Born on August 5, 1968, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; daughter of Les Samson and Linda Clark; married and divorced. Addresses: Record company--Mercury Records, 66 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. Website--Terri Clark Official Website: http://www.terri-clark.com.
Terri Clark became something of a country music sensation in 1995 with the release of her debut multiplatinum album, Terri Clark. The first single, "Better Things to Do" was a number-one hit on the country charts. In the summer of 1996, she was voted Star of Tomorrow by the TNN (The Nashville Network)/Music City News Awards, a fan-voted honor. Billboard magazine recognized her achievement by awarding her Top New Female Country Artist award of 1995. In her native Canada, the awards were even higher, with the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) awarding her Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and the Vista Rising Star Award for 1996.
Clark was born in Montreal, Quebec, on August 5, 1968, to Les Samson and Linda Clark. As a child, the family moved from Montreal to the heartland of Canada, the prairie province of Alberta. She was educated in the public schools of Medicine, Alberta, and was exposed from a very early age to country music. Her grandparents had been country music performers and both her parents were musical. Clark herself began playing guitar at the age of nine. Throughout her childhood she was thrilled by country music and became a huge fan of The Judds, Reba McEntire, and other big country stars. All her life, she wanted to be a country music performer, she told Victoria Forrest of American Country magazine. "When I was growing up, that is all I talked about. I slept, ate, and breathed country music. I always loved the sounds from Nashville and couldn't have imagined doing anything else with my life." Succumbing to her daughter's drive, in 1987, her mother brought her to Nashville, country music's Mecca, where the 18-year old hoped to make a career. The chances of it making it in Nashville, of course, were extremely slim.
Still, Clark and her mother had faith that Terri had what it would take to make it. Incredibly, soon after their arrival, Terri got a job performing at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge after taking the stage one day while the regular performer was on break. She told the story for her record company's promotional department: "I was fresh from the prairie. We went into Tootsie's and there was a guy playing for tips. I boldly went up and asked him if I could go on during his break; and I started singing. I did these impersonations of John Conlee and John Anderson and George Jones and people started filtering in from the street. By the time I got ready to leave, the place was full. They hired me."
Worked Hard to Get Noticed
After securing a job and a place to live, Clark was left on her own by her mother, who had to return to Alberta. She took part-time jobs and continued singing and writing music. She worked for a while in a boot store and waited tables at all sorts of restaurants. In addition to singing at Tootsie's, she sang at Gilley's and at the Wax Museum. While critics and fans often consider that she was something of an overnight sensation--since her very first single was a hit--the truth is she worked long and hard at her craft and put in her time knocking on doors trying to get noticed. She spent eight years living on the edge of the Nashville country music scene before catching the attention of Luke Lewis, president of Mercury Records, which signed her in 1994.
Clark described the ordeal of trying to get "discovered" for an interview in Country Song Roundup in 1996. She said that all her running around for all those years in Nashville gave her a good sense of what is and what isn't a hit. She also said that she often wondered if she shouldn't just abandon her dreams and try to put together a life for herself beyond country music. "I wondered if I was ever going to have a normal life. 'Am I just going to keep chasing after my dream, or am I going to settle down, buy a house, and raise a family like a normal person?'" Her perseverance, however, won out and she was granted a performance before Lewis. Having been given the opportunity to perform before the president of one the largest labels in the country, Clark selected a few of her favorite compositions, performing "Was There a Girl on Your Boys' Night Out?" and "The Inside Story" among others.
Released Debut Album
Terri Clark the album was completed in 1995 and contained 12 cuts, all but one of which were written by Clark. These include: "If I Were You" (her first number-one hit), "Catch-22," "Is Fort Worth Worth It?" "When Boy Meets Girl," (her second hit single) "Tyin' A Heart to a Tumbleweed," "When We Had it Bad," "Better Things to Do," "Suddenly Single," "Flowers After the Fact," "The Inside Story," "Was There a Girl on Your Boys' Night Out?" and "Something You Should've Said." Almost immediately after its release, the praise--and the awards--started piling up. In addition to numerous new-artist awards, Clark received both the Album of the Year and Song of the Year awards from the CCMA that year. In 1996, she went on the road, opening up for country music superstar George Strait and drawing quite a bit of attention herself.
