Brandi Carlile

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Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile cs.jpg
Carlile on stage in Seattle in 2010.
Background information
Birth name Brandi M. Carlile
Born (1981-06-01) June 1, 1981 (age 33)
Ravensdale, Washington, U.S.
Genres Alternative country, Folk rock
Occupation(s) Musician, Songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, banjo
Years active 2004–present
Labels Columbia, ATO Records

Brandi M. Carlile (born June 1, 1981) is an American alternative country and folk rock singer-songwriter.[1] She has released several albums including The Story, Give Up the Ghost and Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony which reached number 14 on the Top Rock Albums chart.[2] Her first commercial album, Brandi Carlile, was released to critical success and limited commercial success. She's perhaps best known for her 2007 single The Story from the album of the same name which was released to somewhat larger commercial success.[3]

Carlile’s music through the years has been categorized in several genres, including pop, rock, alternative country, and folk. Carlile once quoted, “I’ve gone through all sorts of vocal phases, from pop to blues to R&B, but no matter what I do, I just can’t get the country & western out of my voice”. After being introduced to the music of Elton John - which she later described as her “gateway drug” to rock ‘n’ roll—Carlile self-taught piano and, at 17, learned to play the guitar. Carlile discovered music on her own during her teen years.[4]

Early life[edit]

Carlile was born in the small town of Ravensdale, Washington.

Carlile was born on June 1, 1981,[5] in Ravensdale, Washington, a small town 40 miles outside of Seattle. Growing up in the only house for miles, Carlile played in the woods, built forts and played music with her brother Jay and sister Tiffany. Brandi, whose mother is a singer, taught herself to sing when she was a little girl, and she started singing country songs on stage when she was only 8 years old.

At age eight, Carlile performed Johnny Cash's "Tennessee Flat Top Box" with her mother, Teresa Carlile[6] and began playing the guitar and writing songs at age fifteen.[7] At sixteen, Carlile became a backup singer for an Elvis impersonator.[8] According to Carlile, she was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder as a teen and dropped out of school to pursue a career in music.[9]


Early Years & First Album[edit]

Carlile performing in Birmingham, Alabama in 2006.

Carlile began her career performing in Seattle music clubs with twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth.[10] In the beginning, Columbia Records signed Carlile in late 2004 on the strength of songs she had been recording periodically at home. Released in 2005, Carlile showcased those early songs along with several newly recorded tracks in the self-titled album Brandi Carlile. The 2006 re-release by Columbia Records included re-recordings of "Throw It All Away" and "What Can I Say".

The album earned enthusiastic reviews she was featured on Rolling Stone’s “10 Artists to Watch in 2005” list, and other "artist to watch" lists by Interview and Paste. In his review of the album, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote, "The accolades, combined with cover artwork that captures her at her cutest -- as if she were a cousin of Rachael Leigh Cook-- might make some listeners suspicious of Carlile, since the cumulative effect makes her seem like a pretty, prepackaged creation.". He further wrote, "her music is: it's rich, warm, and seductive, familiar in its form and sound, yet sounding fresh, even original, particularly in how her folky singer/song.writer foundation blends with her art-pop inclinations."[11]

The album peaked at number 80 on Billboard 200 and reached number 1 on U.S. Folk Albums.

Shortly after the release of the album, she left her home in Seattle and set out with the Hanseroth brothers, as she had worked with them on her earliest recordings and independent regional tours. The tightly knit trio, which forms the core of her band today, spent the better part of two years on the road honing the songs that would later become part of her album The Story.[12]

By the end of 2006, Carlile had embarked on several headlining tours and supported a variety of artists including Ray LaMontagne, The Fray, Chris Isaak, Tori Amos, and Shawn Colvin.[13]

Breakthrough with "The Story" 2007-09[edit]

Her second album The Story[14] was produced by T Bone Burnett.[15] It includes a collaboration with the Indigo Girls on “Cannonball.” The album was recorded in an eleven-day-long session with Carlile, the twins (Tim and Phil Hanseroth) and drummer Matt Chamberlain to capture the raw intensity of Carlile’s live performances. The crack in Carlile’s vocals during the title track, “The Story”, came out by accident and was a direct result of the way the album was recorded. "The Story" was featured heavily in Toyota commercials during the 2008 Summer Olympics, leading to increased exposure to her music; "The Story" peaked at #5 on the iTunes Music Store's most purchased list.[16] The song was also used in the 2008 commercial for Super Bock and helped the song reach number 1 and the album reach number 4 on the Portuguese charts.[17] "The Story" was featured on the end credits of the romantic drama film The Lucky One.

Her song "The Story" became her first single to reach No. 1 (in Portugal).

