Portia Clark's road to duetting with Darius Rucker begins in 2017, backstage at gala for the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and while it turned out to be an important moment, it's nowhere near the most interesting part of her story.

By the time Clark met Rucker, she'd been involved with the Starkey Hearing Foundation — founded by Starkey Hearing Technologies in 1984 to provide hearing-related healthcare to people in need around the world — for a number of years, and had even recorded a theme song, "So the World May Hear," for the organization. That night, she remembers, "he handed me a Corona like I was just 'one of the guys.' Half jokingly, I asked him if he would be willing to sing a song with me, and to my surprise, just like that, Darius agreed."

It would be a few more months before they could put that promise into motion, but in the summer of 2018, Clark flew from Australia, where she lives with her husband and children, to Nashville for the recording session. Tiffany Johnson and Lee Turner, the song's producer, co-wrote the track.

"I thought that when you kissed me, it meant something / But the distance that's between us has left me wondering," Clark sings; answers Rucker, "Baby, when I kissed ya, it meant something / But all the things I'm feeling has me running ..."

Born Portia Thanjekwayo in Zambia, Clark is the daughter of a freedom fighter for Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, the ruling party in post-apartheid South Africa, and the granddaughter of royalty in the Zambian village of Livingstone. Her father died when Clark was one, and she, her mother and stepsister spent much of her childhood without a home and living in poverty.

When she was 17, Clark became romantically involved with a man who began to abuse her, and was forced to move in with him when she got pregnant. He was arrested only after she escaped to her mother's house, where he found and attacked them both.

A single mother at 19 — and, therefore, ostracized by both her community and her church, where she first learned to sing as a child — Clark took a job at a nearby Shoprite grocery store, which holds an annual talent competition, TopStars. Encouraged by her manager, Clark entered the national contest in 2011 and won the Top Female Vocalist prize. Still holding her job with the grocery store, she earned a gig with a local bar band; she sang for free, but "felt alive again" thanks to the creative outlet.

It's here that Clark's story takes a true rags-to-riches twist: After being thrown out by her mother, Clark met her now-husband, entrepreneur and philanthropist Brendan Clark, during a performance at a ritzy venue. Impressed, Brendan asked Portia to sing at an upcoming charity function, and continued to pursue her romantically.

In addition to her work with Rucker, Clark has been spending time in Nashville writing and recording for her debut album. Fans can learn more about her at PortiaClarkMusic.com.

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