Brandy Clark attends the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards at The Ford Center at The Star on May 11, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.

15 Brandy Clark Co-Writes That Prove She's a Once in a Generation Songwriter


Originally from Washington state, seven-time Grammy winner Brandy Clark has released three excellent studio albums, including her marvelous 2014 debut, 12 Stories. The way she carves out stories about real people just trying to get by has marked her as one of the genre's finest storytellers.

What's even more, she has amassed an impressive songwriting catalog, having written songs for everyone from Kenny Rogers to Gretchen Wilson and David Nail. Even more, many of her own solo songs have been recorded by the likes of Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, LeAnn Rimes and Darius Rucker, among many others. Most recently, she wrote a slew of tracks for Ashley McBryde's Lindeville album.

Just in time for the release of Clark's self-titled Brandi Carlile-produced album (out May 19), take a peek into Clark's songwriting talents with our roundup of her 15 best co-writes so far. 

 15. "Hollywood," Maggie Rose

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Maggie Rose performs on stage during Grammys On The Hill: Awards Dinner at The Hamilton on April 26, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

"Dysfunction's dysfunction no matter what state you come from," Maggie Rose sings. Clark, who penned the song with Stephony Smith and Shelly Fairchild, reflects upon how Hollywood folk really aren't that dissimilar to those living in middle America. "We're all the same no matter how you dress," Rose continues.


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14. "Liar Liar," Aubrie Sellers

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 07: Aubrie Sellers performs during CMT's Next Women Of Country: Bring My Flowers Now Tour on February 07, 2020 at Town Hall in New York City.

Brian Ach/Getty Images for CMT/ViacomCBS

Co-written with Sellers and Jessie Jo Dillon, "Liar Liar" tells the tale of a "bargain-bin romanticizer" with a knack for destruction. "Spin your web just like a spider does," sings Sellers. Guitars thrash around, with Sellers' voice as sweet as nectar, yet venomous all the same. She takes no prisoners with a truly volatile performance.

Listen here.

13. "Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain," Reba McEntire

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 09: Reba McEntire attends The 56th Annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on November 09, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jason Davis/WireImage

This is no run-of-the-mill heartache. "Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain" (written with Mark Narmore and Shelley Skidmore) details the sort of heartbreak that leaves you absolutely devastated. "Standing by your man, that's a broken plan when he breaks your heart," weeps Reba. Heart in two, she lets it all hang out - and it just might have you feeling a certain way, too.


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12. "Bad Girl Phase," Sunny Sweeney

DECATUR, GA - FEBRUARY 24: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been enhanced using digital filters) Singer/Songwriter Sunny Sweeney performs in support of her new CD "TROPHY" at Eddie's Attic on February 24, 2018 in Decatur, Georgia.

R. Diamond/Getty Images

Penned with Dillon and Shannon Wright, "Bad Girl Phase" dares Sunny Sweeney to get a little reckless. "I won't be sorry for all the hell I've raised," she sings. The devil on her shoulder whispers into her ear, and she more than obliges every single desire. And that's okay, it's just a phase.

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11. "This Town" by Kacey Musgraves

) Kacey Musgraves performs onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

There's nothing like living in a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and your business is not just your own. "This Town" (co-written with Musgraves and Luke Laird) points out the faults of small-town living and the things that make it so great. "And around here, we all look out for each other," sings Musgraves.


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10. "Better Dig Two," The Band Perry

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 26: (L-R) Neil Perry, Kimberly Perry and Reid Perry of The Band Perry attend the Build Series to discuss 'The Good Life' at Build Studio on July 26, 2019 in New York City.

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A gothic-spun tale, "Better Dig Two" sees the country trio declaring undying love - well, until they shake off this mortal coil. "If that ring gets a little too tight, you might as well read me my last rites," sings Kimberly Perry. The song, co-written with Shane McAnally and Trevor Rosen, blends arsenic-laced production with deadly country balladry. 

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9. "Two Rings Shy," Miranda Lambert

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Miranda Lambert attends the 65th GRAMMY Awards on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Miranda Lambert's "Two Rings Shy" (co-written with Lambert and Heather Little) sees the singer-songwriter shielding her heart from pain. "I ain't wastin' good mascara, just to watch it runnin' down," sings Lambert. She proclaims her worth, not tied to a man. She might go out all dolled up, but she's not "your clown." 


