Tag Archives: Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile


Largely due to troubles booking a headliner for the date, Brandi Carlile opened for The Avett Brothers at Summerfest this year to an unimaginably sparse Marcus Amphitheater crowd. Make it up to her when she takes the Pabst Theater stage on her own terms. Carlile’s here supporting her latest album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, an energetic, sprawling Americana album that cements her reputation as one of the better folk artists recording today.

At the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. Tickest are $40 and can be purchased at pabsttheater.org.

8 p.m. Sept. 29

Carlile’s newest is a bear hug to her influences

From the opening train whistle of “Hard Way Home,” the first track on “Bear Creek” (Columbia), it’s clear that out singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile is heading in a country direction on her fourth studio disc. It’s an earthy collection that embraces folk, pop, country, rock, gospel and blues. And woven into the fabric of “Bear Creek” are a number of daring musical experiments such as the rhythmic “100” and the dreamy “Just Kids.”

I spoke with Carlile about “Bear Creek” shortly before its release this spring.

Gregg Shapiro: Following the strong pop sound of your 2009 album “Give Up the Ghost,” much of “Bear Creek” feels more country-driven. Was that a conscious decision?

Brandi Carlile: It just turned out that way. I think that “Bear Creek” is more roots-based, but it’s not just musically – it’s personally, as well. The reason we named the album “Bear Creek” is that it’s so similar to home for us. It’s in rural Washington state, it’s in a big barn. It’s just like my house. When you get comfortable with your roots, you tend to write from there.

Because of the record’s sound, what would it mean to you if it was picked up by country radio and became a Nashville hit?

Well, first of all, I don’t think it will (laughs). But I have to say that I grew up listening to classic country and western music. It’s definitely the bigger part of who I am than rock ’n’ roll. It must mean that that’s authentically who I am.

You take listeners to church on “That Wasn’t Me.” It’s one of three songs on the album for which you get sole writing credit.

I was struggling with the concept of addiction with someone that I loved. Having to accept the fallout of what happens when somebody gets clean and they get this new beginning and you kind of get left with the past, the really damaging past. How hard it is for them to be able to reassemble it back into the lives of the people that they hurt. It’s pretty significant for me.

“100” and “Keep Your Heart Young” both deal with the subject of aging. Is that a subject that’s on your mind?

I finished “Bear Creek” in May (2011) and then I turned 30 on June1, and then I wrote those songs. I thought, “Shit, I can’t put a record out and not put this experience on it.” So I had to go back in and record those two songs.

Speaking of “100,” it has a powerful dance beat. Were you aware that you had an inner dance diva?

No. And to be embarrassingly honest, that whole concept was my idea, too. Speeding it up like that. I was listening to that Arcade Fire record and that whole hypnotic, relentless beat going through the song came from a couple of ideas I got from listening to that album.

The album’s closer “Just kids” stands out because it sounds like a new musical direction for you.

Writing in that genre is something I’ve been doing a lot on my own. It’s weird – part of me feels really country and roots-based, and part of me feels really ethereal. One night, a guy named David Palmer came in to do the piano on “That Wasn’t Me,” and he had these Moog synthesizers that reminded me of my favorite movies from the 1980s. That’s what the song was about, me and my brother in the ’80s. That’s what came out of it, this really dreamy thing.

Have things changed for you since coming out publicly?

No, not at all. And to be honest with you, it was completely non-strategic in every way. I can tell you exactly how it happened. One day I was helping my best friend Amy Ray release her record, “Didn’t It Feel Kinder,” doing press in New York for four days straight with gay press. I’d never done any before. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to talk to me. That’s when I first realized, conceptually, I wasn’t out. But I came out when I was like 14 years old. I’ve gotten involved in political things, and I’ve been part of gay Pride festivals, performing for them. I’ve done charity campaigns for LGBTQ events. I just never considered myself not out.

Queer through the year

“For Him and the Girls”
Hawksley Workman, Isadora

It’s a testament to the timelessness of Hawksley Workman’s music that the reissue of “For Him and the Girls” sounds like he could have written and recorded it yesterday or today.

