Originally titled "Grrrl Power, Country-Style," from the September 2007 issue of Canadian Living Magazine, on newsstands or click here to purchase online.
Four million albums sold, three platinum records, almost a dozen Top 10 hits, a pair of Junos and a slew of entertainer-of-the-year awards. If you like country, then you know Terri Clark, the gritty guitar-slingin' singer-songwriter from Medicine Hat, Alta., who's been belting out her own brand of “grrrl power” for more than a decade. And now, with a new (seventh!) album on the way and a hit single, “Dirty Girl,” she's really cleaning up nice. Here, Terri dishes on ballads, brownies and the passion that drives her to do what she loves best -- playing for people from Grande Prairie, Alta., to Havelock, Ont.
CL: Everyone talks about the incredible energy you put out when you're performing. Where does that come from?
TC: Playing live is what I live for. I enjoy the creative process of making records and writing songs, but my passion lies in getting up in front of people every night. And people can tell when somebody is going through the motions or when they are really present in the moment digging the hell out of it.
CL: Why do you think people like your music so much?
TC: Country music isn't just a bunch of songs -- it's about a lifestyle. I see a lot of people at my shows that are girls and guys just like me. I have a lot of female fans, and they're looking for somebody to relate to that helps them feel they're OK just the way they are.
CL: How do you decide on a song?
TC: I have to like it, and I have to be able to relate to it. If it's a single and it does well, then I am pretty much stuck singing it for the rest of my life. I've always done the amped-up chick power kind of thing, and I still gravitate toward those songs, like my single “Dirty Girl.”
CL: Speaking of “Dirty Girl,” you look fabulous in the video. How do you do it?
TC: Thank you! I credit my mother and her family for good skin. My grandmother did not have any wrinkles until she was in her 70s. The rest is exercise. I go to the gym almost every single day, and I do a lot of weight-training and cardio. When I'm on the road, my road manager finds me a gym in every town we're in just to make sure that I keep going. And to a degree, I watch what I eat. I'm good about 80 per cent of the time, but the other 20 per cent, I'll eat a pan of brownies.
CL: Will your fans be surprised with your new album?
TC: My live show has been the driving force in my career, and this album does the best job of translating what I do live. I'm proud of the songs; [they've] got a lot of energy, and I'm singing better than ever. My Next Life is the name of the album, and I wrote that song. There are only two ballads and everything else is pretty rocking or mid-tempo.
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Photo courtesy of www.terriclark.com.
CL: Do you put a lot of yourself into your music?
TC: Absolutely. There's a song on the album called “Gypsy Boots,” and that song is the story of my life. I am a bit of a gypsy, and this song kind of came out of that. It didn't sound like a big hit to me. But when we went into the studio and recorded it, everybody was thinking, It's a single.
CL: Earlier this year, you were going through a divorce and your mom was diagnosed with cancer. Was it hard putting together the album?
TC: I was able to escape to Nashville in between my mother's radiation treatments and focus on the music and take myself out of the reality of what was going on in life. Music has always been my escape. Since I was a teenager, if there was ever anything bothering me, I would sit on the edge of my bed with my guitar for hours; it was my therapy.
CL: How did you handle the diagnosis?
TC: My mom and I have always been a team, so it was scary. I was doing vocals on the album at the time, and my parents didn't tell me what the doctors were saying. (She had a rare cancer that invaded her pancreas, and at first they thought it was inoperable.) They were worried that I would go off the deep end. After more testing, they decided to operate and started her on chemo and radiation. I had bought a house up here in B.C., and my parents ended up getting a place about 10 minutes down the road. I'm really grateful that all that worked out and I was able to be here. I sat with her while they administered chemoâ€¦I tried to maintain my sense of humour through my mother's ordeal -- I was calling her Kojak and Baldy. I didn't want to get stuck and wallow in the misery.
CL: Are you a spiritual person?
TC: Yes. I try to live my life in a way that I know is true and honest, and not hurt people. I do think what goes around comes around, so you better do it right.
CL: What does “grrrl power” mean to you?
TC: It means owning who you are and being comfortable in your own skin. As women, there's so much placed on us by society: to be a certain size, look a certain way and behave a certain way. I pretty much break all those rules. I'm loud, I'm crass, and I say what's on my mind. But that's OK because grrrl power is [about] accepting me with all of my imperfections.
CL: What's next for you?
TC: I am going to win CMA (Country Music Association) Female Vocalist of the Year if it kills me. I'm not going away, and they're not getting rid of me until I get the award on my mantel.
CL: What will you be doing in 10 years?
TC: I will always make records, and maybe they won't get radio airplay, but they'll be albums that I really want to do that my fans will love.
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Photo courtesy of www.terriclark.com.