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Brandy Clark steps into the spotlight 

The country singer has penned chart-toppers for other artists — now it's her turn

Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow," Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart" and The Band Perry's "Better Dig Two" have more in common than being award-nominated country music songs. They were also all co-written by Brandy Clark.

Clark has written for countless other country music stars, as well — Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Gretchen Wilson, Keith Urban, Toby Keith among them — but since the 2013 release of her debut full-length album, 12 Stories, Clark is ready to turn the spotlight a little closer to her own direction.

"It's more ramped up now, but I always did perform," Clark says. "I had several years where I didn't perform outside of Nashville — that was mostly songwriter nights and open mics. When I made 12 Stories and went on tour, that changed things for me. It was out of the comfort zone I was in at that point."

She still writes for other artists, recently working on Musgraves' sophomore album, but she's finding plenty of time to hit the road and support her own album these days. Her upcoming headlining tour will bring her to the Neighborhood Theatre on April 25.

"I do still write for other people, but not as much as I used to," Clark says. "I hope I can always [work with other artists]. My record just came out of me just writing songs — that's what I'm always doing. I hold a few for myself now, where I used to never do that."

Clark says if she's working with an artist like Musgraves or Lambert, she's solely focusing her efforts on that person. When "Follow Your Arrow" won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards, it was a songwriter's dream come true. "The highest compliment is when another artist wants to record your song," Clark says.

Her story is an interesting one. Aside from being a "Best New Artist" Grammy nominee in her late 30s, Clark is also a bit of an anomaly in the country music world — an out and proud lesbian. That's not to say her sexuality has ever been a hurdle for her — not from outside forces, at least.

"I'll be very honest about that — I put that on myself," she says. "I thought, 'I'm gay and out of the closet so there's not a spot for me.' Thank God other people didn't do that to me. I met my manager and she wanted to help me make a record. I was so excited, but then I thought, 'I have to tell her I'm gay.' I did and she was like, 'So ... I don't care.' It never made a difference. I never faced a hurdle that somebody else put out there."

Clark says she also saw courage in fellow country artist Shane McAnally. One day while at a gym together a few years back, McAnally told Clark that he had been in the shower that morning, thinking about how there had never been an out-of-the-closet gay man in country music. "Just because there's never been, doesn't mean there never will be," he told her. "Even though his path has been different," Clark says, "I think the people around me saying those things inspired me."

She's been on the road with Jennifer Nettles, Alan Jackson and Eric Church and said she's never run into any problems because of her sexuality — she doesn't flaunt it, but she doesn't hide it either. Her attitude is simple — "If you're turned off by my music, just don't buy it."

Listen to her album and you can hear parts of her that have made appearances on other artists' songs. Her "Get High," a rambling acoustic work that talks about smoking weed, has hints of Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow."

She's already working on her next album, though it's tough to find enough hours in the day sometimes. Aside from a condo in Nashville where she lives most of the time, she bought a lake house an hour-and-a-half outside of the city on Center Hill Lake. It's where she wrote her song "Stripes" and Rucker's "Love Without You" during a retreat there before she bought it.

"A year ago, I was looking for a house in Nashville, but I couldn't find anything that tripped my trigger," she says. "I ended up buying the house at the lake instead because it's such an inspiring place for me. It's not very practical, but it's very inspirational and I got an amazing deal. It just felt like that place still had great songs in it."

Of course, just because Clark teams up with other singers for their songs doesn't mean she goes without help for her own. Usually, she says, it's because she needs a cheerleader. "I can talk myself out of the coolest part of a song," Clark says with a laugh.

Clark admits she's always looked up to artists who have had successful songwriting careers before gaining notoriety as an artist — such as Carole King. "My goal was always to write songs that become classics as a writer or as a singer," Clark says. "A great song is a great song no matter who sings it."

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