With Brandy Clark’s sophomore album Big Day in a Small Town, the beauty is in the details.
And life growing up in Morton, Washington provided plenty of inspiration for the small town drama that plays throughout the 11-song collection.
“I love how everybody is in everybody’s business,” she says. “There’s something about that that’s real funny. … I love everybody knowing you, and then I love that everybody cares.”
The strong sense of community that comes with small town living isn’t lost on Clark. She says when her father, a logger, died in a work-related accident; the loss impacted the entire town.
“I went home for his memorial service and they had to have it in a gym because that many people came to it,” she recalls. “I said, ‘That’s a small town.’ Who gets that other than a celebrity? That made me love my hometown forever.”
Clark captures the struggle of mending a broken family following the loss of a loved one in the emotional closer, “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven.”
In the title track, when a teenager named Mindy gives birth in geometry class, the listener can feel the mother’s shock when the school principal calls with news that she’s going to be a grandmother.
Then there’s a feeling of desperation of not having two nickels to rub together in “Broke,” while “Daughter” is full of bitter irony about karma getting back at a commitment-phobic father in the form of a gorgeous young daughter.
Kacey Musgraves guests on backing vocals as Clark sings, “So I hope you have a daughter and I hope that she’s a fox/Daddy’s little girl just as sweet as she as hot/And she can’t help but love them boys/Who love to love and leave them girls just like her father/Yeah karma’s a bitch so I hope you have a daughter.”
Clark’s heroes are the extraordinary, every day folks who helped raise her. To this day, she will never forget the dramedy that played out when her grandfather chased her grandmother with a knife as she was getting stung by bees trapped in her bee suit.
At the time, her grandmother was trying to catch a swarm at a local business unaware that it had been sprayed with something that pissed the bees off. Her grandfather didn’t tie the veil protecting grandmother’s face correctly, and the little critters got inside.
“She went to undo it, and he had tied it in a knot,” Clark says. “She always said she wished somebody would have filmed this – she was running and she turned around and my grandpa was chasing her but he couldn’t catch her. He had a knife to get ahold of the [veil] and cut it off. She was disoriented because of the bees and scared of him. But he’s the gentlest person. Finally he got her on the ground and cut it off. I remember seeing her in the hospital and being scared because her face and lips were humungous.”
Sounds like a potential song for another day.
For Big Day in a Small Town, Clark paired with producer Jay Joyce with a goal to stretch creatively.
“He helped me go to some places that maybe I was a little scared to go,” she says. “He doesn’t have an ego in the studio, and so it’s just about being service to the artist and the songs.”
“I think for me, I don’t know what my next record will be,” she adds. “Every record is a different project but I feel a lot of how he’s inspired me now. I want to write better songs because I think of what he does production-wise and how it elevates already great songs. I want to just write greater songs and I think about things musically a little different.”