Pride Month Spotlight: Brandi Carlile

Lisa Marino, Radio General Manager

[Eds Note: This article has been published in partnership with Spinnaker Radio to feature LGBTQ+ music artists and celebrate Pride Month.] 

Country artist Brandi Carlile has become a six-time Grammy award-winning artist after beginning her performing career by singing in bars around her hometown, Seattle, Washington.

Inspired by country music, Carlile learned how to sing on her own as a young child. Carlile met the band the Fighting Machines when she was performing around Seattle. She and two members of the band, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, began their own group when the Fighting Machines disbanded.

After spending time touring with the group, Carlile released her own music in 2000 by her own means. Columbia Records recognized her talent and offered Carlile a signing deal, releasing her first official album, Brandi Carlile, in 2005.

Brandi Carlile holds her emmys
FILE – Brandi Carlile, winner of the awards for best Americana album for “By The Way, I Forgive You”, best American roots performance for “The Joke”, and best American roots song for “The Joke” poses in the press room at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2019. Carlile’s memoir, “Broken Horses” is coming in April. Her publisher is calling the book an “evocative and piercingly honest” journey through the life that has shaped her “very raw art.” Carlile will also read the audio edition. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

More attention was attracted to Carlile when one of the songs from her second album, The Story, was presented in a commercial that aired during the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Carlile’s success was on the climb as she collaborated with Elton John in Carline, a song from her third studio album, Give Up the Ghost, released in 2009. Carlile spoke with NME on the collaboration with John.

“It was amazing. I’ve never seen a person of any age so excited about music and so inspired. He did piano and vocals in under an hour and a half. It was unbelievable…The whole time it was like an out-of-body experience. Every once in a while, this total panic would come over me when I realized who I was talking to,” Carlile said to NME.

In 2016, Carlile was nominated for her first Grammy award, “Best Americana Album,” for The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Although she left empty-handed, Carlile won three Grammys the next year for “Best American Roots Performance” and “Best American Roots Song” for The Joke, as well as “Best Americana Album” for By the Way, I Forgive You.

With other artists Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby, and Amanda Shires, Carlile formed a powerful, country girl group, The Highwomen. The group released their first album in 2019.

Carlile’s book titled, Broken Horses: A Memoir, was published in 2021.

In an interview with USA Today, Carlile was asked about her coming-out experience, written about in her memoir.

“…The older people in my life accepted it so much more readily than even people my age. My great-grandma Carlile was 91 when I came out…I remember she asked me, ‘Will you be bringing your husband, the policewoman?’ She didn’t know you could call someone ‘wife’ if you’re a woman, so she wanted me to know she was OK with my ‘husband, the policewoman,’ coming along,” Carlile said in the interview.

Brandi Carlile poses on the press line at the 63rd Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center
FILE – In this March 9, 2021 file photo, Brandi Carlile poses on the press line at the 63rd Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The award show aired on March 14 with both live and prerecorded segments. Carlile’s new album “In These Silent Days” will come on Oct. 1 and is influenced by Bowie, Freddie Mercury and her two close musical friends, Elton John and Joni Mitchell. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

The Story, released in 2007 on Carlile’s album, is a love song written by Phil Hanseroth, twin of Tim Hanseroth.

Arpeggiating electric guitar appears in the left pan before Carlile begins the vocal melody of The Story. A harmonic chord progression by an acoustic guitar comes in with Carlile as she gently passes from her falsetto to her chest voice.

The chorus arrives, continuing the tranquility of Carlile’s warm timbre with the two guitars.

Drum set accompanies the melodic purity. Suddenly, Carlile expresses passion through tasteful voice cracks in her soulful belt. Distorted electric guitar adds to the rock groove.

A rock instrumental interlude pursues the vibrancy until Carlile interrupts with a reminder of the tender introduction.

Sereneness does not last long as Carlile, again, breaks into a crying belt in the breakdown following the chorus. Background (BG) vocals make their first contributions, imitating the instrumental chord progression.  

Intermissions of soft, lyrical verses between heavy, rock breakdowns develop the emotional contour of the song, enhancing the message of the complexity of love and passion.

In the middle of a phrase within the rock breakdown, Carlile swiftly transitions to her head voice, calming the energy. The electric guitar rolls the final chords as Carlile sustains the tonic in her falsetto.


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