As the captain of 'Team Clark,' singer-songwriter Terri Clark has been at the helm of nearly every aspect of her latest project, an album called 'Roots & Wings,' from collaborating on the songs with other writers, to assembling the A-list players, producing the material, commandeering her stage show and taking charge of her own record label. Ultimately, she believes that you're only as strong as those with whom you surround yourself.

"One thing I've learned from working with so many other producers in town is hiring the right people," Terri tells The Boot. "The right players that can share your vision musically and creatively, and can convey that and put that on a product that people will hear on the radio or go and buy. To go from what's going on inside my head to that and have it sound the same. It takes gifted people to follow my thoughts, as crazy as they are. These guys are people I've worked with from day one. So we're friends and we already have a camaraderie and a rapport that makes it very easy to create a record."

A record, however, is nothing without the songs to anchor it, she concedes. "The hardest part is the songs have to be there first," notes the Canadian, whose previous album, 'The Long Way Home,' was released in 2009. "There's an old saying in Nashville that you can't polish a turd. If the song's not there, you can have the greatest track in the world but the song is still gonna suck at the end of the day. So I tried to pick wisely."

With an eye toward crafting an ultimately more upbeat collection than the previous one -- considering she'd weathered a divorce and was losing her mother to cancer by the time 'The Long Way Home' was released -- Terri says she sought out writers she could really learn from. One of those people was Kristen Hall, formerly one-third of Sugarland and a co-writer of many of the then-trio's earliest hits.

"Kristen Hall is definitely one of those people that I felt have helped raise the bar for me as a writer," acknowledges Terri. "She's been doing this a really long time. She really knows how to corral a great idea and a great thought into something that sounds like a smash. She's really talented at a lot of fun to hang out with. We've become buddies in the process and if we never write another song together, we'll be friends forever. She's salt of the earth, I love her."

Terri and Kristen collaborated, in fact, on nearly half of the songs on the album, including 'Northern Girl,' the disc's first single and a Top 10 hit in her native country. Other co-writes include the tender and intense 'Beautiful and Broken,' which they wrote about respective break-ups. But Terri reasons it would be difficult to write as honestly with someone without having mutual trust and feeling free to be yourself.

"We laugh. You've got to be able to really cut up and laugh with somebody in order to peel away those layers. I don't think you're going to write the greatest songs if you're guarded and feeling afraid of making a fool of yourself by saying something dumb. The guard has to come down."

And although they certainly have shared experiences in the music business to which they can both relate, Terri says their conversations are usually anything but business.

"We talk about our cottages and where we grew up and our love lives and our friends. We talk about what matters in life, what's important. We've touched on all that other stuff, but my connection to Kristen is so outside of music. She's somebody I would hang out with whether she was in the music business or not."

'Roots & Wings' will be available digitally on July 27, with the physical CD set for release September 13. Look for more of our exclusive Terri Clark interview next week!

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