Isabel Vander Stoep: Grammy winner Brandy Clark is the perfect big stage hero for Lewis County


Type “Morton” and “Wikipedia” into the search bar, and you’ll see Morton Salt, Morton, Illinois, and a steakhouse before you find the hometown of Grammy award-winner Brandy Clark.

In the way Aberdeen claims Kurt Cobain and Bellingham claims Ben Gibbard (and Seattle claims them both even though they already have Jimi Hendrix), the 2,000-person city of Morton will never forget Clark. 

Not just because she’s a successful, famous country musician — but because Clark never forgets Morton.

In early February, the Lewis County native earned the title of “Best Americana Performance” alongside Brandi Carlile, another acclaimed country music singer from Washington, for the song “Dear Insecurity.”

The 17-time Grammy nominee has written songs for some of the biggest names in country music: Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker, Kacey Musgraves and many more. Clark was a composer for the 2022 Tony award-winning comedy musical “Shucked.” 

And recent reception of her solo career is pushing Clark into a new level of stardom.

On her self-titled album from March 24, 2023, Clark’s “Northwest” celebrates the Evergreen State’s beauty. 

More importantly, though, the song is an ode to her family and community.

Featured in the lyrics are White Pass, state Route 508 and the Tilton River. Because these locations won’t be recognized by the majority of Brandy Clark fans — on Spotify alone, she has 305,657 monthly listeners (about 152 Mortons) — she paints the picture in descriptions of colors, scenery and wildlife.

All while calling the Northwest “home,” Clark also nods to the logging roots she shares with so many Washingtonians.

“Whistle blowin' at the mill. Hickory shirts'll pay the bills,” sings Clark, whose father, Woody, was killed in a logging accident in Glenoma in 2001. Morton honored him with a service that filled the entire high school gym, Clark has said in interviews. 

The singer-songwriter also honors Lewis County beyond her music.

In 2009, according to previous reporting by The Chronicle, Clark and other musicians spent a day teaching songwriting to Morton Elementary School students. On the same trip home, she performed in the high school gym while fundraising for the elementary school library. In 2017, Clark performed at the annual Morton Loggers’ Jubilee and sang her original hit “It’s a Big Day in a Small Town.”

When I worked for The Chronicle, I was adamantly against using the term “small town” for Morton or any other non-Twin Cities community in Lewis County. I worried it could sound belittling from the newspaper headquartered in an only slightly larger town. 

But Clark turns the phrase into a badge of honor. 

Former Morton-White Pass basketball coach Chad Cramer was interviewed by The Seattle Times for a feature on Clark just before the Grammys.

“Brandy has been a good friend of mine my whole life,” Cramer told me. “I was honored when she asked me to help with the article.”

In the same story, Clark recalls the sadness that came with packing her bags and moving to Nashville at 21 years old. 

But, with her leap of faith, Clark became a representative for the spirit of Lewis County to the rest of the world. We could hardly ask for a cooler local hero.

“She’s a good egg,” Cramer said. “A genuinely good person who never forgot her roots.”

Isabel Vander Stoep is a former Chronicle reporter and assistant editor who grew up in Lewis County. She can be reached at