Terri Clark first sang Pam Tillis and Suzy Bogguss hits as a cover artist at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville. This week, she’s sharing the stage with them as part of the “Chicks with Hits” tour stopping at Anthem at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
“I was a huge fan, so this is really, really cool,” Clark says. “To be sitting on a stage playing these songs, instead of as covers for drunk people on stools, is very surreal.”
Clark got the idea of collaboration after she and Bogguss attended the wedding of a mutual friend and started singing old songs. Staying at a bed and breakfast, they spent the night spitballing the idea. “I forgot how good the songs were,” Clark says. “We exchanged numbers.” And the more she started thinking about a collaboration tour, the more she liked it. She shared the idea with her agent, who also happens to be Tillis’ agent. “He brought Pam up” and the idea went forward.
With three hit makers on one bill, “we can play bigger rooms,” Clark says. “I do solo gigs. Pam does a lot of trio gigs and this is a nice spoke to the wheel. We can diversify and play more dates.”
Plus, three singers on a bus is what Clark calls a “cool hang.”
“The personalities have to gel. The three have to be dependable. And they’ve got to put in the work and do their homework. But it’s great to share the stage. We’ve all had our time in the spotlight and this isn’t just about one person.”
Combined, the three have enough hits to more than fill an evening’s show. “Me and Pam and Suzy didn’t have Reba McEntire careers,” Clark says. “But together we had one. It’s two hours of hits.”
And it’s a chance to see the others play back-up as each woman takes the spotlight. “There’s a lot of nostalgia to this idea.”
With one show already under their belts, the three say it’s going to be fun. They’ll do 11 dates before the end of the year, then reunite in January and start booking performing arts centers in the fall. They’d extend the reach into the summer, but it’s all about ticket-buying cycles, Clark says. Arts centers have already booked their early 2018 series, so a fall 2018 run seems best.
To pull off something like “Chicks with Hits,” a producer has to find singers who can meet the “hits” qualification. “They have to pull their weight,” Clark says. “And they’ve got to be able to handle funny banter. When you narrow it down, the list gets very, very short. We’re covering 15 years of hits.”
Because Bogguss and Tillis had some of their top-sellers before Clark got a recording contract, the tour is a good way to compare notes about the business then and now. “I’m 49 this year. It’s nice to have women to talk to. And if this is what 60 looks like,” she says, referring to her singing partners, “I can do it.”
Today, there aren’t a lot of solo female country artists working. “Everybody’s asking why that is,” Clark says. “It may have something to do with success on the radio.”
Miranda Lambert, a perennial awards favorite, does a lot of industry functions and has strong “artist cred.”
“She’s really great at balancing art and commerce and the industry appreciates that.”
Lambert also has so many Country Music Association awards she could easily share one with Clark, who was nominated for four but never won. When she didn’t get the top Female Vocalist prize in 2004, Clark "had this feeling in my gut that it was over. Winning the CMA and becoming an Opry member were two childhood dreams.”
This year, however, she was nominated for National Broadcast Personality of the Year for her work on “Country Gold," another "weird, surreal" experience.
Although the winner has been named (“The Bobby Bones Show” took it), Clark plans to be at the ceremony Nov. 8. “I want to wheel through that gift room,” she says with a laugh. “Pam and Suzy have a couple CMAs, so I told them they better watch out if I come over. One could be missing.”
Thanks to the broadcast nod, though, “I have new fire under my ass” and a tour that be a big game changer for her, Bogguss and Tillis.