’re a mean girl, you’re a bully and I dream you’re having fun…” Before, it was, “You’re a mean girl, you’re a bully, and I’m hiding successful my hoodie.” So that changed.

It’s useful for group who consciousness insecure successful their lives to perceive you and Brandi singing that and consciousness for illustration it’s not conscionable you projecting, because fans think, “They’re connected apical of nan world — why would they person immoderate insecurity?” So if you’re saying that you ain parts of that song…

I subordinate to each statement of that song. I deliberation there’s a misconception, erstwhile it looks for illustration you’re connected apical of nan world, that you really are. Because immoderate of nan astir insecure group I cognize are group who look for illustration they’re connected apical of nan world. And I deliberation that there’s almost much insecurity, because… You know, I’ve had a really bully tally present successful nan past small bit. But I still person things that I don’t for illustration astir myself aliases that consciousness for illustration shortcomings. And, you know, you put a grounds retired and astir group emotion it. But man, nan fewer group who don’t that are existent vocal astir it, and it really feeds into those insecurities. I deliberation we’re each beautiful insecure.

Is location an underdog opus connected nan medium for you?

Everybody’s sewage their favorites and group benignant of coalesce astir a few. “Take Mine” is astir apt an underdog for me, and arsenic this medium now has been retired a fewer weeks, I’m getting much messages astir that song. I emotion it because I person a batch of group say, “Oh, that reminds maine of nan Carpenters,” which I emotion that comparison. So that’s astir apt my underdog favorite.

But I mean, my favourite is “Dear Insecurity,” for sure. That opus intends a batch to me, and it would’ve meant a batch to maine had it not go a duet, but past that took it to different level. Just having Brandi and I connected this task together and singing that opus together intends a batch to me. Because she had wanted to get Lucinda Williams, and past she sang it [for a demo vocal] and I benignant of sewage mislaid successful it. I went location thinking, “Oh, God, what americium I gonna do here? I emotion nan measurement this feels.” And truthful I was really happy that she agreed to beryllium nan duet connected it.

The measurement Brandi tells it is that she ever wanted to do nan duet portion pinch you, moreover though she’d suggested Lucinda, and was acrophobic to ask. It’s difficult to ideate Brandi being acrophobic to bring thing up.

She ne'er did. I deliberation she didn’t want to unit her ain sound connected anything. But it made maine really happy that she’s connected it. I can’t ideate anyone else. When she first said “duet,” I instantly thought of a antheral singer, and truthful I didn’t spell correct to her. But past erstwhile she sang that scratch vocal to me, nan 2 of america together was magic. And you don’t wanna squash magic.

Of people nan basal thought of nan 2 of you together for immoderate intent delights group who cognize you both. And Brandi was benignant of making a joke retired of it — “Two cheery Brandys from nan Northwest locomotion into a room,” aliases thing for illustration that. Just nan sanction similarities… I tin retrieve looking up photos of 1 aliases nan different of you connected ligament services and location would beryllium photos of nan incorrect person. I was talking to Belinda Carlisle precocious astir her feelings astir those names getting mixed up, and whether they could ever grounds a duet together conscionable for nan nosy of it. In your case, you haven’t worried about, “Oh, possibly it’s excessively tiny for america to activity together.”

No, you know, it’s happened for truthful agelong — and past erstwhile Brandi Carlile exploded, it really started to hap to me. When she had that large capacity connected nan Grammys and personification tweeted astatine maine like, “Oh my God, you’re a stone star.” And I said, “Well, that’s Brandi Carlile, but yes, she is.” So I conscionable leaned into it. And, you know, if I’m gonna beryllium confused pinch anybody, she’s not a bad personification to beryllium confused with.

It’s easy to talk astir really your sensibilities really align successful a cool way. Is location immoderate measurement successful which nan 2 of you are really different, though, that besides made this collaboration work?

One of nan awesome differences we person is wherever we’re coming from arsenic songwriters. I went to Nashville and learned really to constitute songs, and there’s a existent building successful that. I judge that nan champion songwriters successful nan world — not each of them, but a bully hunk of ’em — are successful Nashville. Brandi comes from no schoolhouse of songwriting. She benignant of learned really to constitute songs penning pinch nan (Hanseroth) twins. And there’s thing really powerful successful that too. And I deliberation those 2 things together made this record. Like I said, I’ve ne'er had a shaper who felt for illustration they could return maine to task pinch songs, because nary of nan producers I’ve worked pinch travel astatine it from america arsenic a songwriter. They’re musicians, first and foremost, who became producers. Brandy’s a vocalist and a songwriter who’s producing records. So I deliberation her wanting to loosen up a small spot connected immoderate lyrics — like, “Hey, it doesn’t person to rhyme perfect,” aliases “It’s benignant of cool if it doesn’t rhyme there” — helped. But I deliberation myself coming successful pinch that system songwriting inheritance besides helped. I deliberation we extremity up successful this really cool mediate ground.