In the fall of 1996, Clark released her second album, Just the Same, which received largely positive reviews. The album contains eleven songs, eight of which Clark wrote or co-wrote. These include: "Emotional Girl," "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me," "Just the Same," "Something in the Water," "Neon Flame," "Any Woman," "Twang Thang," "You do or You Don't," "Keeper of the Flame," "Not What I Wanted to Hear," and "Hold your Horses." Dating back to her pre-record deal years, the Warren Zevon classic "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me" has been something of a standard for Clark, and, as such, it was the first single from her sophomore effort. It piqued at number five on the Billboard charts. This time, Clark earned not only the Album of the Year award from the CCMA, but also Female Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, lofty heights for such a new singer to reach.
Clark didn't waste any time recording and releasing her third album, How I Feel, which hit the stores in 1998. On this release, her traditional country tunes were inflected with a bit of pop, in the same vein as country/pop music star (and fellow Canadian) Shania Twain or the Dixie Chicks. People reviewer Ralph Novak praised the release as "a lively package that showcases her versatile, rhythmic style." She took on an unlikely project later that year--narrating a country version of the classic children's story Ugly Duckling. Injecting snippets of country songs into the tale, Clark brought a unique twist to the much-loved story.
New Approach to Country with Fearless
Clark took a fresh approach to country music with her next album, Fearless, released in 2000. Veering away from the pop-country songs of How I Feel, Clark entered more rocking territory with Fearless. Indeed, Time writer Craig Offman noted, "You'll have to peek under a whole lot of country rock to find any of her former torch and twang." Though Clark herself loved the album (she has oft proclaimed the single "No Fear" as the favorite song she's ever written) and critics praised it as well, it received only lukewarm commercial reception.
Clark took the disappointment in stride. "After eight years, you come to a point where your expectations get to be very realistic," she told Billboard writer Deborah Price. Fearless was necessary, she told Price, because it allowed her to "dig deep, be a singer/songwriter, and experiment musically...." Returning to her pure-country roots with Pain to Kill, released in 2003, Clark was pleasantly surprised by her fans' eager acceptance of the album. It raced up the Billboard country music charts and earned Clark yet another batch of CCMA Awards, including Fan's Choice, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Single of the Year for the popular tune "I Just Wanna Be Mad."
Writers often make special note of Clark's trademark outfit--cowboy hat, jeans, and unassuming T-shirts--when writing features on the singer. In a world of sexed-up country stars and crossover hits, Clark has stuck to her roots, pushed the boundaries of country music, and achieved a rare status--critically acclaimed and a fan favorite.
by Jim Henry
Terri Clark's Career
Moved to Nashville, TN, 1987; signed with Mercury Records, 1994; released debut album Terri Clark, 1995; released Just the Same, 1996; released How I Feel, 1998; narrated children's story Ugly Duckling, 1998; released Fearless, 2000; and Pain to Kill, 2003.
Terri Clark's Awards
Billboard magazine, Top New Female Country Artist, 1995; Country Weekly Golden Pick, Favorite Female Newcomer, 1996; TNN/Music City News, Female Star of Tomorrow, 1996; Canadian Academy of Recording Science and Arts Juno Awards, Best New Solo Artist, 1997, Best Country Female Artist, 2001; Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Award, Song of the Year for "Better Things to Do," 1996, Album of the Year for Terri Clark, 1996, Vista Rising Star Award, 1996, Album of the Year for Just the Same, 1997, Female Vocalist of the Year, 1997, Entertainer of the Year, 1997, Video of the Year for "No Fear," 2001, Fan's Choice Award, 2001-03, Single of the Year for "I Just Wanna Be Mad," 2003.
- Selected discography
- Terri Clark Polygram, 1995.
- Just the Same Mercury, 1996.
- How I Feel Mercury, 1998.
- (Narrator) Ugly Duckling Virginia, 1998.
- Fearless Mercury, 2000.
- Pain to Kill Mercury, 2003.
September 17, 2005: Clark married her longtime tour manager, Greg Kaczor, in the Canadian Rockies. Source: People, October 3, 2005, p. 130.
- American Country, 1996.
- Billboard, April 12, 2003; September 9, 2003.
- Country Song Roundup, 1997.
- In Style, November 1, 1999.
- Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 28, 2001.
- Maclean's, January 13, 1997.
- Time International, November 6, 2000.
- Terri Clark Official Website, http://www.terri-clark.com (October 2, 2003).