“When I feel like I have a lot of heavy on my records, you need the humor to balance that out,” Brandy Clark tells Apple Music. Her third studio album, the Jay Joyce-produced Your Life Is a Record, opens with the former—the sweeping, heartfelt breakup ballad "I’ll Be the Sad Song"—while tracks like "Long Walk" and "Bigger Boat" offer moments of levity and respite from unpacking the complexities of romantic relationships. "Both [types of songs] are better because of the other," she says. "Because of 'I'll Be the Sad Song,' 'Long Walk' probably plays a little funnier." Here Clark offers insight into the wit and the wisdom of each track on Your Life Is a Record.
I’ll Be the Sad Song "Well, I'm a lover of sad songs. As many times as things work out in life, they also don't work out. That doesn't mean that they weren't important. One of my favorite lines on the whole album is 'If your life is a record, people and places are the songs.' It's why I chose to title the album Your Life Is a Record. Somebody's going to be your sad song and you're going to be somebody else's. I couldn't be your happy song. But at least we had a song. It is that old saying, 'It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved.'"
Long Walk "That's something my mom always used to say. If I would get upset about somebody doing something, she'd say, 'You know what? Just tell them to take a long walk off a short pier.' It was the last song written on this record. I was on Twitter and there was a guy that was saying some pretty mean things about another female artist. I rarely comment on that stuff. But it made me so mad that I said, 'Buddy, you need to take a long walk off a short pier!' Trust me, this artist did not need me defending her. She's a pretty big star. But it made me really mad. As soon as I tweeted it, I thought, 'Well, I better write that tomorrow because somebody else is going to see it and write it.' So I went in and wrote that with Jesse Frasure and Jessie Jo Dillon."
Love Is a Fire "The title is from an old Joan Crawford quote. I had gone down this rabbit hole when Ryan Murphy's Feud was on. One night I was reading about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and I came across this quote. Joan Crawford said, 'Love is a fire. You just don't know if it's going to warm you or burn you.' I thought, 'Man, isn't that true?' So with that, we just played on fire as much as possible without it getting too on the nose."
Pawn Shop "That one came when I was reading a Stephen King book. In the book, there was a pawn shop and the guy who owned the pawn shop was talking to somebody and said, 'I've got the job of teaching people that something's not worth what they think it is.' That really struck me. Nobody goes in the pawn shop on their best day, like if they're pawning a wedding ring or a guitar. But then there's also the helpfulness that someone else comes in there to start another dream. There's a real sadness in a pawn shop and then there's the hopefulness of a secondhand dream."
Who You Thought I Was "It's always hard when you end up not being who somebody thinks you are. Kind of like 'I'll Be the Sad Song,' you don't want to be anybody's sad song. A lot of times, if I've disappointed somebody I love—be it a lover, be it a friend, a parent—there's that moment where I just think, 'God, I wish I could just go back to being who they thought I was before I messed up here.' Then I wrote with Jonathan Singleton and Jessie Jo Dillon and they were a lot of help."
Apologies "I had somebody in my life that was always apologizing to me. I had written down 'You're so good at apologies. I wish you'd be better at not having to say them.' It's hard, you can say you're sorry and you can hope it makes it better. But a lot of times it doesn't. Sometimes for the person saying they're sorry, what they really need is for the other person to forgive them so they can be able to forgive themselves. That's probably my favorite part of that song, at the very end: 'If you can forgive me, baby, I can forgive me.'"
Bigger Boat (feat. Randy Newman) "I love the movie Jaws and I love when Roy Scheider turns around and says, 'We're going to need a bigger boat.' I've thrown that out in so many writing rooms and just gotten looked at like, 'What's that?' I wrote with Adam Wright, and we were in the getting-to-know-each-other phase of the day. He tells me that his son is obsessed with the movie. I said, 'That's so funny. I've always wanted to write a song called "Bigger Boat," just make it about the state of the world or, in particular, our country.' He totally got it and we wrote the song."
Bad Car "I wrote that one with Jason Saenz, and it was his idea. It hit me because I think we're tied to things. The reason why we're tied to an old car, or our first apartment that we'd never want to go back to, is because of the life we lived in them, and, a lot of times, the people who were alive when we had those things. I think that's why we want to hang on to them."
Who Broke Whose Heart "You hope, in a breakup, you get to where you forget about who ruined whose credit and whose dad hated who. You just get to the point where it's like, 'We loved each other and I've forgotten the rest.' That's where that song started. I saw something that said, 'All I know is I loved you. I forget the rest.' It hit me incredibly hard. It hit me the way 'Who You Thought I Was' hit me. It's probably the most bombastic song on the record, as far as the horns and stuff. Then of course it's got the big curse word in it. I think that song is where we all hope to be when we start a breakup or a divorce."
Can We Be Strangers "That one is the one that's more at the beginning of the end [of a relationship]. We've all been there, where it's like, 'God, my heart is hurting so bad. I wish I could go back to when I didn't know you.' When you were just a random face in a crowd and not a voice that would stop a room for me. It's definitely my favorite song to sing on this record."
The Past Is the Past "That was probably the biggest butting of heads that I had with the record label, and we didn't have a lot of butting of heads. They wanted it to start the album and 'I'll Be the Sad Song' to end. I felt very strongly about it. 'The Past Is the Past' is very bittersweet. But it's got a lot of hope in it. So to me, you start the album with 'I'll Be the Sad Song,' which there's not a lot of hope in, and you end with 'The Past is the Past.' The song feels, to me, like you're driving away...and that's when you can finally move on."