Terri Clark – A Northern Girl

by Christian Lamitschka

A platinum-selling artist, a hard-charging performer, a CMA Female Vocalist of the Year nominee, the 8-time Canadian Country Music Association Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year assumes true ownership of her music: making an album to her own truth – and the result is a record that captures the tides of adult lives, great passions and the struggles that mark our journey.  The result?  Roots and Wings.  Recently, Terri sat down with Christian Lamitschka and talked about what’s next in her career.

How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who’s never seen or heard you before?

I would say I try to empower women, wear a cowboy hat, jeans, and don’t necessarily fit the female country artist stereotype. My show has a very personal vibe to it, and some of the music is more rollicking, and some is more thought provoking, but it is ALL authentic, and I feel many people can relate to it. I love letting people know and see that I am just an every day girl, with a not so every day job, but I don’t feel a “disconnect” with my audience just because I am on the stage…I feel like we are all there to have a great time, myself included, and usually, that is what happens. My music tends to lend itself to more of a traditional country/rock, or roots sound, as opposed to ” pop”.

How was the last year for you? What were the highlights?

This past year for me was full of bitter and sweet. I made a new album called “Roots and Wings” that I am very proud of. I lost my best friend, my Mom, to cancer last year, and ended a long term relationship not long after that. It was all very tough, but I also feel like that is when our spirits and minds grow the most, and creatively I feel like it all inspired me to write some songs that I otherwise may not have.  I got a cottage in Canada close to many of my old friends from junior high, and teen years, and my Grandmother, Dad, sister, and nephew….staying tethered to them has helped me deal with the loss of my mother a little better as well, so that has been a HUGE blessing, and helped me gain clarity and balance. My own personal and spiritual growth was the one bonus out of the pile of rubble and I do believe we have to take advantage of those nuggets of wisdom…they are worth more than their weight in gold.

How did you choose the title for the CD, is there a story behind it?

I chose “Roots and Wings” after much deliberation about naming the album after one of the song titles, which felt a little cliche. I felt not just ONE song encompassed what the album meant for me. There is a song I co- wrote with Karyn Rochelle about my relationship with my Mom called “Smile”…the song is about how she was always willing to “let me go” so that I could live up to my fullest potential, and really fly…no matter how hard it was at the time, because we were always so extremely close…that and the fact that I feel like she is my angel always, is the “wings” portion of the title.The “roots” portion covers where songs like “Northern Girl” and  “We’re Here for a Good Time” came from. Songs that represent me growing up in Canada, and embracing my roots, who I am, my old friends and family, and coming full circle in my life and choosing some songs with those themes for this album.

Please tell us about the songs on your album.

“Wrecking Ball” is a song about a woman on a mission. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Its the first song on the record and has a totally rocking vibe….

“Breakin’ up Thing” – Wrote this one with Kristen Hall, and it’s about someone who has had so many breakups they have mastered the art of “leaving” rather unscathed.

“The One” – this song is about the proverbial single person catching hell from everyone for not yet being married. I admire those who wait for the one who is right, instead of “settling” for whatever pressures society places upon them, or they place upon themselves.

“Northern Girl” – Again, this one encompasses how I feel about the land where I grew up, and the people I grew up with, and have returned to it, in so many ways.

“Beautiful and Broken” – This song is about unconditional love for someone who is broken emotionally in so many ways. About being there for them in spite of the chaos they create…

“Lonesomes Last Call” – Wrote this tune with Jim Rushing when I was about 22 years old- so um, 5 years ago….ok not really, but a girl can dream right? It’s got that classic old school country vibe that I grew up listening to, and reminds me so much of my Grandparents who used to sing all the classics.

“Smile” is about my Mom and I and our relationship

“We’re Here for a Good Time” is a 70’s rock classic by the Canadian band, Trooper…heard it SO much growing up, so decided to make a comeback with it, and country it up a bit. Just a feel good fun, roll the windows down, type of tune.

“The Good Was Great” –  A song about taking the good parts of a relationship and the sweetness it brought to your life instead of constantly focusing on the bad parts and reasons why it didn’t work out.

“Flowers in Snow” – This is the first song Kristen and I wrote for this album. It is about “knowing” inside that a relationship is dead and over long before either one of you has the guts to really do anything about it.

What kind of songs do you like to record the most?

