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Terri Clark fearlessly charts a new career direction, shows off anew tattoo and faces the music on a DUI charge

Story by David Scarlett

After three successful albums, numerous awards and a string of hits since her 1995 debut, Terri Clark decided to take control of her latest album, Fearless. That was nearly a year ago, but the CD has yet to generate the big hits she had hoped for.

Still, Terri began the project with no fear and looks back on it with no regrets.

"I worked really hard on this album," declares Terri with conviction. "It's like my child. I just had to let go of any expectations anybody might have had of me and do what I wanted to do creatively."

As a co-producer and writer on eight of the CD's 12 tracks, including the singles "No Fear" and the current "Getting There," she did just that. "It was almost like re-inventing myself," she explains.

A pretty courageous move from an artist whose fans have come to love her for such lighthearted hits as "Better Things To Do," "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" and "When Boy Meets Girl."

But like Ol' Blue Eyes, she's decided to do things her way - and let the airplay and sales charts take care of themselves.

Terri has tasted success. And she's got a wall full of precious metals to prove it - including a recently acquired platinum record for 1996's Just The Same. "It's really great to get a platinum or gold record," she says. "After I got the last platinum record, I counted up how many I've sold altogether, and it was really pretty cool!" She laughs. "About 3.7 - million!

"The first album was platinum, the second was platinum and the third was gold. And with the fourth album, I think we're somewhere around 250,000 now. So things are not so bad!"

Even still, she admits she was disappointed when "No Fear" - an earlier single from Fearless - peaked at No. 27 on the charts. She wrote the tune with Mary Chapin Carpenter and considers it one of her best.

"I've come to believe that when you write a song like that, it reaches the people it's supposed to reach," she explains. "You would not believe the letters I've received from people who say that song has gotten them through a pivotally hard time in their life - something like an illness or the loss of a loved one. That's what it's for.

"And I think that sometimes we place too much credence on numbers. The ears that were supposed to hear it and the people whose lives it was supposed to touch - it did. I'm grateful for that because it came from the heart."

While Terri might be accused of wearing her heart on her sleeve with her new music, the Canadian native is wearing something new up her sleeve - a tattoo!

"I was in Toronto and started getting all sentimental about how much I love Canada," declares Terri. "I decided right then that I would brand myself Canadian for life!" The red maple leaf tattoo rests on her upper right shoulder.

Two days later she received six 2001 Canadian Country Music Awards nominations. "It definitely was strange to have the tattoo and the nominations happen within days of each other," laughs Terri.

But she wasn't laughing the night in June when a police officer pulled her over on a main thoroughfare in Nashville. He'd noticed her driving erratically and suspected she'd been drinking - which, as it turned out, she had been. She refused to take a Breathalyzer and was charged with driving under the influence.

Read More in the Current Newsstand issue (Sept 4th)