The album peaked at number 41 on Billboard 200 and number 10 on U.S. Rock Albums. In response to the increase in album downloads caused by the adverts in the U.S. (mentioned above), the album saw a 368% increase in sales from 1,323 to 6,198. To date the album has currently sold 257,776 copies in the US. The lead single, "The Story", saw an increase in downloads of 28,091 digital copies.

Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised Carlile for The Story saying, "The roiling collection fulfills the promise of her remarkable debut, offering resounding confirmation that Carlile is a singular talent."[18]

"It wasn’t until 2007’s The Story—her T-Bone Burnett-produced sophomore release—that we realized even half of what we’d been dealt. Nearly a minute into the second song, something about her shifted from promise to absolute certainty as Carlile let loose a hurricane of lung power." wrote Rachael Maddux for Paste magazine.

Three songs from her previous (eponymous) album, "Tragedy," "What Can I Say," and "Throw It All Away," were further featured in the TV drama Grey's Anatomy. A special two-hour episode of Grey’s Anatomy also featured Carlile’s song “Turpentine” during footage of the spin-off, Private Practice. Grey's Anatomy also released a version of the music video for "The Story" with interspersed footage of the show. Actress Sara Ramirez performed her version of Carlile's single "The Story" in the musical episode of the show.

In 2007 Carlile performed at the Borderline in London and as guest on Newton Faulkner's UK tour. She was the opening act for Maroon 5 and OneRepublic during their Australia tour.[19] in April 2008, she performed on the BBC2 show Later... with Jools Holland.

Carlile's album Give Up the Ghost debuted at No. 26 on Billboard 200 and also received positive reviews from critics.

Give Up the Ghost was released in 2009 and debuted at No. 26 on the Billboard 200.[20][21][22] Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Rick Rubin, it featured a collaboration with Elton John on the song "Caroline" as well as Amy Ray, drummer Chad Smith and keyboardist Benmont Tench. In 2010, National Geographic Channel in Latin America chose the song "If There Was No You" from the album as a jingle to promote its series "Grandes Migraciones" (Great Migrations). Also that same year, during the 21st GLAAD Media Awards, Carlile was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for "Outstanding Music Artist" for the album.[23] The album peaked at number 26 on U.S. Billboard 200.

Erlewine called Give Up the Ghost one even better than The Story, saying "Give Up the Ghost opens up and breathes, never removes the spotlight from Carlile, who remains a singularly powerful singer/songwriter. When things are Spartan, her voice is haunting and gripping, wrenching out operatic emotions, but Give Up the Ghost trumps The Story because she allows herself to lighten up, to rock again on 'Dreams' ".

In one of the reviews of the album for Paste, Rachael Maddux wrote, "Writhing and burning and staring at life straight down the barrel, Give Up the Ghost is exactly the album Carlile needed to make at this moment. The production is thick but elegant, applied with full knowledge that the songs could exist beautifully in a sparse acoustic-strummed daze, but that they deserve more than that." She added, "The best part about Give Up The Ghost? She will probably make an even better album one day."[24]

Continued success[edit]

In 2011, Carlile's album Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony reached number 14 on the Top Rock Albums chart. The live album finds Carlile performing a mix of original songs and cover material. Recorded during two sold-out shows in November 2010 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Washington, the album features Washington-native Carlile and her long-time band (including brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth) performing alongside the Seattle Symphony. Andrew Leahey from AllMusic called it Carlile's best and wrote, " 'Live at Benaroya Hall' is more concerned with dressing up Carlile’s music in elegant, orchestral clothing, and the results are pretty stunning, from the grandeur of “The Story”—now featuring horns, woodwinds, and strings. This isn't Brandi Carlile's first concert album, but it's certainly the best."

In the United States, the album reached peak positions of number 63 on the Billboard 200, number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Folk Albums chart and number 14 on the U.S. Billboard Rock Albums.

Carlile's next album, Bear Creek, released June 5, 2012, was produced by Trina Shoemaker.[2] The album is a collaboration between her and the Hanseroth twins. In an interview with American Songwriter she says, "We decided a decade ago to split everything in our band evenly amongst the three of us. So nobody has any vested interest in getting involved with someone else’s song or their story. But nobody has a vested interest in keeping someone out of the story either. It always comes down to what’s best for the song."[25] "Heart's Content" from this album was further featured in 2013's romantic movie Safe Haven, when Katie (played by Julianne Hough) and Alex (played by Josh Duhamel) heard it on radio in an empty diner and danced to it.[26]

Brandi Carlile and the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon in 2012

The album peaked at 10 on the Billboard 200, number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Folk Albums and number 3 on U.S. Billboard Rock Albums.

