COSTA MESA — For the second year in a row, Costa Mesa vocalist Stacy Clark has taken home the prize for Best Pop Artist at the Orange County Music Awards.
Clark, who thinks of herself as more folk than pop, was surprised by being recognized again during Saturday's ceremony for the 2011 O.C. Music Awards at the Grove of Anaheim.
"It's unexpected, honestly," she said. "I know I have pop songs, but I always come from an indie rock background, so it's really almost ironic to win a pop award. It's very flattering and very fun."
Originally from Grand Island, an upstate New York town near Buffalo, Clark taught herself guitar and hit up open mic nights at coffee shops at the age of 15. She also interned at a local record company.
To support herself between gigs, Clark did what every musician does: She took a day job. Clark thought back to one of her prior employers, an advertising firm, where she had to sell $80,000 to $100,000 worth of paper a month.
Jobs like that made the stage more and more attractive.
In Orange County since 2004, and with two albums under her belt, the East Coaster now calls O.C. home.
Her first album, "Apples and Oranges," is fun and lighthearted as it chronicles her arrival to sunny California. Her latest album, "Connect the Dots," takes a more serious look at the struggles that musicians face, including hardship and rejection.
"I wanted to put something that was more folk-rooted out there," she said.
Although Los Angeles seemed to be the destination of choice for many aspiring artists, Clark was content with Costa Mesa.
"My friends, my band and the life I've built are in Orange County, so I'm really content with being [here]," said Clark, now 30. "I think it offers lots of different opportunities. I think it's a smaller community so you get to know more people quicker. I just think Orange County is closer knit."
That's also what Clark enjoyed about being part of the Music Awards: the camaraderie of working with fellow musicians who live a stone's throw away.
Leading up to the March 5 awards, OCMA held showcases at local venues such as the Detroit Bar, The District, the Galaxy Theatre and the Gypsy Den.
"The cool thing about the Orange County Music Awards is all the different showcases they do that give musicians a chance to connect," she said. "It's nice to meet bands and get to know them through this whole process."
During the seven weeks of showcases, 35 artists performed in two categories — best live band and best live acoustic — leading up to the final awards night.
Other local artists that were recognized on Saturday included Young The Giant, of Newport Beach, Best Song; Parker Macy Blues ,of Costa Mesa, Best Blues; The Growlers, of Costa Mesa, Best Surf; Amanda Lamb, of Newport Beach, Best Youth Artist; and Blok, of Costa Mesa, Best Electronic.
Although Clark might not be all over MTV, she's had her fair share of fame. Just recently she had the single of the week on iTunes, raking in more than 420,000 downloads. She temporarily outsold Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and placed right below Justin Bieber — three of the most currently famous pop stars in the world.
"To be even in that category for one or two days, salewise, was really amazing," she said. "It was a really great opportunity to see people reacting and fans reaching out."