Country Artist Brandy Clark on How Much LGBTQ Representation Means for Mental Health

Tony-nominated artist and seven-time Grammy nominee Brandy Clark shares the fitness and nutrition routine that's key to her tour prep.

If you haven’t heard of Brandy Clark, chances are you’ve heard her music. For almost two decades, the 47-year-old has been working as a singer-songwriter, writing hits for country artists such as Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, Kacey Musgraves and many more.

For the past 10 years, Clark has been making music under her own name. In May 2023 she released her fourth studio album, produced by Brandi Carlile. She also co-wrote the Broadway musical Shucked, earning a 2023 nomination for the Tony Award for Best Original Score. 

Now, Brandy Clark  shares with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest the health and fitness routines that go into being a touring musician, how her collaboration with Brandi Carlile came to be, and what she hopes LGBTQ+ stories such as Shucked can do for young queer people’s mental health

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Brandy Clark on ‘The Two Gay Brandies’

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: First, tell us all about your new album. What it was like working with Brandy Carlile?

Brandy Clark: We have a mutual friend, a woman named Tracy Shaw, who’s been in the music industry for years. She had texted Brandi Carlile, meaning to text me. And it was about something to do with being gay. I mean, it was probably Pride Month or something.

And Tracy wrote, Oh, wrong Brandy, and Brandi Carlile wrote, Well, how many gay Brandies do you know? And Tracy said, Well, two actually, and you guys should know each other. So she introduced us, and I went out on the road and played a couple shows with Brandi.

So we became friends—or friendly, I should say. Then during the pandemic, the label wanted me to record a couple more songs on my last album and then do a deluxe version. The guy who produced that record, Jay Joyce, was not available during the window when we needed to do it. So Tracy said, “Well, what about Brandi Carlile?” And I said, “OK,” you know, let’s try it.

So we recorded two songs, “Like Mine” and “Same Devil.” And “Same Devil” ended up getting nominated for a Grammy. And when we didn’t win that Grammy, Brandi Carlile said that all over my face I looked dejected.

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I don’t remember feeling that way, but she said I just looked devastated. And she said, “I had to do something to bring you up.” So she said, “Hey buddy, I would love to make a whole record on you.” Wow. She says this to me. And I was like, “Oh!”

I mean, I didn’t expect that! Brandi really inspires me, because she really trusts her gut. And I think some of that is because she’s never really left where she’s from because as far as I know, she’s never gone and lived in a big entertainment city like New York or LA or Nashville. And so she’s still coming from the place she started from. 

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Brandy Clark on offering LGBTQ representation

The Healthy: There isn’t a lot of LGBTQ representation in country music. Similarly, Shucked puts a spotlight on LGBTQ people in rural settings, which is the kind of life that just isn’t shown in media very often. What was it like to work with Brandi, who is also a lesbian, and offer that representation through both your album and your musical?

Brandy Clark: It’s pretty huge. I think it’s bigger than I even know, because on both of these projects, my record with Brandi and then with my Shucked collaborators, Shane McNally and Robert Horn, we’re all gay. And I think there’s an understanding. I definitely felt it with Brandi. We have an understanding of each other that I think comes from being queer. 

It’s like all of us gay kids got together and created some art that we really love that can touch people.  What I really hope is that a gay kid that’s living in rural America can hear my record or can see Shucked and feel like, “Oh wow. I’m like that person.” 

You know, I grew up in a very small town. I never had any concern about my parents accepting me. I knew they would, but if I would’ve worried about that, one thing that would’ve brought me comfort was—well, my mom loves K.D. Lang, so, you know, she’ll love me. For me it was K.D. Lang and Elton John. Those were the two gay icons in music. And I just think now there’s so much more representation, and thank God for that. I hope it makes some little queer kid’s life easier. If it does that, then we’ve done our jobs.

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Brandy Clark on mental health in the LGBTQ community

The Healthy: So much progress has been made for the LGBTQ community, but right now a lot of young people are still growing up feeling scared and struggling. According to 2023 data from The Trevor Project, 41% of LGBTQ young people considered suicide in the last year. Fifty-five percent wanted mental healthcare and couldn’t access it. Can you speak to your own mental health at that age? You’ve also already touched on this a bit, but what would something like Shucked, or seeing you and Brandi Carlile working together, have done for you at that age?

Brandy Clark: Well, luckily for me at that age, I didn’t know I was gay. I was a late bloomer, and I thank God for that because I would’ve been in that 41%. I’m positive. So I can’t imagine being those kids, and I just hope that projects like the one Brandi and I just did and then Shucked make them feel less alone.

They’re gonna get into a big world where there’s a lot more people like them. When I came out to [my mom], she sent me a card and it said, “There’s nothing wrong with you. Society is trying to make you think there is.” And she wrote, “F*** society.” I hope they all have a mom like I had. I know most of ’em probably don’t. But I just want ’em to know that it gets better.

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Brandy Clark on prepping for tour

The Healthy: Let’s shift gears a little bit: You have some tour dates upcoming this summer. I’m curious about the way you prepare your body for that kind of grind. Do you change your fitness or nutrition habits when you have performances coming up?

Brandy Clark: You know, I should. I try to be healthy most of the time. I’m always better if I’m working out. I find the better shape I can be in, the easier the road is, and food on the road is definitely key. I have a really healthy band and so we keep the bus really clean as far as food, but the biggest thing I have to fight on the road is to not eat after the show, which is when the food can get really outta hand. There’s this thing on the road called “after-show food,” and I ask that it not be brought on the bus because it’s usually like, pizza and hot wings. So I just try to keep it clean. 

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The Healthy: What are some of your favorite workouts?

Brandy Clark: Well, I work out with a trainer. We do a lot of kettlebell. He got me back into running. I kind of thought I was at a point in my life where I was done running, and he’s like, “No, you can still run.” And so I run some on the treadmill, do a lot of incline work, a lot of body weight stuff. He’s really gotten me doing a lot of push-ups and that kind of stuff. 

I also went to an Orangetheory class this morning. That’s always a great workout ‘cause you can usually find them in most major cities, and it’s a good sweat. 

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Brandy Clark’s self-care routine

The HealthyI’m curious how you practice self-care. Is there a habit you refuse to skip?

Brandy Clark: I have a life coach therapist. I don’t talk to her every week because of my schedule, but I talk to her most weeks, and that really sets me on the right place. So that’s one massive self-care for me. 

I think the other one is really exercise. If I skip exercise, I really start to feel it mentally more than physically. When I have gone more than two days without exercise, I can get depressed. I can get really anxious, and it’s because I’m not burning off that excess energy.

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Miranda Manier
Miranda is the Associate Editor for TheHealthy.com and The Healthy section of Reader's Digest magazine. Previously, Miranda was a producer at WNIT, the PBS affiliate in South Bend, Indiana; and the producer in residence for Minneapolis TV news KARE 11, where she won an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award for producing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. Miranda also interned at Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, and worked as the managing editor at the Columbia Chronicle at Columbia College. Outside of work, Miranda enjoys acting, board games, and trying her hand at a good vegan dessert recipe. She also loves talking about TV—so tell her what you’re watching!