New CD represents major evolution for Kerry ClarkWritten by Colleen Kennedy | | email@example.com
Kerry Patrick Clark received an unusual inspirational gift: his computer crashed.
The 46-year-old folk artist recently released “On the Road to Human Being,” his first album in nine years this week.
The 14-track album, released May 1, includes titles such as “Hold it up to a Heart,” “Be the Change” and “I Just Danced.”
Clark said between his third record, and this, his fourth, there has been a whole life’s worth of songs that best encompass who he is now. Getting to this point, however, proved to be more challenging than anticipated.
After releasing his third album, “911 … Songs to Heal a Nation,” in 2001, Clark suffered from a creative drought.
Until that point, the Toledoan had been titling himself as a Christian singer. Despite his lifelong spirituality, he said he’s never liked affiliating himself with one religion.
“It felt too stifling,” Clark said. “It feels like a box to me, the God that I know and worship is way bigger than that.”
By titling himself as a Christian artist, Clark said he was metaphorically checking himself into a box that was stifling his creativity.
He didn’t find freedom until having coffee with a friend one afternoon who asked Clark why he didn’t believe God was in the folk music he loved. Clark realized he could create music that still held spiritual meaning without titling it.
“It seems so trivial now but it was pretty profound for me then,” Clark said. “So that gave me permission to not call myself a Christian artist and be a folk singer and all of the sudden the music started coming back.”
Clark started creating in his basement recording studio, named Studio 234, a tribute to his first “recording studio” in his sister’s college dormroom, No. 234. After more than 1,000 hours of effort he had created the majority of a record but hit a snag when his laptop died unexpectedly one day in 2008.
Since Clark records and mixes on his laptop, production halted and his computer was shipped out to be repaired. When it was returned with a repaired motherboard, Clark tried to resume his work but found one of his drives was still failing. He found what he thought was the corrupted drive and hit reformat.
What Clark had mistakenly ended up doing was reformatting one of his two backup drives. Because of the way his two drives were connected, when one was down, he couldn’t read any information on the other. Consequently, Clark lost everything.
“It was weird though because he got over it like that,” Clark’s wife Amy said. “He was like, ‘Oh, OK. It’s supposed to be better.’”
“I was devastated for about two minutes,” Clark said. “I went, ‘Did what just happen really happen?’ So I did a couple things on my computer and went ‘Yep.’ And I sat back in my chair and thought, there’s probably a gift in this.”
Clark took three days to search his hard drives for material.
In addition to writing music for himself, Clark works with Songs of Love, a nonprofit that produces individualized songs for children who are chronically or terminally ill.
“I had just sent them a song and something said to me that I made a mistake on the child’s pronunciation or I missed a word and sure enough they called back,” Clark said. “Guess what? The only thing my programs found out of all of those hard drives was that song for Songs of Love. So I threw up a mic, started recording and the vocals were done in three days.”
The gift, Clark discovered, was that he got to start again.
“It’s just a recording; at some point you gotta let it go,” Clark said.
He called his band back into the studio and hunkered back down to work, this time with the goal to make the same CD, just better.
One of Clark’s favorites, “Time,” is a track that holds significant personal meaning.
The first verse and chorus were written on a train heading out of Moscow after Clark was given serious news from a close friend.
“Here’s what’s really cool about song writing — you would never know the story listening to the song, of what that song was about.” Clark said.
In 1997, Clark visited Russia on behalf of Friends of Russian Orphans, a group that takes money and resources to a region of outside of Moscow. Upon arriving Clark’s long-time interpreter, a woman with whom he had entrusted with his life during visits, told him she would be unable to accompany him on his trip. Clark said she had several doctor’s appointments and had just received news that an existing cancer had spread to her head.
“So I’m looking at this woman, who I adore even though I’ve spent two weeks with her over the course of five years,” Clark said. “And in that instant it was a death sentence and I knew that. The song came pretty quickly except I just had a first verse and a chorus. I was really bummed.”
When he arrived in Velsk, Russia, Clark quickly found the remaining verses at an orphanage he visited.
Two years prior to that particular trip, Clark and his wife had been in the process of adopting two Russian orphans. During the adoption process, potential medical issues made it impossible for the Clarks to complete the adoption process. Both children, who had since been fostered out, returned to the orphanage with their foster parents so Clark, who felt an emotional attachment to them, could see them again.
“The boy was the reason that we didn’t adopt,” Clark said. “And he was snuggling up to his mom playing with his thumb, laughing and he was fine. There isn’t a darn thing wrong with him. So I grabbed my guitar and started playing the song over and over and those second and third verses came.”
The album is $15 and only available to purchase through iTunes and at live performances.
Clark’s next performance is his solo-release concert on May 22 at the Monclova Community Center. The show starts at 7 p.m.; there will be a cover charge of $5. Listeners can receive a free download to preview a song off of “On the Road to Human Being” through Clark’s website, www.KerryPatrickClark.com.
“Hopefully the songs are good enough not only to stand alone but to evoke some story in you that you connect with the music,” Clark said. “That’s the miracle of music.”
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