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Terri Clark Welcomes Kelly Clarkson, Cody Johnson, Lainey Wilson and More For ‘Take Two’ Collaborative Album: Exclusive

Terri Clark Welcomes Kelly Clarkson, Cody Johnson, Lainey Wilson and More For ‘Take Two’ Collaborative Album: Exclusive

“People used to call me a honky-tonker in an era of divas,” Canadian-born singer-songwriter Terri Clark recalls to Billboard of her musical breakthrough in the mid-1990s, which positioned her as one of the rare woman “hat acts” at the time.

Clark’s pared-down jeans and boots, as well as her conversational vocal style and mix of ballads such as “If I Were You” and good-time songs such as “You’re Easy on the Eyes,” marked a counterpoint to the ceiling-scraping vocals and sequined, spangled outfits other women country artists were known for during the era.

But Clark’s independent-minded ethos has proven an influence on a new generation of artists. Now, Clark has teamed with many of today’s top country hitmakers to reimagine her catalog of hits on Terri Clark: Take Two, out May 31 via Mercury Nashville/UMe.

The album, which Clark produced, features Clark joining forces with Lainey Wilson on Clark’s hit cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” Kelly Clarkson on “If I Were You,” Cody Johnson on “I Just Wanna Be Mad,” Ben Rector on “Now That I Found You,” Carly Pearce on “Girls Lie Too” and Lauren Alaina on “I Wanna Do It All.” The set also includes a recording of a live performance from Clark with fellow Canadian Paul Brandt, on “You’re Easy on the Eyes.”

The first release from the album features Clark in collaboration with Ashley McBryde, on the song that launched Clark’s career: 1995’s “Better Things to Do.”

“At the top of my list was Ashley McBryde,” Clark tells Billboard of making the album. “We’ve been friends since 2017, and she’s the epitome of a true artist. She’s not afraid to be who she is and I’ve always admired that about people. Ashley has brought up in interviews how my career has inspired her, and that is something that really stuck with me. When you’re doing what you do, you don’t think it’s going to someday inspire somebody to truly just be themselves.”

Take Two is set to further connect Clark’s music with a new generation of fans. Clark moved to Nashville in the late 1980s and played at revered Nashville venue Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, before producer-music executive Keith Stegall signed her to Mercury Nashville Records in 1994. Clark earned nearly a dozen top 10 hits on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, including the chart-topping bell-ringers “You’re Easy on the Eyes” (which topped the leaderboard for three weeks in 1998) and 2004’s “Girls Lie Too.” Along the way, she picked up nominations from the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association. She was inducted into the all-genre Canadian Music Hall of Fame last year and is also a member of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

While some of the new recordings largely stay true to the originals, others add a new dimension. At the time of our interview, Clark had yet to get into the studio with Johnson to lay down vocals on “I Just Wanna Be Mad,” but says, “That song should have been a duet in the first place. And we slowed it down and toughened it up a lot. We’re having to change the melody in certain areas to get the key right for both of us to sing in certain parts of the song. It just sounds like him and it’s got a great rock groove to it.”

She recorded the Wilson duet on “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” a year ago, recalling, “I’m so glad we recorded it then — I don’t know if she would’ve had the time to do it now, because her career has just exploded since then. She showed up [to the studio] without one single person in an entourage or anybody and was just as gracious as anyone. She’s still that way.”

Clark strays slightly outside country circles to collaborate with pop-rock artist Rector, saying, “He’s a brilliant singer-songwriter. He walked in and just nailed the recording. The arrangement is fresh and he had a prominent hand in that. I wanted it to sound like something he would do, the filtered acoustic piano. We had a blast, and musically, I think it’s my favorite of the first four songs we tracked. This sounds like it could be a hit today.”

While some collaborations on Terri Clark: Take Two were by design, others were forged from happenstance — such as the random text message that set the Kelly Clarkson duet on Clark’s 1996 hit “If I Were You” into motion.

“She sang one of my songs on her karaoke segment of her show,” Clark says. “I never had her contact information, so I went through my business manager — who was a mutual contact for both of us — to say, ‘Thank you for singing my song.’ One day, I got a random text message that sounded very cryptic and I thought, ‘Oh, some random person got ahold of my phone number somehow.’ I texted back, ‘Who is this?’ and she was like, ‘Wait, is this..’ and named someone else. I said, ‘No, but who are you?’ And she said, ‘I can’t tell you but I can give you some hints.’” The guessing game continued until Clark verified Clarkson’s number with mutual artist friend Reba McEntire.

“I hate putting people on the spot, but I saw that as a sign that I was supposed to ask Kelly [to sing on the album],” Clark continues. “Thankfully, she said she would. I gave her a list of songs that were still available, and she picked ‘If I Were You,” which thrills me. I wrote that song when I was 21 years old, all by myself. So, it means a lot to me that she would pick that one.” Of recording with Clarkson, Clark says, “I just wanted her singing on as much of it as possible. She’s such an incredible singer, I just tried to stay out of her way.”

Not only is ‘90s country music having a resurgence, but so is ‘90s country fashion — from cowboy hats to fringe to vintage T-shirts — something Clark and her team are taking advantage of in marketing the album.

“My mother saved all my original merch [items], so I have one of just about every T-shirt from the early days,” says Clark, adding that she’s taken some of those vintage shirts into the recording sessions and gifted them to artists taking part in the album.

“Some of these photos of these artists I’m duetting with, wearing these old T-shirts of mine, are going to pop up,” Clark says. “I brought Lainey one that said ‘Poor, Poor Pitiful Me’ on it from the album,” Clark says.

Clark thinks the reason ‘90s music is having another moment 30 years later is because “it’s honest music. It doesn’t feel as manufactured as some of the music can these days. I hear that [‘90s country] influence in artists now — I’m a huge Cody Johnson fan, and he goes for the meat and substance in the songs. And I don’t believe it’s any particular artist — It’s a reverence for an era, which is nice.”

Clark is also excited by the “second chance” to record some of these hits with today’s recording technology. “Sonically, we’ve come such a long way — you hear those [original] big snare drums with all the reverb and the vocals and sometimes it sounded like we’re in a cave. But the fun part about re-recording these songs is we can update the way the track sounds.”

Clark says she is grateful for artists such as Wilson and Luke Combs — who recently teamed with country group Shenandoah for a remake of the group’s 1990 Country Airplay chart-topper “Two Dozen Roses” — putting a new spin on older songs that inspired them, and introducing the music to their fans.

“Fans want to know who Lainey Wilson grew up listening to and who Luke Combs grew up listening to,” Clark says. “It sparks an interest, and it brings us back into the conversation that we wouldn’t otherwise be a part of without them. So, we are grateful to the new artists for honoring and having a reverence for our era.”

See the full tracklisting below:

“I Just Wanna Be Mad” (featuring Cody Johnson)

“Poor Poor Pitiful Me” (featuring Lainey Wilson)

“Better Things to Do” (featuring Ashley McBryde) 

“Now That I Found You” (featuring Ben Rector)

“I Wanna Do It All” (featuring Lauren Alaina)

“If I Were You” (featuring Kelly Clarkson)

“Girls Lie Too” (featuring Carly Pearce)

“You’re Easy On the Eyes (live)” (featuring Paul Brandt)

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