Reba McEntire gives good advice.
"She knows what she's doing," Terri Clark said of her friend and fellow country star.
McEntire's recipe for a successful career was three-fold: Try different things. Keep it fresh. Don't get stale.
Clark followed those rules when she scheduled her "Unplugged and Alone" tour, which hits the stage Oct. 29 at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg.
"It's a completely different type of show," Clark said during a phone interview earlier this month.
Where are you calling from? I'm in Los Angeles right now (Oct. 12). I've got a couple days off and am hanging out here with family and friends. I'm going to get a massage today. I'm really excited. The shows are fairly long. It requires a lot of energy and focus. It's nice to always have a day or two off to rest my voice and rejuvenate myself a little. I head to San Diego tomorrow and will try to tape the show for a DVD.
You usually perform with a band. Why did you decide to go unplugged and alone on this tour? That's how I started out. I started at Tootsie's (Orchid Lounge in Nashville) when I was 18, singing for tips. I would sing classic (country) songs and covers. I was always solo. I got my first record deal that way, (playing) guitar for executives in an office. Very few people do it that way anymore. It's an organic experience. I really admire the singer-songwriter format, so I decided to throw a curveball (into my schedule). Audiences have seen me for 15 years with the band and the hat and the whole thing. To them, this is something new. I do sign autographs after the show, so I get to hear comments. I get to hear . . . what really impacted them, each individually. It keeps me fresh, too.
Do you tell the stories behind the songs during the concert? It's a big part of the show. It's like, this is (my) life. My life is not that different than anyone else's. I've had a lot of pain and ups and downs in the past three years. (The show) is very soul bearing. (I'm) very vulnerable, but I get to know the audience a lot better. It's very interactive and like sitting in someone's living room when they have a guitar in their lap. I do covers and album cuts that never made it onto the radio and stuff from the new album ("The Long Way Home").
You also use social media to connect with fans. I'm on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. It's important now that I've gone independent. People think you've dropped off the face of the Earth when you're not on a major label, but (I'm) actually even busier since (I) have to do a lot of things (myself). The Internet is a great tool.
When did you get into music? My grandparents and my mom played music and supported the family by playing bars in Montreal. There was always a guitar lying around. My mom used to sing to me rather than read me bedtime stories. (Music) was a very natural thing for me to do. I listened to Reba McEntire, The Judds and Ricky Skaggs. They were my big (influences) that were current at the time I was growing up. Plus, I liked classic artists (including) Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.
Like any up-and-coming country stars? I really like Miranda Lambert. She's my favorite younger female artist. I like that she's authentic and that she's a songwriter. I like Keith Urban, and I like Brad Paisley. I think they are all very talented and more than just a pretty face.
Do you bring anything with you on tour to remind you of home? Sometimes, I bring my dogs (Wasabi, a Yorkshire terrier, and Rudy, a miniature dachshund). Sometimes, I have family come with me. Gibson is sponsoring the tour, so they're letting us use their big bus. I drink a lot of water to keep my voice strong. It gets tough with two hours of singing and talking each night.
What else is coming up for you? I'm going up to Canada with my full band to tape a Christmas special for CMT Canada. In January, February and March, I'll be recording. Next summer, I'll be playing festivals with my band in the U.S. Next fall, there will be a great big Canadian tour. There is more than enough to keep me busy. (Laughs)
Have you been to Central Pennsylvania before? I've been to Harrisburg before. I'm really excited to get to the East Coast at the end of October. I'm going to bring my camera. I don't get as many country shows (there) as I do in the Midwest. I'll be having a long plane ride to meet you guys out there.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
If you go
WHAT: Terri Clark "Unplugged and Alone"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29
WHERE: Sunoco Performance Theater at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, 222 Market St. in Harrisburg
COST: $28.50 and $35