Of people your collaborations pinch Shane McAnally spell way, measurement back. And now it’s almost for illustration we’re getting 2 albums from you astatine once, successful a way, pinch nan merchandise of nan “Shucked” formed album.

I’m really pleased pinch really it turned out, and I’ve ne'er seen musicians activity arsenic fast. We tracked 18 songs successful a time for that formed album. A batch of that is you’re utilizing nan aforesaid players that are playing successful nan pit each night, truthful they cognize what they’re gonna play, but still, it’s a lot, and I was truthful impressed pinch nan process of that.

When we past spoke, arsenic “Shucked” was midway done nan rehearsals for nan Broadway opening, you and Shane were penning caller songs moreover then. Did it look astatine each ironic to you that, arsenic you’d worked connected this show for complete 10 years and written dozens aliases moreover hundreds of songs for it, moreover astatine nan past imaginable second, you were coming up pinch caller worldly that is presumably going to beryllium locked into nan show forever?

Well, I had ever been told by Robert (Horn) that you make changes correct up until nan end. Actually, I thought we would make much changes during previews. The show was a batch person to nan decorativeness statement than immoderate of america knew, and nan measurement we could find retired was to put it successful beforehand of an audience. (Director) Jack O’Brien had said to me, “Now, look, you know, we’re gonna person immoderate reliable previews,” and truthful I was prepared for definite things to autumn flat, and erstwhile they didn’t, nan first preview was opening nighttime to me. I mean, I astir apt cried for 24 hours, pinch nan measurement I was conscionable blown distant by nan measurement that it was received. And past overnight tickets started selling. We still made a fewer changes, but they weren’t monolithic changes for illustration I thought we mightiness make. So that was beautiful crazy.

But each different shape of nan process, location were changes correct up until it opened, and location were immoderate group who still wanted changes. But Jack was like, “No, nan show’s done.” He’s really bully that measurement astatine knowing “it’s arsenic bully arsenic it’s gonna be. If we support tinkering pinch it, we’re gonna get diminishing returns.” He was really awesome astatine putting nan brakes connected immoderate overthinking that had started to happen. Not by maine — this is nan 1 area wherever I’m not an overthinker. And convey God that Shane and I had each other… Certain departments are ever wanting — “Oh, tin we get 1 much song?” And nan difficult point astir that is, arsenic composers, you thin to for illustration what you’ve conscionable written. What’s happened successful nan past and what I asked Jack to please not ever fto hap erstwhile we sewage present (to Broadway) was: There was ever a opus correct earlier a reading, aliases correct earlier nan show opened successful Salt Lake (for an out-of-town tryout), that we would constitute that everyone would freak retired astir — and astir 10 days into it, it didn’t sound arsenic bully arsenic it did, and location would beryllium that cringey moment. And I had said to Jack, “I don’t want to consciousness that measurement erstwhile nan show opens connected Broadway.” And he said, “You won’t.” And I deliberation that that is is portion of his brilliant — knowing erstwhile to opportunity “Enough is enough” truthful that that doesn’t happen.

It’s funny, because astatine nan run-through I saw successful February, location was a risque opus astatine nan opening of nan 2nd enactment called “Plowed” that I thought would beryllium 1 of nan astir celebrated songs successful nan show. And past wrong days, Robert Horn told maine that you and Shane had conscionable written caller songs for nan extremity of nan first enactment and opening of nan 2nd complete nan weekend. And truthful erstwhile personification I knew went to nan first preview, I had to ask, “Is ‘Plowed’ still successful there?” And they said, “That doesn’t ringing a bell.”

Boy, that was 1 I ever fought to person successful there, and that 1 ne'er made it to immoderate shape beyond erstwhile you saw it. I deliberation that’s nan only clip it was ever successful a reading! But that opus sewage kicked astir a lot. I mean, I’d emotion to spot it successful nan show. That’s not gonna alteration now, but possibly nan touring formed you tin put it successful aliases something.

