Brandy Clark’s Grammy-nominated debut, 12 Stories is fairly even-toned, never jarring – at least not musically. The songs serve mainly as vehicles for Clark’s angelic vocals and devilish lyrics (“Crazy women are made by crazy men,” “What’ll keep me out of heaven will take me there tonight”). But the acclaimed singer-songwriter is taking a bit of a new sonic approach on her next album.
In our exclusive chat after her set at New York City’s FarmBorough Festival on Saturday, Clark revealed she’s working with Jay Joyce on her new set of tunes. Joyce is unique among Nashville producers for his ability to maintain a country sound while also pushing past the constraints of tradition. Singles like Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” lean on tropes from Seventies rock and soul but update them with raw, almost aggressive yearning. These Joyce productions have climbed the charts despite — or maybe because of — sounding different from what usually gets terrestrial radio play.
“I’m excited to work with [Joyce] because he does bring that edge, and he was excited to work with me because he’s never worked with someone so country,” Clark told Rolling Stone Country. “He’s really pushing me in the best ways. He goes down every road with a song. A lot of times you end up right where you started, but you figure something out in the process. He’s a genius.”
In addition to bringing in a new producer, Clark is changing her methods in the studio. “The first record I did, everything started with me and a guitar and a click track,” she noted. “This time, Jay got the band that was going to play on the record and we rehearsed for five days. A lot of the rehearsal is what ended up being on the record.”
She’s been writing with a few fresh faces as well; in addition to Shane McAnally and Jessie Jo Dillon, who are both credited on 12 Stories, co-writers on the new disc will likely include Scott Stepakoff and Bryan Simpson.
Clark hinted that “this record will have a bit of a concept,” but remains tight-lipped about what that might be. She’s hunkered down in the studio and hopes to put out a new single at the end of August or early September, with the full album to follow early next year. She’s so hard at work, in fact, that when her manager texted her about the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage throughout the country, Clark – one of few openly gay artists in Nashville – didn’t know the decision was imminent. “I’m like, what are you talking about?” she admitted with a laugh. “I think it’s a wonderful thing, and I would think that whether I way gay or not. It’s a wonderful thing that people who love each other can have a legal commitment to each other.”