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8. "Last Night's Make Up," Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis

LAS VEGAS - SEPTEMBER 7: In this handout photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, Pam Tillis (l) and Lorrie Morgan (r), both daughters of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, Mel Tillis and George Morgan respectively, team-up for their Grits and Glamour tour at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on September 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau via Getty Images

With McAnally and Dillon in tow, Clark penned a sensitive ballad about a rough-going relationship. "I wish I could wash you off like last night's makeup," sings Morgan over acoustic guitar. She lays her heart bare, confessing her pain with mascara-stained cheeks and a trembling hand. The truth is: the heartache reaches right out of the song and touches the soul.

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7. "Sparrow," Ashley McBryde

Ashley McBryde onstage

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Everyone longs for home, a routine, and family (chosen and otherwise). With "Sparrow," co-written by Clark, Connie Harrington, Aaron Raitiere, Nicolette Hayford, McBryde and Jake Mitchell, McBryde muses on that undeniable feeling of missing home. "Yeah, I've been sleeping alright / I get a couple days in July / Kiss Dad for me, I love you both, goodnight," she sings with a particular sadness.


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6. "Salvation Works," Jennifer Nettles

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 06: Jennifer Nettles of musical duo Sugarland attends the 2018 CMT Music Awards at Nashville Municipal Auditorium on June 6, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

"Every singer has a future, and every saint has a past," sings Nettles. A co-write between Nettles, Clark and Lori McKenna, the song tackles the issue of faith in a modern world. A young woman turns to religion as a way to mask her pain, yet that's "not how salvation works," reminds Nettles.

Listen here.

5. "Follow Your Arrow," Kacey Musgraves

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 13: Kacey Musgraves performs during Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park on October 13, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

Erika Goldring/FilmMagic

It doesn't matter what you do; somebody will have something to say about it. "Follow Your Arrow" (co-written with McAnally and Musgraves) makes a case for doing "whatever you want" in the face of scrutiny. From rolling up a joint to "kissing lots of boys," it's the gay (and weed-smoking) anthem we all needed.


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4. "Dear Miss Loretta," Carly Pearce and Patty Loveless

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MAY 01: Carly Pearce performs onstage for the class of 2021 medallion ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 01, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Pearce might not know what it means to be a coal miner's daughter, but she can feel the pain as though it's her own. With "Dear Miss Loretta," co-written with Pearce and McAnally, the lyrics expose Pearce's own heartache from being an ex-wife. "I'm a long way from Kentucky, but the hurting's the same," sings Pearce, with Loveless on backing vocals.

Listen here.

3. "Gospel Night at the Strip Club," Ashley McBryde and Benjy Davis

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 11: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Ashley McBryde performs onstage during the The 54th Annual CMA Awards at Nashville's Music City Center on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA

Benjy Davis takes the lead with this Ashely McBryde deep cut. "Gospel Night at the Strip Club" (a co-write with Harrington, McBryde, Davis, Hayford, and Raitiere) utilizes spoken word in the verses, while the chorus peppers in a gospel inflection. "Jesus loves the drunkards and the whores and the queers" rings the hook. It's a powerful statement piece perfect for this time in history.


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2. "Ten Year Town" by Hailey Whitters

Hailey Whitters backstage at the ACM Country Kickoff at The Star ahead of the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards from Ford Center on May 9, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.

Gilbert Flores/Penske Media via Getty Images

They say Nashville is a 10-year town; it practically takes a decade to break through the noise and establish yourself. "I thought I'd be a big star now," laments Hailey Whitters, the co-writer on the song. Over acoustic guitar, her voice falls like diamonds on the hardwood. Her soul is a little weary, yet she's "too far in to turn back now." And so goes the music industry.

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1. "Mama's Broken Heart," Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert performs onstage at The 56th Annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena on November 09, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Photo by Terry Wyatt/WireImage

A co-write with Shane McAnally and Kacey Musgraves, "Mama's Broken Heart" juxtaposes falling apart after a breakup and the Southern tradition of keeping your lips closed. "I numbed the pain at the expense of my liver," sings Miranda Lambert over whirling instrumentation. As she continues losing control, her mother reminds her that "it only matters how you look."


Listen here.


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