Country Singer TERRI CLARK: On Strength, Schuzpah, Staying Healthy and the Road to Inner Security
By Carol Crenna
Platinum-selling Canadian country music star Terri Clark has got schuzpah. Heart-centred, passionate and determined, the multiple award-winning artist, whose hits include “You’re Easy on the Eyes,” “I Just Wanna Be Mad” and “Girls Lie Too,” puts herself into her songs. The singer, songwriter and only female Canadian member of the Grand Ole Opry talked to me about health, healing and the long road to find happiness.
CAROL: Not being 20-something in the music industry must be intimidating. How do you deal with it?
TERRI CLARK: I’m not a size 6 — I’ve got real woman curves; I’m 5 feet, 11 inches tall and a size 10 or 12. All women have our problem areas that we hate, but as I get older I embrace them and know that I just want to be healthy.
As my metabolism changes, I just have to realize that I’m not going to be shaped like a 16-year-old forever. I sing country rather than pop, and sing about adult issues for adults so perhaps it’s not quite the same as other singers; it’s important to me that I embrace the adult side of myself.
CAROL: In your songs, you write about turmoil that has happened to you personally. Why?
TERRI CLARK: Certainly the last several years were challenging for me. (She has divorced twice, and lost her beloved mother and grandmother.) It seems that hard knocks are the only way that we can learn anything in life, and when we grow the most.
My last album – “The Long Way Home” – was the most honest I have made, and the songs came from a lot of growing pains and learning where my priorities lie. They were about poverty, death, alcoholism… life issues. Several songs were autobiographical. I’ve evolved, and that comes out.
CAROL: How do you find the line between revealing your feelings in a song and not giving your private life away?
TERRI CLARK: There is a balance that I need to strike. A certain part of me has to stay private — I’m not the type of person to let film crews into my home, for example. I’m more comfortable revealing my internal spiritual and emotional journey in songs than talking openly about specifics.
I want to “stay present” in my life, and in my heart, and not worry as much about what others think as I did in my past. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s feelings but my own.
Part of what music, books and movies do is to help us learn about ourselves when we focus on the part that applies to us.
CAROL: How do you feel when you sing?
TERRI CLARK: It’s very therapeutic. It relaxes me, and is an escape. It might sound corny but it feels almost like I’m connecting with God when I sing — he gave me the gift to use.
CAROL: Most religions include singing in their practices so maybe it gives a direct connection. You were raised in Alberta. What was that like?
TERRI CLARK: Complicated. I moved a lot; by the time I was 10 I had moved six or seven times. I stayed in Medicine Hat for seven years, which is the longest I’d ever been anywhere. This helped me to find stability on the “outside of life” after a lot of chaos had happened, but then chaos on the inside followed.
Spending my teenage years in Medicine Hat was very formative in my becoming a country music singer because I spent time with local country musicians. I moved to Nashville when I was 18.
CAROL: Did you know anyone in Nashville?
TERRI CLARK: No one. I was both stupid and brave. But I knew my dream and followed my heart and went where it led me, and luckily everything worked out.
CAROL: Your grandparents, Ray and Betty Gauthier, were Canadian country musicians — did they inspire you?
TERRI CLARK: Yes. The bond that I had with my grandparents and my mother allowed me to discover my own form of music, one that I fell in love with. When my grandparents lived in Montreal in the 50s and 60s, it was an exciting time, and it was country music mecca in Canada then.
CAROL: You were approached by Playboy Magazine to pose nude but turned down the offer.
TERRI CLARK: At the time, all of my grandparents were alive — I knew it would send the wrong message! My grandmother often told me that she was proud of me for not feeling the need to exploit myself sexually for promotion.
There is a certain grace in leaving things to the imagination. They offered me a lot of money to do it; it would take years of busting myself on the road to make that much. But your integrity is worth more than money.
I wanted to become a Grand Ole Opry member much more, and it’s that type of career move that I wouldn’t jeopardize. It would be so against my grain to do it anyway.
