Interview: What Is SHUCKED? Songwriters Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally Discuss Broadway's Newest Original Musical

Clark and McAnally talk their longtime partnership, creating the music for Shucked, what audiences can expect to see and more.

Video: BACK TO THE FUTURE Company Is Getting Ready for Broadway

Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally are two of the most successful songwriters that country music has ever seen with three Grammy Awards and a total of 18 nominations between them. Clark has written songs for Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, Kacey Musgraves, the Band Perry and many more, and McAnally, who has written and produced for the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini and others was named Songwriter of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 2014.

Clark and McAnally's partnership has produced some of the most lauded country albums in history, and now the pair are taking on Broadway with the original musical Shucked!

Shucked, with book by Tony Award winner Robert Horn, music and lyrics by Clark and McAnally and direction by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O'Brien, is the hilarious and heartfelt tale of what happens when small town meets the big city, the importance of community, and, of course... corn.

The show's first preview takes place on Wednesday, March 8, and will officially open at the Nederlander Theatre on Tuesday, April 4. The musical stars John Behlmann, Kevin Cahoon, Andrew Durand, Tony Award nominee Grey Henson, Caroline Innerbichler, Ashley D. Kelley, and Alex Newell.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Clark and McAnally about their partnership, what audiences can expect from this completely original musical, and more!

You have amazing careers on your own, but your songwriting partnership is incredible. Can you tell me a little bit about your history working together?

Brandy: Shane and I, I just think that we were meant to meet. Shane's publisher was trying to get us together many, many years ago. And my publisher at the time said, "Oh, I don't think that'll work because she's too country, and he's too pop." Despite that, there was a write on the books. Shane and I met in the kitchen of this publishing company that I used to write at, and I felt the connection that he also felt, and we wrote the next day. And it wasn't a great write, but he called me afterwards and he said, "I know today wasn't great, but I just know we can write great things." And we got together again, and there was magic.

Shane: We actually had, on that first day, another person there, and it just wasn't right. There were things that Brandy would respond to that that third party kind of blocked, it was what it was, it was nobody's fault, but we just never got the chance to really dive in together until after that. And once we did, we were off and running. That feels like yesterday in a lot of ways, because time together flies, truly. And in a lot of ways it feels like we've known each other always. Sometimes I can't believe we've only known each other 14 years. It's just a match made in heaven.

Brandy: We see the world similarly, that's really what it comes down to. And I think that the gifts we have as songwriters are enough alike, and also enough different that it makes the sum of 1 and 1 way more than 2.

This is the first Broadway musical that you have worked on. How did this project come to you, and what does it feel like to be working on a completely original musical for the stage?

Shane: Well, we didn't know how unusual that was when we started. I didn't realize how property-based musicals had become, so many are based on something else. Robert Horn was tapped to write the book, and we were introduced through the owners of the property Hee Haw, which is an old television show, sort of a vaudeville country show, and they had an idea to write a Broadway show with these characters. Ultimately, that didn't work, when you went back to Hee Haw, it relied on a lot of tropes, and even racism, homophobia... I don't think that was intentional at all at the time, it was just a different time. So, the three of us continued on, and even though the Hee Haw part of the show didn't work, this relationship, and our idea for it did. So, that's how it started. That was 10 years ago.


Can you talk to me about your collaboration process? What is it like generally when you're writing music together and how did it either stay the same or change when working on the music for Shucked?

Brandy: What I think has really changed is it's not just the two of us collaborating. We're collaborating not only with Robert Horn, the book writer, we're also collaborating with the choreographer, Sarah O'Gleby, Jason Howland, who's our music director, and we're all now working on this big, complete piece, and if they need something different for a song, Shane and I will go into another room and bring them out new lyrics, or new melodic structure. But, I think the biggest difference is there are so many collaborators, versus just the two of us.

Shane: [The other day] we walked in, and the cast was around the piano working on two new lines that we'd put in. So, that part of it is so fun as songwriters that have done it a different way for so long, getting to see the things come to life. I always say that it feels like 3D. We're writing in one room, then we come in, hand the pages over, and then an hour we're getting to hear some of the best voices in all of music sing these songs with four or five part harmony. It's pretty amazing.

