When Best New Artist nominee Brandy Clark was invited to sing on the 57th annual Grammy Awards, she was asked to name eight “world class guitar players” with whom she’d love to perform. At the top of her list was her fellow opening act, Dwight Yoakam, from last year’s Eric Church Outsiders World Tour… and the Recording Academy didn’t have to look beyond his name.
“I was standing up there thinking, ‘Wow, this is the guy…. One of my favorite songs ever was [Yoakam’s] ‘Try Not to Look So Pretty,'” Clark said after Grammy rehearsals last week. “Am I cool enough to stand on stage with this guy?”
“I became a fan walking the halls, listening to her performances before I’d go on at night,” Yoakam recalled of their shared nights on the Church tour. “I love her melodies. Her instincts and intuition are spot on.”
The two performed “Hold My Hand” — what Clark calls the most emotional song on her breakthrough, Best Country Album nominee 12 Stories — on the Grammy broadcast. Co-written with Mark Stephen Jones, the song waxes poetic on the insecurities that come when running into your current love’s old flame.
“I’ve had people say that this is the heart of a woman, or the heart of a human. It’s very vulnerable,” the Washington native says of the ballad. “I think everyone has felt that way, where you’re with somebody who is not quite over somebody that they used to be with and you run into their ex. It’s a moment of truth. They have to make a statement to their ex that they love you the way you used to love them, but deep down inside, you both know that they still have feelings for that person.”
It’s a storyline that needs no bells or whistles. So, dressed in relatively understated suits, Clark and Yoakam performed the tune on a round stage with just a few lights, two guitars and two voices. It was the most stripped-down performance of the 2015 Grammys, and the one where touching lyrics shared center stage with only Clark’s spotless, honeyed vocals.
The singer lost in both of her categories (Sam Smith took Best New Artist; Miranda Lambert won for Country Album of the Year), but Sunday’s performance no doubt catapulted her from Nashville’s best-kept secret to a national household name.