Rising country star Brandy Clark by and large is handling her transformation from behind-the-scenes songwriter to woman in the spotlight pretty effortlessly.
On Monday she played a densely packed hourlong headlining set at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, having spent time in recent years opening for the likes of Alan Jackson and Jennifer Nettles.
Yet there are a still a few things she’s getting a handle on as she prepares for the June release of her sophomore album, “Big Day in a Small Town,” the follow-up to her acclaimed 2013 debut album “12 Stories.”
“Thank you so much,” Clark told the packed house less than 24 hours after she’d pulled into Los Angeles from Las Vegas, where she’d taken part in the 2016 Academy of Country Music Awards activities over the weekend.
“Let me tell you, if I ever get big enough to headline the Nokia Theatre or the Wiltern, y’all are getting a meet-and-greet!” she said. “Just save your tickets!”
Then a fan pointed out that the Hotel Cafe doesn’t use tickets, just hand stamps. “Oh, I guess I made a mistake. Well, save your credit card receipts!”
She and singer-guitarist Miles Aubrey delivered a stream of smartly crafted songs, many for the first time live, from the new album, along with several numbers from “12 Stories” and a couple of her own versions of hits she wrote for other artists. Those included Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken heart” and the Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two.”
On Thursday, the Washington-born, Nashville-based musician has a big day of her own in store, returning to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where she’s planning to sing her current single “Girl Next Door,” a wicked put-down to a man who wants his girlfriend to be a little more proper, a little less forthright.
My house and my mouth and my mind get kinda trashy
I’ve never been to jail, but hell, I wouldn’t put it past me.
“That was totally based on a real situation that happened to Jessie,” she said, referring to her collaborator on the song, Jessie Jo Dillon. “She actually told him, ‘If you want the girl next door, then go next door!’ I said, ‘That’s a song!’ and we sat down and wrote it.”
The song has been picking up airplay on country stations across the U.S., but it’s not lost on Clark that it’s an uphill battle for female singers and songwriters in country these days.
The latest Billboard Hot Country Songs listing shows just four women’s names among the Top 25 hits — and two of those are duets with better-known male singers.
“I really think things are starting to shift,” she said in an interview for a full Calendar profile that will be published closer to the June 10 release of “Big Day in a Small Town.” “I really do get the feeling from the women I hear from that they’re ready for something different” than the steady stream of bro-country anthems that have dominated the country airwaves in recent years.
They’ll be hard-pressed to find songs more emotionally and musically rewarding than Clark’s.