Carlile was also a judge for the 10th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.

In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book.[27]

On January 11, 2014, Brandi sang the National Anthem for the Saints vs Seahawks NFL playoff game.[citation needed]

Carlile recorded a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" for the compilation album Sweetheart 2014.[28]

Carlile is awaiting the release of her upcoming album The Firewatcher's Daughter which is scheduled to be released on March 3, 2015 on ATO Records,[29] which she added that the album is more rock ’n’ roll.

In a preview of her new album, the Boston Globe wrote,"Whether The Firewatcher’s Daughter continues the country-folk flirtation of 2012’s Bear Creek, returns to the warm adult songcraft of The Story and Give Up the Ghost, or explores some other direction entirely, she’s sure to bring emotional intelligence, thoughtful clarity, and, most importantly, the most arresting female voice in pop this side of Adele. I’m betting on her."[30]

“We didn’t make any demos. To me rock and roll isn’t really a genre but more of recklessness or a risk,” Carlile told NPR.[31] “The more something gets ironed out and sure of itself, the less it begins to rock somehow. That is what I think rock and roll is ... and it's scary."[29]

However, one preview track, “The Eye,” for which a video has been released, is a front-porch acoustic.[32] The review from NPR Music said, " 'The Eye' is exactly what it proclaims itself to be: a quiet breath in the midst of the album's glorious storm. Rooted in Carlile's love of both classic country and California pop, the song is the kind many other artists are going to want to cover. It will be hard to top the original, though; it so eloquently highlights the telepathic connection Carlile shares with her longtime bandmates. A favorite on recent tours, 'The Eye' is destined to become a centerpiece in Carlile's catalog."[29]

Musical style and influences[edit]

Patsy Cline is one of Carlile's biggest influences.

Carlile is known for possessing a big voice that cracks emotively when she is belting. Her lyric content often showcases a "Southern sensibility" as well as reflections upon her personal experiences. Her music, although appealing to the pop genre, encompasses alternative country, folk, rock, blues and indie styles.[33] Describing it herself, Carlile says "I mean, I couldn't be less interested in becoming genre-specific in any way. If I could be anything to the music industry, it would just be sort of a human eraser of lines between genres, just because it's so damaging – 'they're on that team, I'm on this team.' 'I don't like country.' 'I don't like rap.' I would just really like to prove to someone that doesn't like country that they do."[34]

Carlile grew up studying and listening to her favorite vocalists, experimenting with the capacity of her own voice.[35] In interviews, she has referred to drawing upon various artists including Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Thom Yorke, k.d. lang, and Roy Orbison in her music. She often cites Patsy Cline as a major influence: "Patsy Cline was a big part of me discovering my vocal capacity. Most people don't realize how loud she is. If you really listen closely, the amount of times in any given song that she distorts, you might think it's your car speakers or something. They didn't quite know how to fully contain her voice then. She was loud."[34]

Personal life & Humanitarian Work[edit]

Carlile on stage in 2010

In a November 2002 interview, Carlile identified herself as a lesbian.[36] She later told the Los Angeles Times, "I don't have to have a lot of formality around it ... there were people before me who paved the way."[37] In June 2012 she announced she was engaged to Catherine Shepherd.[38] The two were married in Boston, Massachusetts on September 15, 2012. In June 2014 they welcomed their first child, a daughter named Evangeline Ruth.[39]

Carlile performed with Ben Taylor in the Eden Presents…Alive in the World concert series for the benefit of Eden Florida, an organization that assists children and adults with autism.[40]

In 2008, she created the Looking Out Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, to give financial support to causes that she believes in. The Looking Out Foundation has awarded grants to Reverb, the American Diabetes Association, and Honor the Earth, among numerous other organizations.[41] Carlile also donates $1 from every concert ticket sale to the foundation.[42][43]

In January 2010, Carlile's Looking Out Foundation partnered with the Seattle Police Department, the Indigo Girls, and two local Seattle self-defense studios to support the Fight the Fear Campaign.[44] Also in 2010, Carlile contributed the track "The Heartache Can Wait" to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: More Hope For The Holidays album.[45]

Carlile owns a Doberman Pinscher[46] and a horse.[47] She wears AURYN tattoos on her shoulders.[48]



Album cover for the self-titled debut Brandi Carlile
Year Album details Chart positions[49][50][51] Certifications
(sales thresholds)
2005 Brandi Carlile 80 1 18
2007 The Story
  • Released: April 3, 2007
  • Label: Columbia
41 10 58
  • US: 300,000
2009 Give Up the Ghost
  • Released: October 2, 2009
  • Label: Columbia
26 5 9
2011 Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony 63 5 14
2012 Bear Creek
  • Released: June 1, 2012
  • Label: Columbia
10 1 3
2015 The Firewatcher's Daughter 9 1 1
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

