Pop songstress Stacy Clark greets an early-morning telephone call with the unlikely combination of grogginess and upbeat charm. In a whirlwind of conversation that spans her career and upbringing, the 32-year-old musician contemplates the virtues of the caffeinated beverage made from the Brazilian yerba mate plant while shushing her two small dogs, who are vying for her attention. Though the New York native got her start in Buffalo, she has been working for a shot at the big time from the moment she arrived in Southern California nearly a decade ago.
Full of pride and overflowing with work ethic, Clark relentlessly perseveres in a business that often withholds stability. She recorded her first album at age 17 and interned at recording studios during her senior year, working two jobs to sustain the cost of making her own music. She bounced from label to label, intermittently acting as her own booking agent, manager and record label. Now signed to the EMI Records offshoot Harbour Records, Clark gears up for the dizzying yet gratifying experience of releasing her sixth full-length album, due in December. Her just-released EP, Days Into Nights, will foreshadow the later full-length and serve as a catalyst for her August residency at the Constellation Room. What's admirable about the indie-pop artist is her unwillingness to compromise her identity, as well as her ability to stay optimistic while moving forward in an industry that's not exactly reliable.
OC Weekly (Heidi Darby): You've been in Orange County for almost 10 years?
Stacy Clark: I moved here in 2004. Orange County is home; it's the longest place I've lived in since Buffalo.
Was it challenging to drive your own career so far away from home?
Yes, it's always hard to be away from your family and those you love. It helped that I was raised by a very strong mother. She taught me to work hard for what I wanted; I feel very thankful for that. I don't know how, as a single mother, she raised two girls while working full-time–to me, that's crazy. As tough as the music business and rejection can be, there are situations in life that are always much tougher.
Days Into Nights, released Aug. 8, is a precursor to a full-length, right?
Yes, [the full-length] is called Symmetry. I can't say what's going to be on it because that's going to change. I've been doing some co-writes. I always write all my own lyrics, but sometimes I'll do co-writes on the music side. Most songs you hear on the radio are co-written–they're not just written by one person. I used to think, “I haven't been playing the guitar for 15 years to not write songs on my own!” The more experience I have, the more I realize I don't have to prove that I can play the guitar. It's okay to co-write, and actually, you get a good product out of it. . . . I'm excited to get the record out.
How does it feel to be working with a label again?
I'm super-excited! They're really letting me be me. It's hard because sometimes labels want to put you in a box or they want you to get a makeover. When I was starting out in the record industry, people really wanted you to be cocaine-thin, but I'm a fit person. I'm not going to get an eating disorder; I love my body. I can play soccer, I can run, I'm healthy. Not everyone feels like only Kate Moss should be playing guitar. . . . As they say, you're the captain of your own ship.
Stacy Clark performs every Monday in August at the Constellation Room at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.constellationroom.com. Every Mon. Call for show time. Through Aug. 26. Free. All ages. For more info on Stacy Clark, visit www.stacyclark.net.