Sugarland

"Ain't we all the stars playing the leading part in our own soap opera?" Brandy Clark belts out that question to kick off Big Day in a Small Town, positing the premise of not just the opening track ("Soap Opera"), but all 10 songs that follow it. The towns that anchor Clark's new album may be small enough to warrant only a single blinking light, but the lives lived in them are anything but... and neither are the hopes and dreams that rise from their backroads and bedrooms.

When you grow up in a small town, oftentimes, your dreams are all you have. Whether it's to become a football star or a father, a homecoming queen or a hairdresser, your dreams might be the only thing that keep you going. For Clark, the dream she harbored in her small hometown of Morton, Washington, was to be a country singer. Sure, once she moved to Nashville, she had successful cuts as a songwriter [The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two," Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart," and Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow" which won the CMA Song of the Year Award in 2014], but being an artist in her own right was a dream she had stopped dreaming until three years ago when her first album, the stunning 12 Stories, debuted.

At the time, it was a passion project, more than anything... a passion project that went on to become a GRAMMY- and CMA-nominated release that topped a myriad of "Best Albums of 2013" lists; earn her opening slots on tours with Eric Church, Jennifer Nettles, and Alan Jackson; land her performances onThe Ellen DeGeneres Show , Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, and a much-talked about collaboration with Dwight Yoakam on the 2015 GRAMMY Awards in recognition of her nomination in the all-genre Best New Artist category; and win her a Warner Bros. Records deal. Now, as she gears up for her sophomore set, the alternately feisty and poignant Big Day in a Small Town, Clark has much higher hopes.

"When I made 12 Stories, I think my dreams were a lot more realistic, in that I didn't expect a lot to happen... then it did," she says. "This time, my dreams are very much what they were when I was going to Vince Gill and Patty Loveless concerts and decided I was going to move to Nashville. Right now, my dreams are as big as when I was naïve enough to really dream them."

Produced by Jay Joyce [Little Big Town, Eric Church], Big Day in a Small Town tells the stories of the football star, the father, the homecoming queen, and the hairdresser because those are the stories and people that Clark grew up knowing. "All these songs, there's some little truth in them, somewhere, that resonates with me or that is about me," she confesses. Explaining the genesis of "Soap Opera," she offers, "When I would get worried about what people thought of me or what was going on with me, my mom would always say, 'You know, we're all the star of our daytime drama. We're just bit players in someone else's. Nobody cares that much about what's going on with you. They'll only care until there's something juicier going on with somebody else two weeks later.'"

But Clark cares enough about all of these characters to tell their stories: the aging beauty of "Homecoming Queen" who wonders what happened to the life she always wanted... the tempted exes of "You Can Come Over" who do all they can to not get burned by the flame that flickers between them... the heartbroken heroine of "Daughter" who wishes a bit of karmic justice on her ex in the form of a daughter who's "just as sweet as she is hot"... the defiant wild child of "Girl Next Door" who refuses to fit her lover's misguided notion of womanhood.

"'Homecoming Queen' is really real for me — I know that girl. 'You Can Come Over' is very real for me and 'Daughter' and 'Soap Opera'..." Clark's voice trails off as she thinks about the tales she tells. What about "Drinkin' Smokin' Cheatin'" with its pondering of ways to navigate the sometimes rocky waters of a relationship? Game plan? Wish list? "That's a total daydream," she says with a laugh. "I think we all have that daydream."

One of the most heartfelt moments on Big Day in a Small Town is the one that closes it, "Since You've Gone to Heaven." The song addresses the aftermath of losing someone close to you and it's one that Clark has wanted — and attempted — to write for years. "My dad was killed in a work accident the July before 9/11," she says. "When all that 9/11 stuff was going on and everyone was glued to the TV ... I thought right then, 'Since you've gone to heaven, the whole world has gone to hell.' But I sat on it for years and years because it seemed so bleak." As with all of Clark's compositions, there's some truth in it, just not necessarily the whole truth. "It's definitely not the story of my family in that song. I'll stress that," she says. "But I do think, a lot of times, when somebody dies, it blows things apart more than it brings things together."

While the lyrical themes echo those of 12 Stories, Clark pushed her vocal and musical boundaries on Big Day in a Small Town. Instead of building the songs from a simple guitar/vocal performance, Joyce brought the players in for five days of rehearsals before tracking live with the band. "A lot of those rehearsals became what the record was," Clark says, explaining that the recorded version of "You Can Come Over" includes her one-take, scratch vocal. "I wanted to fix a few things, but Jay wouldn't let me because he felt like it would lose emotion. He's about the heart of music. He's not about making it perfect."

"He is out to serve the artist and the song," she adds. Throughout the process, Joyce insisted that this be a "Brandy Clark record" not a "Jay Joyce record" because she was the one who would be performing it night-after-night even as he moved on to his next project. "If I didn't like something, he'd be the first person to change it. I think this project means nearly as much to him as it does to me."