CAROL: Where do you get the energy for cross-continent tours and even comedy shows?
TERRI CLARK: I come from a long line of women with stamina and where-with-all, including my mother and grandmother. At 85, my grandmother still mowed her own lawn.
Sleep is made a high priority, which helps. I get eight hours a night. I don’t like my body’s resistance to be down; my biggest fear is getting a cold on the road — it goes to my sinuses so I have trouble singing and can lose my voice fairly easily.
I take remedies including Airborne for it (which includes herbal extracts, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and electrolytes). But as soon as I walk on stage, I feed off the crowd’s energy so even when I’m dead tired, I get by on that shot of adrenaline.
CAROL: Is it easy to relax and go to sleep after the show’s adrenaline rush?
TERRI CLARK: No. It takes me three hours until I can sleep afterward. I hang out and talk, watch a movie, read, or take a bath to wind down.
On tour, I prefer sleeping on the tour bus than a hotel room because at least it’s a known environment that “moves with me.” I’m familiar with the sounds it makes; there’s no need to haul my bags back and forth; and I don’t have to worry about housekeeping banging on the door at 7:00 a.m.
But everyone would rather sleep in their own bed than anywhere else.
CAROL: You travel by air, too. How is jetlag?
TERRI CLARK: I don’t often get jetlag because I’m so used to flying and I don’t pay attention to time zones. I usually only travel within North America so it’s not a big time difference. I stay on my own zone unless I have a packed schedule and I am in a city for more than two days.
CAROL: Is it difficult to stay slim and healthy?
TERRI CLARK: When I’m on the road and trying to eat healthily, but I have my on and off target times. I keep snacks on the bus like nuts, seeds, low fat cheese, and power bars when I can’t get the right foods. I eat popcorn if I have the munchies.
I make sure pizza ordered by others doesn’t get delivered to our bus but goes directly to their dressing room so I don’t have to look at it — it’s my favourite food on Earth. But, I actually find that you can get healthy food everywhere you go now if you look for it.
CAROL: Do you do exercise?
TERRI CLARK: I find a gym where ever I go. I’ve had my tour manager hunt down a gym in the middle of a corn field. I work out regularly, although in the past couple of months, it has been difficult due to travelling; when I finally get home I have little motivation.
But I have kept a steady workout program that includes weight training and riding my bicycle through the trails around the golf course that I live close to. I cycle for 45 minutes; bicycling is best for me because it’s not hard on my joints. I do circuit training at the gym, which conserves time and is a tough workout. I also use the elliptical training machine or walk a steep grade on a treadmill there.
I use my own body weight with exercise bands that I take with me and use a chair with them or use circuit training DVDs, or just climb stairs. There are really no excuses… although I use them like everyone, and my weight can fluctuate 10 or 15 pounds.
CAROL: Your mother was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, and passed away from cancer in 2010.
TERRI CLARK: We considered her a miracle because according to the medical community, she shouldn’t have lived as long as she did. She had cancer in four major areas in her body at 60 years old. She showed tremendous courage and was been an inspiration to everyone. She followed a holistic healing plan and prayed a lot.
Her naturopathic oncologist in Victoria, Dr. Neil McKinney, who used mistletoe and other treatments, has been very successful in enabling people go into remission, and she was for several years. She even came to the Canadian Country Music Awards with me during treatment.
CAROL: How did her cancer diagnosis/death change your values?
TERRI CLARK: It made me want to live in honesty, truth and integrity… and not abuse my body. I have used methods to try to escape over the years that weren’t right, making choices without my eyes wide open.
Now I am trying to face things realistically to fix them and not run away from uncomfortable feeling by turning to some form of escape.
CAROL: You released Terri Clark Classic album a few months ago. What’s next after this tour?
TERRI CLARK: My tour in Canada ends April 19 in Kingston, Ontario, and then I’m in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, on April 21st. Then I’m going to stay “in the now” and not worry too much about the future, other than making good music.
Article by Carol Crenna first appeared in Vista Magazine