At the start of Brandy Clark’s sold-out Saturday (July 30) show at Chicago’s City Winery, she told the crowd she was going to talk as little as possible. Which was fine, because her songs said everything.
She played the music off her new album Big Day in a Small Town from top to bottom, and really only told a couple stories in between. Like when she introduced “Daughter,” she said it might be her favorite revenge song she’s ever written.
“Because it’s not about slashing tires or blowing shit up,” she said. “This is a kinder, sweeter, longer-lasting revenge.”
It was backstage before the show, though, when Clark told me more stories about what it was like making her first major-label album. Her critically-acclaimed debut 12 Stories was a different kind of project, because it was on an independent label.
“When I made 12 Stories, I was just working on it in my spare time, so it took longer,” she said. “With this one, I was in the studio and got it all done in a month, versus four or five months. It was all I did.”
But before she even got into the studio to record with producer Jay Joyce, she had to write the songs.
“I’m always afraid that I’ve written my last great song,” Clark admitted, “that I’ll run out of stories to tell. I’ll feel like the well is dry, and then boom, something will inspire me, and I stumble onto the next song”
She wrote the title track for her second album shortly after the first album was released.
“I wrote ’Big Day in a Small Town,’ and I thought, ‘Man, that would be a great concept for a record,” she said. “So I loosely grouped songs around it. And then there’s a song I just wrote that could be centerpiece for my next record.” But she was careful not to take the idea of a concept album too literally, and make every single song a small-town themed one.
During her show, when she was telling that same kind of story to the fans, she said her producer pressed her on what exactly was motivating her to make this kind of album.
“Jay asked me, ‘Why do you want to make an album about small towns? Why do they matter to you? Why, specifically?’”
It came down to more than just Friday night football games and everyone knowing your name. It came down to Clark’s dad’s funeral.
“I told Jay that when my dad died, they had to have his memorial service in a gym because so many people came,” she said. “And that wasn’t uncommon. It’s how small towns are. They really care. And Jay said, ‘Then that’s the reason to make this record.’”