Terri Clark Honors Mom, Fans With Heartfelt Live Performance
Terri Clark is now touring 'Unplugged & Alone' -- and having the time of her life. At a recent sold-out show at the legendary Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., the award-winning singer-songwriter talked about moving from playing amphitheaters and recording for a major label to going the indie route.
"I'm having a great time on this tour," Terri told the crowd. "I can't even express the joy of it. And the crowds are bigger in each city on the tour. I love social networking!"
After years at major labels, turning out hits that received popular and critical acclaim, Terri -- sans her manager -- went to record label executives in 2008 and asked for a release. The reason, she said, is that she just wanted to record the songs that spoke to her spirit rather than continually chase would-be hits.
"After 15 years, you think you have done and seen it all," Terri tells The Boot. "So to be able to offer something fresh and new and different and say 'Guess what? People are engaged in what I have been doing and these fans through the years keep coming to the shows.' That's a tremendous feeling."
There was certainly no shortage of affection at the Birchmere as Terri went from the fan club meet-and-greet to the almost two-hour-long show that started with a standing ovation and concluded with her singing at a post-show meeting with fans. Although watching Terri's stripped-down show was new for many of her fans, it's familiar and comfortable ground to the Alberta, Canada native who made her way to Nashville and a job at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge when she was 18.
"That's just how I started," Terri says. "I played for $15 a day and tips. That's also how I got my recording contract, just me and my guitar."
After years on the road, Terri seemingly hasn't lost any of the excitement found in playing before crowds. At the Birchmere, she moved effortlessly but with great creative passion through a set that ranged from 'I Just Wanna Be Mad,' to 'This Ole Heart' to newer songs including 'What Happens in Vegas [Follows You Home].''
She also shared plenty of insight behind her songs and into her life, including tales of her late mother, who succumbed to cancer in April of this year. Terri's mom, Linda, drove the 18-year-old aspiring singer from Alberta to Nashville to seek her fortune as a country musician. Starting by playing songs made famous by Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and other legendary performers, Terri soon found herself as a musical force of her own with a solid fan base and plenty of hits.
"The last time I was here, I was promoting an album called 'Fearless,'" said Terri as the crowd erupted in laughter over the name Terri's album shares with Taylor Swift's 2008 album. "That's when I was painted in a corner doing songs about 'I am woman and I'm strong....' Just because something isn't No. 1 on the radio charts doesn't mean you don't like the song or forgot me and I appreciate that."
Terri clearly hasn't been forgotten in Nashville, either. At Tootsie's 50th anniversary show at the Ryman Auditorium, she was one of the night's performers. She recalled the special evening with awe, noting that Kris Kristofferson stood at the side of the stage as she sang, "grinning ear to ear and accompanying me on the harmonica. It was an amazing experience. The only part that made me sad was that my mom wasn't there to see it."
"She was my best friend," Terri said of her mom, her voice trembling slightly. "She always knew I would make it."
Shortly before her mom's death, Terri found herself silently crying as she held her mom's hand. Her mom awoke and reminded Terri of what she had told her as a young girl when Terri had wished her mother could accompany her to school. Terri took the words -- which urged her to smile until they saw each other again -- and wrote the song 'Smile,' which she says she'll release on her website early next year.
"It's an amazing gift when people love us," she said. "We just have to recognize those gifts."
Evidence of that gift was offered to Terri in the form of enthusiastic applause and cheers from the Birchmere crowd as they yelled out song after song when she asked for requests. Although she politely declined to change clothes between songs as Reba McEntire often does or play the jokingly suggested 'Free Bird,' Terri moved into an array of her hits including 'Girls Lie Too.'
"I spent years and years on the road, constantly traveling and building a fan base brick by brick, just so I could have nights like this one," she said. She then paused, smiled, and donned her signature black cowboy hat. "See, I do have costume changes," she joked. "Mine just cost a lot less than Reba's."
Terri is currently on tour. Her next scheduled concert is November 19 in Kamloops, British Columbia. For a complete list of concert dates and cities, check here.