The Grammy-nominated country star tells PEOPLE she's "missing" being on the road, but hopes to bring fans a bit of festive fun with her upcoming special Christmas from Here, There and Everywhere on Circle Network

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Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark
| Credit: Thomas Crabtree

Brandy Clark has found success as her authentic self, and hopes to inspire the same in other musicians looking to break into the industry.

The gay country star feels fortunate to not have her sexuality held against her as she's garnered acclaim with her candid songwriting. "I feel lucky that by the time I got the chance to be an artist on a major label, I was already out of the closet," Clark tells PEOPLE. "I didn't have to go back in, and I wouldn't want to. I hope that me just being who I am helped that."

Clark, 45, started out in country music as a songwriter, penning tracks with stars like Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Darius Rucker and Keith Urban. But since receiving a best new artist nomination at the 57th Grammy Awards, the artist became optimistic about the growing representation of the LGBTQ community in a genre that's long ignored it.

"There have always been a lot of gay people in country music, they just haven't been open about their personal lives," she admits. "All kinds of people love country music, and they should be able to see them themselves represented with who's singing it."

Now Clark is up for two trophies at the 63rd Grammys in January: best country album and best country solo performance. While she says the nominations "feel great," she notes that these accolades wouldn't be possible if she weren't living her truth through music.

"Had I had this opportunity 10 years earlier, and I would have been in the closet and struggling with my sexuality, what would I have done? And the truth is, I would have stayed in the closet because I was scared," Clark explains. "I like being embraced for who I am."

"I have to say that I've never felt any prejudice, anything about my sexuality in a negative way when I've gone out and done radio tours and that kind of stuff," she adds.

Clark says having other openly-queer country artists like Brandi Carlile and Shane McAnally "helps people feel like they don't have to hide" and wants to implore aspiring musicians struggling with their identity to stay true to themselves.

"Be yourself, don't be ashamed of who you are, and focus on your music," she advises. "If your music is good enough, eventually it gets heard. There's that great quote: 'I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not.' I think that's really, really true."

Clark has multiple reasons to celebrate this holiday season, including her upcoming Christmas special Christmas from Here, There and Everywhere on Circle Network. Shot in Santa Fe, the festive event will find the artist covering traditional and contemporary Christmas tunes with a slew of special guests, including Melissa Etheridge, Shane McAnally, Ashley McBryde, Reyna Roberts, Charlie Worsham and Cam.

"I wanted to sort of tip the hat to the year we've been in, where we all have to communicate via Zoom, and so all of the performances are from the internet," Clark says. "We called it Christmas from Here, There and Everywhere because I was in New Mexico doing my part, but we've got people all over the country via Zoom or their phones."

Clark hopes to bring joy to people's homes in a year when many are struggling through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "I think it's really important, not just for the people that are going to tune in, but for those of us who did it, because it's a sense of normalcy," she explains. "It's been a lot of fun to do it, and to be reminded that even in even in this time, we can still find ways to celebrate together."

Clark released her third studio album, Your Life Is a Record, in March to huge acclaim, but sadly has been unable to take the record out on the road. The special gave the singer-songwriter a chance to perform again, something she's been severely "missing" since the pandemic began.

"I played the Grand Ole Opry in October and they were letting like 500 people in, and it felt like 11,000," she admits. "It was overwhelming to actually stand out there and with people actually in the seats. That's when it really hit me like, 'man, I really missed this.' And not only did I miss it, but I could tell everybody sitting in the seats had missed it."

"I think the silver lining is when we get to go back out and tour, neither side is going to take it for granted. Not the artists on stage and not the ticket buyer," she adds.

Clark's Christmas from Here, There and Everywhere will air Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 10 p.m. EST and 1 a.m. EST on Circle Network.