Anything that resonates with some part of who I am. I have a fun side, a party side, a serious, side, romantic side, thoughtful side…I have to somehow feel connected to what I am singing every night or to me it feels disingenuous.

What’s your favorite song among all the songs you’ve recorded and what’s the story behind it?

The song I wrote about My Mom and me, “Smile”.

Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?

I have received so many wonderful letters and stories over the years it is really hard to pick just one.  The stories that impact me the most are how my music reaches peoples hearts in a way that truly impacts their life.  I get letters from a lot of young girls who have viewed me as a role model of sorts, which, of course can feel like pressure, but I consider it a tremendous honor and responsibility of sorts. They write to me about reaching their goals and dreams, and tell me the songs I sing inspire them to be who they really are and not let the negative things in life get them down….that just hits my heart in such a huge way.

Who do you look up to musically and how deep do your musical roots run?

Reba has always been someone, as a business woman, mentor, friend and person, I have always looked up to. My Grandparents were also professional musicians and club acts in the 50s and 60s in Montreal and supported 5 kids on playing country music. I have all their old Publicity shots still, and their union cards framed at my house in Nashville….they inspired me in so many ways, and I feel as though their legacy has lived on through me, and flourished to even greater heights. I am so grateful they both lived long enough to experience a lot of my success.

What do you think about today’s Country Music versus its roots and where do you see it going in the future?

Country music is like anything else. Ever changing as it goes. There is room for all styles and types or artists. We are all good at what we do for different reasons. I personally prefer to listen to Bluegrass and traditional country in my spare time. I like roots music and acoustic music. Anything unaffected that is easily duplicated sitting in someones living room, which is why I have pursued the unplugged solo touring option in the US. I think country will always be ever present in our culture. Satellite radio provides a place for people to hear whatever they want whenever they want, and in a way will help keep it alive.

If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?

I wish the major record labels had been a little more forward thinking when NAPSTER impacted music online. I wish they had been more proactive in the downloading world and found a way to get ahead of the curve before it changed the major label industry so drastically. I feel a lot of them were too self assured and confident in their ability to maintain a strong foothold  without having to “worry” too much about it early on, and it has backfired in many cases.

As an artist you have to do so many different things such as recording, touring, doing interviews etc. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?

Playing live is the reason I do everything else….including this interview (she says with a smile on her face)

What was your big break that got you into the music business?

It took 8 years to secure a record deal from the time I left my little prairie town in Alberta, Canada. It was a series of “little” breaks, a TON of let downs, broken promises, and heartaches that lead to the big one. Eventually Alan Jackson’s producer Keith Stegall heard a demo tape I did, and requested a meeting.  6 months he later wound up at Mercury records and requested another one, in which I walked in with my guitar and sat in the president’s office (Luke Lewis) and sang about 4 songs solo….that did it.

Before you became a star, were your friends and family supportive or was it a struggle?

They have always been my biggest cheerleaders.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I didn’t choose to become an artist, it chose me. I fell in love with the guitar, and country music and had a natural talent for it.  I had to see where it would lead.

What inspired you to become a songwriter?

My Mom….

What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you’re proud of?

Becoming the first (and still only) female Canadian Member of the Grand Ole Opry is it for me. It means the WORLD to me. Also holding the record for the most CCMA Entertainer of the Year/Fan’s Choice awards is a close second. I’ve won that 8 times and the only person close behind me in that category is kd Lang. It’s a huge accomplishment, and the fact that it comes from the fans, who I believe are the only ones that matter, means so much more.

Any thoughts of retirement ahead?

Hell no.  When its music, you play till you die. Actually to be serious, it is more about “balance” than retirement. I am only 42 still, so a little young to hang it up and I think I would be absolutely BORED.

Who’s your biggest critic, yourself or others?

Myself, for sure.

When you get time off, how do you like to relax?

I have a cottage in Canada, and I choose to be around people who will add to my life and not drain or take away.

Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?

Ireland, Germany, Scotland, England

What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?

That I’ve saved their life

What message would you like to send your European fans?

I can’t WAIT to get there and play for everyone in the UK and Europe. I have vacationed there and absolutely loved it…..

For more about Terri, visit her website at http://www.terriclark.com/

Visit Christian’s MySpace page for more about him. www.MySpace.com/ChristianLamitschka

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