Star of Americana – Brandi Carlile comes to BeachLife Ranch
by Rachel Reeves
When Brandi Carlile was in high school, she had never met an openly gay person. Everyone in his town of Ravensdale, Washington, which at the last census had 555 people and 257 households, went to church.
Carlile came out when she was 14, inspired by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ public outing. The pastor of her church made her an example by asking her in front of her peers if she “practiced homosexuality”.
The now very famous singer-songwriter recounts in her bestseller, Broken horses: a memoir, that she had the experience of feeling alone, isolated and humiliated by finding her own tribe. She dropped out of high school and dedicated her life to music – a saving grace that had permeated her childhood. His mother sang in a country band and his parents always listened to country music. Carlile first sang on stage at the age of eight.
At 17, she learned the guitar and bravely entered the world with a voice that New York Times would later describe as possessing “surprising range”. Soon she was playing country music in bars in Seattle, about an hour’s drive from her city.
On that tour, she met Phil and Tim Hanseroth, identical twin brothers who played in a band called Fighting Machinists. When the band broke up, Carlile, with characteristic bravado, approached the brothers and asked them to be in a band with her.
Soon, she and the twins were opening for big names like Dave Matthews Band and India.Arie. In 2004, when she was in her early twenties, Carlile signed with Columbia Records. Her self-titled album catapulted her to fame a year later.
A second album, The story, peaked at No. 5 on the iTunes Music Store’s Most Purchased Songs list. This story has snowballed into a story about a successful music career that spans seven studio albums, six Grammy Awards, 17 Grammy nominations, a memoir that perched at No. 1 on the New York Times’ list of best-selling books, a spot on Barack Obama’s year-end reading list, and a record for being the first female songwriter to have two Grammy-nominated songs in one year. (Those songs were “Right on Time” and the song Carlile recorded with Alicia Keys called “A Beautiful Noise”.)
Carlile’s music is a fusion of folk, country, pop and rock. She is happy to be classified as an Americana; When the Grammys moved her music from Americana to the pop category, she wrote on Instagram that she was disappointed because part of her mission is to represent queer people in rural America who “grew up on music country and roots but are repeatedly and consistently rejected”. by the correlative culture. She called Americana the “island of misfit toys” and herself “such a misfit”.
In her acceptance speech at the 2019 Grammy Awards, where she was the most nominated woman, she expressed her gratitude to the American music community for changing her life.
“I feel like [Americana] is a genre that looks around and notices people that you don’t see anywhere else, and it selects people that it thinks don’t belong, and that gives them a platform,” a- she declared. “The way I was embraced… comforted me as a gay kid from Seattle.”
Musically, Carlile is difficult to categorize; his voice is country but his music is rock, and sometimes borders on pop as well. The connective tissue through all of his songs is his emotionality, the way his voice makes you feel.
“What’s it about Brandi Carlile’s voice that gets you?” NPR once reported. “The power? Her range? Maybe it’s the way she can break a note[.]”
His lyrics are sensitive and thoughtful. His direct acknowledgment of people who feel like they don’t fit in has earned him a loyal fan base that goes by the name of “The Bramily”.
Carlile’s folk-rock song “The Joke,” perhaps best known because there’s a YouTube video of her performing it in a Tennessee cave, has become something of an anthem for the queer community. “Never let them steal your joy…let them laugh while they can, let them spin, let them scatter in the wind,” she sings. “I was at the cinema, I saw how it ends. And the joke is on them. Fans often write in online forums that Carlile makes them feel “seen”.
Critics are drawn to her soul and the strength of her vocal talent. The boston globe described her as possessing “emotional intelligence, thoughtful clarity and, most importantly, the most arresting female voice in pop this side of Adele”. USA today described his music as having “a big heart, one that responds with love, not fear.” Paste Magazine described it as “a hurricane of lung power”.
Today, Carlile and his wife, Catherine Shepherd, raise their daughters, Elijah and Evangeline, on 90 acres of verdant Washington land in the Cascade Mountains, where Carlile’s bandmates and their families also live. They call it “The Compound” and tell reporters that doing life together – fishing, cooking, playing with the kids – is fodder for the best music. A new album came out of quarantine at The Compound in 2021.
Almost two decades after rising to fame, Carlile continues to give both her music and her money to people who feel like they live on the fringes. Country music star Bonnie Raitt has described her as “the den mother” for “causes”.
Carlile’s foundation, Looking Out Foundation, has donated over $2 million over several years to organizations such as The Trevor Project, which focuses on LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention efforts, and Campaign Zero. , which works to combat police violence in America. She also owns a wine label, XOBC, which channels profits to organizations fighting laws that discriminate against people who identify as gay.
A writer for The stream once wrote that when Carlile sings, “you are a believer”. Whether it’s the possibility of progress or the hope of human connection or the power of music, Carlile wants you to believe in something.
Brandi Carlile performs at BeachLife Ranch on September 18.