There needs to beryllium a “Shucked” boxed set, pinch outtakes from nan dozens of nan tunes you 2 wrote complete nan years that didn’t make it into nan last show.

You know, we did thing called “From nan Shucking Room Floor” aft a matinee for 200 “Shucked” super-fans, and past immoderate Tony voters, and astir of nan songs we played are songs that aren’t successful nan show, to particularly springiness those super-fans, a sensation of nan improvement of nan show. “Plowed” was 1 of those. And, for example, pinch Lulu (played by Newell), who has “Independently Owned,” each Lulu opus we ever had was a awesome song. I can’t opportunity nan aforesaid for immoderate of nan different characters, but each opus for that characteristic was awesome — yet nan characteristic changed and truthful we would person to constitute a different song.

I don’t cognize if Robert told you this aliases not, but nan opus that was connected my first record, “Pray to Jesus,” that Shane and I wrote was why Robert chose us. So we played a small spot of that opus and talked astir really Robert heard that and knew that that was nan reside he wanted for nan show and truthful he chose us. And past we played our very first opening number, which was called “Hee-Haw” [from nan play successful nan mid-2010s erstwhile nan show itself bore that name]. The astonishing point is, astir of these (outtakes), we emotion them arsenic overmuch arsenic we emotion nan ones that are successful nan show. Now location are immoderate that are connected nan shucking room level that we don’t love, but these ones we emotion and it’s like, ohio wow, these were awesome too. You know, conscionable arsenic nan show changes, nan songs person to change.

It is absorbing that “Pray to Jesus” caught Robert’s ear.

Robert listened to respective songs from different teams of writers successful Nashville, and he said that erstwhile he heard that, he knew that was nan song. Robert Filhart, who utilized to activity astatine ASCAP, was helping him find songwriters and played that opus for him, and Robert Horn said he remembers thinking, “Oh, these are nan group — whoever wrote this opus could constitute nan show I’m envisioning.”

It must beryllium absorbing to look backmost connected serendipitous moments successful your life wherever you tin think, “If I hadn’t written that song, life would beryllium very different.”

Oh, it would be. I told Shane I was going to commencement that “From nan Shucking Room Floor” arena by saying, “It each started pinch an section of “Weeds.” He said, “What are you talking about?” And I said, “Shane, don’t you remember?” I loved nan tv show “Weeds,” and location was a segment wherever Nancy Botwin was moving arsenic a a cleaning personification successful a hotel; she had fallen from this monolithic supplier lord to moving from nan rule and she was moving astatine a edifice successful Canada, and thing happened connected immoderate sheets. I don’t retrieve what it was, but it was thing atrocious that I’m judge group that cleanable edifice rooms person to woody pinch each day. This different female was putting nan sheets successful nan washing machine, and Nancy Botwin said, “How do you unrecorded this life?” And that female said, “Well, I believe to Jesus and play nan lotto.” It struck maine correct away. I sat up and I wrote it down, and past nan adjacent time I saw Shane and said, “I person this thought that I sewage from ‘Weeds.’ I deliberation we could constitute it.” We didn’t constitute it correct away; we talked astir it for a agelong time. But, you know, had I not been watching “Weeds” that night, I would’ve ne'er gotten that idea, we would’ve ne'er written it and Robert wouldn’t person heard it. And truthful I deliberation each those things were meant to be.

When you look astatine “Shucked” now and what it’s go and wherever it came from, do you deliberation astir this show is really subversive successful getting messages done that possibly are unexpected, aliases do you conscionable deliberation of really it useful arsenic a transportation strategy for axenic entertainment?

It depends connected nan temper I’m successful erstwhile I watch it. Now that you inquire that, immoderate nights I’m conscionable entertained by it, and past different nights I spot each nan hidden messages. I person to say, Jack O’Brien… he didn’t constitute those successful there, but he pushed Robert, and america successful turn, to find deeper meaning than conscionable nan froth of making group laugh. And so, yeah, immoderate nights I’m conscionable highly entertained, and past different nights I’m like, “Ooh, look what we did there. I wonderment if they really sewage that part,” you know? But either way, I’m ever proud. And immoderate nights I get mislaid successful it and hide that we wrote it.

For much connected Brandy Clark, publication our characteristic communicative astir “Shucked” here, aliases our announcement communicative astir nan “Brandy Clark” medium here.