The out Canadian singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso, one of the most riveting live performers I have ever experienced, is simply whetting our appetites for his forthcoming album. Songs such as the delectable “No Sissies,” sinister “Tarantulove,” “Sweet Hallelujah” (which lands softly somewhere between fellow Canadians Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright), the exquisite acoustic “Safe and Sound,” and the crazy comfort of “Paper Shoes” are proof that Workman is one of a kind.

Hawksley Workman

I advise you to also snag Workman’s 2001 masterwork “(Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves,” which contains the irresistible “Jealous of your Cigarette.”

“Origon: Orphan”
The Hidden Cameras, Arts & Crafts

O, Canada! The Hidden Cameras also hail from that mighty land to our north, but “Origin: Orphan” opens on an exotic note with the Middle Eastern-influenced “Ratify The New.” Then, before you know it, Joel Gibb and company return to their delirious and suggestive chamber pop roots.

Sexually active cuts, such as “He Falls to Me,” “Colour of a Man” and “Kingdom Come,” indicate Gibb still has men on his mind. And he proves himself to be a romantic, both hopeless and hopeful, on “In The NA” and “Do I Belong.”

Tegan and Sara, Sire/Vapor

Keeping with the Canadian theme, out twin sisters Tegan and Sara return with another fine album, “Sainthood.” The songs are examples of the twins’ continued growth as one of the most influential musical acts out there. In the same way that Ani DiFranco inspired imitators, it’s easy to imagine girl bands planning to follow in Tegan and Sara’s distinctive footsteps.

“Sainthood” contains all of the elements that have made Tegan and Sara so popular — the unique lyrical perspective, the way their voices spill over each other like waves, their masterful musicianship. Alluring tunes include “On Directing,” “Red Belt,” the thrashing “Northshore,” the biting and blubbering “Alligator,” the fluid “The Ocean” and the compelling “Someday.”

“Music For Men”
Gossip, Columbia

Beth Ditto of the Gossip is another visible out musician who has broken down barriers and received acclaim and adoration. A brash and brazen southern belle, Ditto and her band mates blaze through 13 tunes on “Music For Men,” leaving ashes and asses shaking in their wake.

Equally adept at belting bluesy numbers such as “8th Wonder,” “Dimestore Diamond” and “The Breakdown” as she is at strutting like a disco diva on “Love Long Distance,” “Pop Goes The World,” “Men In Love,” “Love And Let Love,” Beth Ditto is a true original and Gossip is something to talk about.

“Give Up The Ghost”
Brandi Carlile, Columbia

As queer voices go, Brandi Carlile, who performs at The Pabst, Jan. 21, has one for the ages. Soulful and haunting, it’s a voice that sticks to your ribs and brings a range of emotions to your ears. “Give Up The Ghost,” Carlile’s third studio disc, is her most accomplished, accessible and enjoyable. Still in her 20s, Carlile is a seasoned performer, having recently toured with the Indigo Girls (again).

She wastes no time reeling us in with the amazing “Looking Out” and follows it with equally enticing numbers, including “Dying Day,” “Dreams,” “That Year,” “Caroline,” “Before It Breaks,” “If There Was No You” and “Oh Dear.”

“I Bought A Blue Car Today”
Alan Cumming, Yellow Sound

It wouldn’t take much effort to eviscerate “I Bought A Blue Car Today” by out star of stage and screen Alan Cumming. His unique vocal style probably isn’t to all tastes, even those with the least bit of affection for the theatrical or the absurd.

However, I want to commend Mr. C for the notable chances he took on his debut album. “Wig In A Box/Wicked Little Town” from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a fit for Cumming. So are his renditions of songs by John Bucchino (“Expressed”) and William Finn (“What More Can I Say”), as well as “Where I Want To Be” from “Chess” and Jimmy Webb’s “All I Know.” That said, Cumming falls short on the remainder of the selections, including “Shine” (co-written by “Three Penny Opera” co-star Cyndi Lauper) and bad homages to Sinatra and Dolly (“That’s Life” and “Here You Come Again”).