EP and demo[edit]


Cover art for "That Wasn't Me"
Year Single Chart positions Album
AUS NOR Portugal
2005 "Fall Apart Again" - - - - - - Brandi Carlile
2006 "What Can I Say" - - - - - -
2007 "The Story" 75 48 35 44 4 1 The Story
"Turpentine" - - - - - -
2009 "Dreams" - - - - - - Give Up the Ghost
2010 "That Year" - - - - - -
"Dying Day" - - - - - -
2012 "That Wasn't Me" - - - - - - Bear Creek
"Keep Your Heart Young" - - - - - -
2014 "The Eye" - - - - - - The Firewatcher's Daughter
"Wherever Is Your Heart" - - - - - -


Carlile won Seattle's City of Music Breakthrough Award for 2010.[53] The same year, she was a nominee for "Outstanding Music Artist", for her album Give Up the Ghost, at the 21st GLAAD Media Awards.[54]


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  6. ^ Aaron, Kace (June 2007). "Brandi Carlile". Harp Magazine. 
  7. ^ Cackett, Alan (March 2008). "Brandi Carlile". Maverick. p. 11. 
  8. ^ Telling, Gillian (March 24, 2005). "10 Artists to Watch: Brandi Carlile". Rolling Stone. p. 30. 
  9. ^ "Close-up: Singer Brandi Carlile. How a country singer with attention-deficit disorder is conquering America". London: April 20, 2008. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  10. ^ Scanlon, Tom (April 1, 2007). "Rising stars Jesse Sykes and Brandi Carlile thrill hometown". Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. p. 1. 
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  18. ^
  19. ^ [dead link]Frontier Touring Co.: Maroon 5
  20. ^ "Brandi Carlile to Give Up New Album Oct. 6". Paste. August 18, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2009. 
  21. ^ Abney, Andrea (May 31, 2009). "Young singer works with her idol". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Corporation). Retrieved July 7, 2009. 
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  25. ^ "Brandi Carlile: On Record". Brandi Carlile: On Record. American Songwriter. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Safe Haven (2013): Soundtrack and Complete List of Songs – WhatSong Soundtracks". Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  27. ^ "Half the Sky". 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  28. ^ Hanna Brooks Olsen (January 7, 2014). "The Head and the Heart, Brandi Carlile record love songs for forthcoming Starbucks album". KOMO 4 News. 
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  33. ^ "An Interview with Brandi Carlile". An Interview with Brandi Carlile. All Things New England. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  34. ^ a b "Brandi Carlile's Voice Will Grab You". Brandi Carlile's Voice Will Grab You. CMT News. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  35. ^ "biography section on Brandi Carlile's website". Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  36. ^ Teasing the crowd{}
  37. ^ Powers, Ann (October 17, 2009). "With 'Give Up the Ghost,' Brandi Carlile just may gain the cross-over fans she covets". Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  38. ^ Brandi Carlile and Girlfriend Catherine Shepherd are Engaged. June 2012.
  39. ^ Bendix, Trish (June 24, 2014). "Morning Brew - Brandi Carlile welcomes a daughter -". AfterEllen. Viacom International. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Trust for the Advancement of Responsible Artists". Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  41. ^ "The Official Brandi Carlile Site". Brandi Carlile. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  42. ^ Nicole Sipe (October 3, 2009). "Brandi Carlile to ‘Give up the Ghost’ at the Keswick". Montgomery News. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  43. ^ Kale, Wendy. "Brandi Carlile's 'Ghost' stories". Colorado Daily. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  44. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (December 17, 2009). "Attack inspires women to action". The Seattle Times. 
  45. ^ "iTunes – Music – Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: More Hope For The Holidays by Various Artists". November 9, 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  46. ^ "Naked snow angels, smiling dogs and Brandi Carlile's rad new album". August 31, 2009. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  47. ^ "Q&A: Brandi Carlile". April 4, 2006. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  48. ^ Brandi Carlile The Neverending Story[dead link]
  49. ^ "US Charts – Brandi Carlile". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  50. ^ "US Charts > Brandi Carlile". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  51. ^ "UK Charts > Brandi Carlile". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  52. ^ "Early Bird Orders For New Brandi Carlile Album To Get Plenty Of Worms". Radar Online. September 3, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2009. 
  53. ^ Seattle Times staff, Carlile, Schwarz, school jazz bandleaders honored by City of Music Awards, Seattle Times, 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  54. ^ "21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards – English Language Nominees". Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. 2010. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 

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