Though Neil Young's Harvest was the only musical reference point the two discussed before heading into Neon Cross Studios, Clark and Joyce each brought their influences along — including Clark's long-standing love of classic country and Joyce's well-documented affinity for edgier rock. "He and I definitely come from different places, musically, which I think is probably good," she offers. "On 'Daughter,' he started to play an organ part and I said, 'That sounds like [Patsy Cline's] "Back in Baby's Arms."' He said, 'What's that?' He didn't know it."

Along with Sturgill Simpson, Ashley Monroe, Chris Stapleton, and Kacey Musgraves (who provides guest vocals on "Daughter"), Clark is part of a new vanguard in country music — one that tips a hat to tradition, while not eschewing its evolution. "I see what's happening right now and I feel this groundswell of people who love... I would say 'country' music, but I'll take it a step further and say 'real' music. I feel like there are people who are starved for that," she says. "The only music I've ever made is country music. The only music I've ever really listened to consistently is country music. And I want to keep that alive, so there's a responsibility in that, for me."

But, for Brandy Clark, that responsibility is a dream come true.

Clare Maree Bowen was born on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is still not dead.

Years before landing the role of Scarlett O'Connor on the CMT/HULU TV series NASHVILLE, and launching her career as a singer / songwriter, a young Clare Bowen was growing up in rural Australia, miles from the nearest city, writing down everything she felt, heard, saw and dreamed.

"Music was my connection to the rest of the world," she says. As a child who spent more time around animals than people, she often "didn’t do social very well... but music is the universal language. I felt no barrier there. I was brought up on my parents vinyl collection - everything from Vivaldi, to Elvis, to Dolly, to Springsteen, Edith Piaf and Etta James.”

Those references quickly expanded to include country legends like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. Bowen heard her first broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry on the wireless in her grandad's kitchen. Soon after, her classical vocal coach paused one of their lessons to comment on the "country lilt" that had naturally crept into Bowen's voice. It would be another decade or so before she'd duet with heavyweights like Zac Brown and Vince Gill, record songs with Grammy-winning producers like T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller, or tour the U.S. with NASHVILLE co-star Charles Esten, but those early experiences helped plant the seed, pushing Bowen one step toward Nashville and its musical community.

Along the way, she established herself as an in-demand actress on both sides of the Atlantic, earning critical praise in the highly controversial Australian film The Combination, directed by David Field, and as the leading role of Wendla in the Sydney Theatre Company’s musical production of Spring Awakening. It was during this time that Clare took the advice of the STC’s artistic director, Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, and bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles in 2012. During her first year in America, she caught the bus to her NASHVILLE audition, and landed the gig, playing a young poet turned songwriter, whose folk and Americana songs are influenced by a challenging childhood. For Bowen, who was diagnosed with cancer at four years old and struggled with the disease for years, the role hit close to home.

NASHVILLE is more than just a TV show to Bowen, though. “Nashville is a city with its own heartbeat…” she muses. And it has become a launching pad for Bowen’s own music. Playing Scarlett O'Connor required Bowen to sing hundreds of songs, play multiple instruments and overcome an irrational fear of microphones. When asked whether she could play the banjo, Bowen replied “probably” and learned. It pushed her to write songs that she’d actually show people, drawing on everything she wrote down as a child for inspiration.

Along with being an artist, Bowen is also an activist. An advocate for kindness, she cut off her waist length hair in 2015 to express the need for people to look past the physical image. The act unexpectedly went viral, eliciting thousands of positive responses from all over the globe. Bowen was overwhelmed with joy, but startled by the attention and reportedly retreated to the ceiling until her team got her down with a broom.

“I have come to terms with the fact that one person cannot save the world alone” Clare admits, “But you can make little corners of it better. Stage by stage, song by song, kindness by kindness; you can help people feel something… my life has been completely weird and sometimes really scary, but I wouldn’t change any of it, because it brought me here and made me whatever it is I am. And now I get to make little corners of the world glow. If you’re given any kind of blessing like what Nashville is to me, you must use your powers for good.”

Bowen plays shows between shoots, touring the worldwide with her singer/songwriter husband, Brandon Robert Young. Once an introverted child, Bowen has blossomed into a ferocious performer with a penchant for flying off the stage to dance with the audience in full sparkle mode.

She now resides in a rip in the fabric of reality, quite close to Nashville, TN with Brandon, a small army of rescued dragons, and the occasional unicorn.

$56.50 - $299.00

Tickets

Your ticket to Sugarland includes 1 download of the new album. Instructions on how to redeem the offer will be emailed to you prior to the album release. Offer available until 12/31/18, valid only in the US and Canada, void where prohibited.

Please note there's an 8 ticket limit for this show. Patrons exceeding the ticket limit will have their order cancelled automatically & without notice. No refunds or exchanges.

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Merriweather Post Pavilion