By Annie Reuter

Country singer-songwriter Brandy Clark almost never released her GRAMMY-nominated debut album 12 Stories.

“Had it been up to just me it wouldn’t have happened,” Clark admitted to Radio.com last year. “At the time, I wasn’t looking to make a record. I thought that my chance at having an artist career had passed me. I was really focused on songwriting and didn’t even entertain that idea.”

Clark had already penned hits for The Band Perry (“Better Dig Two)”, Miranda Lambert (“Mama’s Broken Heart”) and Kacey Musgraves (“Follow Your Arrow”), and she was content with her career as a songwriter. But that soon all changed.

“Emilie Marchbanks, who was at Fitzgerald Hartley [management company], approached me about making a record, and I honestly thought she was playing a joke on me at first, because I didn’t know her and she was really funny,” Clark recalled with a laugh. “She was so over-the-top about her passion for my songs and my singing, and I just thought, ‘Am I on Candid Camera?'”

Related: GRAMMYs Best New Artist: Melissa Etheridge On Brandy Clark

Marchbanks and her team then introduced Clark to producer Dave Brainard, who spent the next six months working with Clark on whittling down the song list from 30 to 12.

“Dave and I were talking about concepts. We were thinking we could make a record that was a concept album that was the day in the life of one woman or the length of a relationship,” she said. “Had we done that, we wanted to start the record with ‘Illegitimate Children’ and end it with ‘The Day She Got Divorced.'”

While Clark and Brainard didn’t use either of those ideas for the album, it gave the foundation and mood for what would become her GRAMMY-nominated country album 12 Stories. Then it was time to market the album to labels in Nashville. After several passes from major labels in Music City, Clark was frustrated.

“It would always come down to, ‘It’s just a square peg in a round hole and we don’t really know what to do with it,'” Clark said. “Eventually, when enough things fell through and didn’t happen, I called Emilie and said, ‘Let’s just put it out on our own. I can’t sit on it any longer. We’ve got to get it out there. People have to hear it.'”

Two days before the scheduled release, Clark’s team got word that Slate Creek Records was interested in putting out 12 Stories, so they settled on an Oct. 22 (2013) release date. The rest, as they say, is history.

Related: Brandy Clark Aims for ‘Truth-Telling’ in Her Music, Plus a Little ‘Dark Comedy’

“It’s been crazy the response it’s getting,” Clark said with a big smile. “There were times in that process of getting passed on and it not working out with labels where I would think, ‘Maybe I’m in a bubble…maybe we’re the only ones that love this. We’re the only ones that “Hold My Hand” moves like that.’ For it to come out and see what [people] say on Twitter and Facebook, and then when I play shows, it’s just so gratifying. And just a testament to not give up on something that moves you. I really think that if it moves you, it will move other people.”

Watch the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 8 pm EST on CBS.

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