How did the initial conversations go with the creative team on what to bring to life with the music?

Shane: We were already writing songs that I think could have existed in this show, and that's probably why they were interested in us. We had a record that we had written a big portion of together called '12 Stories', and a lot of the songs just leant themselves to a musical world. And if there was going to be such a thing as a quote, "Country music musical" those songs were little mini versions of it. So, I think that's why they were interested in us in the first place, and honestly, I think our naivety really helped us, because we just wrote what we wrote.

Brandy: And luckily for us, Robert Horn liked what we did. That's why he chose us. And so, I don't feel like we've ever been asked to be anything but who we are. And along the way we've been really fortunate in particular to have Jason Howland, our music director, who takes what we do, and musicalizes it, but it keeps who we are. Shane's right, our naivety, I do think that helps us. And also, what helps me personally, it was a bucket list thing for me to get to be a part of a musical. I know I couldn't have done it with anyone but Shane, because he wasn't overwhelmed. I would have thought, "Oh, we need to write musical songs." That's where I would have gone, and then had tried to write some Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim sort of song that would have sounded like Brandy and Shane copying that. Shane was always really solid in, "We're great, let's do what we do," and it made it so it hasn't felt overwhelming.

So, it wasn't really finding a sound, it was your sound, and it just worked.

Shane: I think when you talk about the great collaborators, or composers of Broadway, the ones Brandy just mentioned, and Rogers and Hammerstein, their sound is so unique. We could have written a musical in the style of anyone else, but I think leaving our thumbprint is what's going to have a lasting legacy around the show. We worked very hard to create a sound for this show only.

Brandy: When Shane and I get together, it's so easy for us, it's like breathing. The video of us came out of the two of us singing 'Maybe Love' and I've run out of room of people texting me about it! This guy tweeted, "I was agnostic about Shucked until I saw this and heard this," And it just filled my heart, because I think, "Wow, wait, we're so close to this, we don't even realize the parts of us that are in it that are so special, that now this whole different world gets to embrace." I think that's a lot of what we provide for the show musically, is the heart.

People might not know what to expect from this show because it's totally original. What can audiences expect to see from Shucked, and what do you hope that they take away from it?

Shane: Well, I know they're going to laugh. We've been doing readings of this show for 10 years, I'd say we've probably done 30 or 40, and then we've also been out of town, it never doesn't make people laugh, and the music never doesn't work for people as well. I think what we're hoping for now, we know we have those things tucked away, we just want people to walk away feeling the effects of something bigger than what they think they saw, which is about inclusion, which is about the state of our world, and how love can prevail, and although that's a really simple and corny message, it's true. And we feel it every day when we come in here. And if we can leave people with just an ounce of what we have felt making this show, then we will have done a great service.

Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share?

Brandy: One thing I'd like to share, and I know Shane would echo this, is just how lucky we have been to have worked with Jack O'Brien. When he came around I really didn't know that we had any more songs in us. And since he's been involved, it's a whole new score, and a whole new script. Jack inspires so much, and I know people view him as a legend, and he is, but he's magical. He's a dreamer. All these things we're talking about, if there was a magic wand that made everything come together, it's Jack.



Shucking Around with Ashley D. Kelley: SHUCKED Hits the Recording Studio

In this video, check out her final vlog, airing exclusively here at BroadwayWorld. In this episode of 'Shucking Around', the cast hits the recording studio to make the cast album- available now!

Video: Alex Newell Performs 'Independently Owned' From SHUCKED on THE VOICE

Tony Award nominee Alex Newell, who is now starring in Shucked on Broadway, performed 'Independently Owned,' on NBC's 'The Voice' Season 23 finale last night, Monday, May 22. Check out the video here!

Video: Watch Brandy Clark Perform From New Album at SHUCKED Curtain Call

Watch Brandy Clark give a special performance in celebration of her new album at the Shucked curtain call on Friday, May 19th!

Listen: SHUCKED Songwriter Brandy Clark Drops New Album

The release adds to yet another landmark year for Clark, who is nominated for Best Original Score at the 76th Annual Tony Awards for Shucked, the new musical comedy she composed alongside longtime collaborator, Shane McAnally. Shucked is nominated for nine awards overall at the 2023 ceremony including Best New Musical. 



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