With a decade of radio success behind her, Terri Clark imposed a challenge upon herself for making her new album Life Goes On: “to find something fresh without alienating the people that liked what I’d done before.” She’s long been a champion for outspoken women, but usually on upbeat hits like “Girls Lie Too” and “I Just Wanna Be Mad.” This time, she slowed things down a little for the touching “She Didn’t Have Time,” about an overwhelmed single mother who finds love with the help of a flat tire.
CMT: Why did “She Didn’t Have Time” appeal to you so much?
Terri Clark: I think the hope at the end of the song was a big factor in why I was so into the song, attracted to it, and wanted to record it. I felt like it was real life. There are so many people that are single parents — moms and dads, not just women. It’s going on out there. It’s the reality of life, and it’s not always easy. It’s hard enough to raise kids when you’ve got a competent partner, let alone trying to do it by yourself these days in this world. I find it a very inspiring song, hearing that this woman made the sacrifices she needed for her child, and in the end, it all came back around. The karma came back in a positive way to her, and she found the guy of her dreams without ever having to look for him.
Were you raised by a single mother?
My mom was a single mom for a few years, after my parents got divorced and before she got remarried. There were some lean years when it was her, my sister and me. It was definitely tough during that time.
What did your mother think when she first heard the song?
My mom loved the song. My mom is always so busy because she’s got a lot going on in her head. When she comes to town, she comes to help me with business matters and things like that. So I sat and played her the song, but I don’t think she really listened to it the first time. Then we played it live at the Calgary Stampede, and she was in the audience. She came to me, like she was so surprised, and she said, “That song made me cry, Terri!” And she doesn’t cry very often. She’s pretty strong. She said, “That is just a great song, and boy, I’ve been there before.” It definitely impacted her. And I’ve had grown men come up to me after shows that we’ve played the song in. They have come up to me with tears in their eyes and said, “I was raised by a single mom and that song is my mom. It reminds me of my mother.” It affects people who may not be in that position, themselves, but are close to it in some way.
There’s a line in the song “Life Goes On” that says “My mama always said that there’ll be lessons that you learn/You don’t need to know ‘em all right now.” What are some of those lessons that your mom told you that suddenly make sense now that you’re older?
There are a million. It’s hard to pick one. Moms always know everything, don’t they? That’s one thing I’ve learned that she was right about. (laughs) Mama knows! I love that song, and I love that line. There is so much right in the heat of the moment. When things aren’t going our way or going the way we’re trying to force them to go, they’re doing that for a reason. There’s a grander scheme of things to look at and a big picture. You can’t see what’s five years down the road.
[Maybe there's] this person you might have the hots for, and you think you’re going to diiiiiie if it doesn’t work out — “Oh, my God, I’m going to throw myself off a bridge!” — and then you end up with someone so much better for you in the end. If you had tried to force the other thing into working, it wouldn’t have turned out so well. It’s the Zen of life and how the path you’re on leads you to where you’re supposed to be in the end — even if you don’t like the way it looks at that particular moment.
Are you OK with not always knowing how things are going to turn out?
Ah, I’m getting better at it. I’m one of these people who tends to be a bit of a control freak at times. I like to know what’s going on! (laughs) I like information. I like to be informed. But I’m getting a lot looser. I’m letting people do their jobs, as far as my career goes now. I’m having faith that everybody’s doing what they say they’re doing and not feeling like I have to do everything myself. That part, I’ve learned to let go a little bit.
I’m OK a little more now with not really knowing. I’ve learned that I can’t control it. What’s going to happen is going to happen. The more you try to force something and control it, then you’re not winding up at your true destiny. You’re messing with the stars. (laughs) God’s in control. We’re not.
If you hear a song that’s about 80 percent or 90 percent exactly how you want it, are you reluctant to change anything, or is it an all-or-nothing situation?
I have asked writers to rewrite stuff before, if they would. Sometimes I will change a lyric here and there and call the writer and say, “Oh, by the way.” (laughs) A lot of times, it’s just to make it sing a little better if there a lot of words scrunched in. I changed a few lines in “She Didn’t Have Time.” The original line was “She didn’t have time/She had a baby to feed/A pink blanket to find/To rock their sweet baby to sleep.” So I changed it to “little one.” … It’s OK sometimes. I don’t think the writers mind if they know they have a cut, especially when it’s a single, or if it’s better for the singer to change a little thing here or there. As long as you’re not changing the entire content: “Oh, I changed the end. He never came along. She just jumped off a bridge, and there’s no hope.” (laughs)