Even the best music has to overcome hurdles to find success, says Terri Clark. As a Canadian woman -- both often roadblocks in the Nashville music scene -- the singer-songwriter earned fame in the 1990s and early '00s; she's continued to chart in her native country, and was recently inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, but, she says, it's a slower process these days.

Clark's latest tune, "Young as We Are Tonight," was hand-picked by the artist to be the lead single off her new album, Raising the Bar. "If Kenny Chesney had this song out ... I think that it would probably already be in the Top 15," Clark says in an interview with The Boot. (The song peaked at No. 39 on the Canadian country charts; for the week of Oct. 27, it's at No. 42.)

Gender equality in country music is a hot topic, if a tender one. Selecting her words carefully, Clark reflects, "It's tough for women -- especially a woman who's not 22 anymore ... Women have to work 10 times as hard for half as much."

While many male peers -- Chesney and others who broke out at the same time Clark did -- are still going strong, Clark knows that women have a tougher time getting mainstream radio airplay as they get older. However, "I don't think the age card is necessarily something that's a fair thing for you to hold against yourself as an artist, or for other people to do either," she reflects.

Right from the get-go, Clark knew that she needed to be in Nashville to make her mark. She'd watched others' Canadian roots slow down their careers in the States, and she figured going to Music City was the best way to plant herself in both markets.

"I left Canada at 18, before I really had a chance to get too ingrained in the music scene," she shares. "I came out of the chute as a Nashville artist ... Once you get a deal in Nashville, you're an international artist right off the bat."

Indeed, Clark scored Top 10 hits on both the U.S. and Canadian charts in the '90s. The recent wave of nostalgia for that decade, she says, has led newer, younger fans to her music; they're both discovering her old songs and embracing her newer work -- songs that Clark's carefully selected to make an impression regardless of her age, gender or nationality.

"Quality-wise, it had to be heads and tails above anything I put out in a long time or was out there," Clark says of assembling her newest album. "At the end of the day, when the listener hears something and they like, they're not going to ask how old the artist is; they just like it or they don't like it."

Although she's not charted a single in the U.S. in more than a decade, Clark continues to fill her schedule with shows on both sides of the border. The audiences in both the U.S. and Canada continue to support her -- and surprise her.

"I can't believe the amount of people in their 20s singing every word to my songs -- you know, that came out when they were toddlers!" Clark says. "The '90s era had such identifiable factors to it -- the starched jeans and the cowboy hats -- and I was the only girl doing it ... I was lucky that I was a bit of a unicorn in that era. I'm memorable for that, the fact that I was willing to step out and not be the norm or fit this mold that the female singer is supposed to look or do or act a certain way."

Even with her trademark style on her side, Clark knows today is a far cry from the country music scene 20 years ago. "It was a good time for women in the '90s, when you look at how many of us were on the charts," she reflects. "It was more of an even split between men and women in airplay than there is now."

Clark's album Raising the Bar is available for download now. For tour dates and more information, visit her official website.

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