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October 17, 2009 - LA Times

With `Give Up the Ghost` Brandi Carlile just may gain the cross-over fans she covets


Pop Music Critic

October 17, 2009

Reporting from Birmingham, Ala. - Brandi Carlile speaks with a little bit of a twang. "It's just a way folks talk to each other when they're close together," said the 28-year-old songwriter and musician, who plays the Wiltern tonight in support of her third album "Give Up the Ghost." "It's my default. Like, when I first meet somebody, or feel uncomfortable, I get really down home."


The molasses in Carlile's diction signifies Southern. But anyone who gets past first impressions knows that Carlile grew up in the geographical opposite of the South. She still maintains a home in Ravensdale, Wash., a small town on the outskirts of Seattle more evocative of "Twilight" than of "Coal Miner's Daughter."

Then again, Ravensdale was a coal mining town before transforming into an exurb; it's on the great map of Everywhere, USA, where old shacks stand next to upscale new construction, and Starbucks is moving in on the Dairy Queen. Carlile is a child of that changing landscape; she honors tradition but keeps confronting the new.

Carlile grew up singing country music, sometimes in costume, performing "dressed like a rodeo clown" at places like the Puyallup Fair. But she chafed at those confines, removing her mom's Tammy Wynette records from the family turntable and replacing them with Patsy Cline albums.

"As soon as my parents would leave the house I would go in my room and put on her records and just sing loud, just trying to hit all the notes that she could sing," said Carlile, sitting for an interview inside her tour bus before performing a show in Birmingham earlier this week.

She discovered rock music, through Elton John, an artist whom she calls "my greatest hero of all time." Much to her amazement, John became her duet partner on her new album, collaborating with Carlile on the "Honky Chateau"-style rambler "Caroline." He's one of several prominent guests who appear on "Give Up the Ghost," including Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and her "childhood hero and dearest friend" Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Carlile has something more personal in common with John: She is gay. But unlike her idol, who suffered many travails in his long trip out of the closet, she feels that her sexuality has neither helped nor hindered her. "I don't think it factors in to the way people relate to the lyrics," she said.

She notes that, just as pop's categories are relaxing, so are those having to do with an artist's private life.

"I hope that somewhere in Small Town, USA, a 15-year-old kid looks to me as a role model the way I looked at the Indigo Girls and Elton John as role models," she said. "And I hope they also recognize that the reason why I don't have to have a lot of formality around it, the reason why I don't have to wear it on my sleeve and make a spectacle of it, is because there were people before me who paved the way so I wouldn't have to." More


November 2, 2009

Ghost Story

Out singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile discusses working with her childhood mentor, coming out publicly, and joining next year's Lilith Fair.

By Lesley Goldberg

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile has been out since she was 15, when she was the only out student in her high school. Only recently commenting in the American press about her sexuality, Carlile has skipped being identified as a queer folk performer. The 28-year-old Seattle resident, who found success with 2007's The Story — the title track of which was featured onGrey's Anatomy — just released her third album,Give Up the Ghost, which features guest vocalists including Elton John and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Having recently completed the first leg of her tour to support Ghost, Carlile paused to discuss working with her childhood mentor, coming out publicly, and joining next year's Lilith Fair. What does the title of Give Up the Ghost mean?

Brandi Carlile: It's about transcendence. The term "give up the ghost" is most commonly used to describe somebody dying — like if you die, you give up the ghost. You could see that as a really bleak record title, but I see it as a big transition. I have been made well aware the past few years how artists can take their whole lives to write their first record and they have all these experiences to draw from — first love, coming of age, loss — and they have all these things to write a record about — all these profound things — then they write their second record based on being on the road, which is something that's significant, but it's kind of an unrelatable topic. I wanted to make a record based on transcending myself; right now, at this point in my life I'm writing about bigger things than what's happening in the moment.

How has your success with The Story influenced this record?

It influenced Ghost in a lot of ways; not so much my success, but how we recorded influencedGive Up the Ghost musically: the fact that we recorded it live, using old instruments and a lot of T-Bone Burnett's philosophy. Of course, The Story doing well made me really nervous about whether or not Ghost would or wouldn't be good. 



September 29, 2009

Listen to "Give Up the Ghost" - Exclusive

Until Oct. 6, but has the exclusive premiere of the whole album now. Listen to "Give Up The Ghost" in its entirety, free.

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September 15, 2009

Brandi Carlile Taps Elton John, Chad Smith For New Album

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile's third album, "Give Up the Ghost," is a dream -- or dreams -- come true, in more ways than one.

The songs themselves, Carlile tells, were inspired by "really vivid, poignant dreams" that she'd log in a journal when she woke up and subsequently turn into songs. "Your subconscious tells you so many more interesting things than what you conscious mind tells you day to day," she contends.

Then there's the Oct. 6 album's guest list, which Carlile says went beyond even her wildest dreams.

The big catch was Elton John, who joined Carlile on the track "Caroline." "He's my greatest influence since I was really young, about 11 years old," says Carlile, who also used John associate Paul Buckmaster for string arrangements on the album. " 'Tumbleweed Connection' is maybe my favorite record of all time, that or 'Captain Fantastic...' We felt like 'Caroline' had the same funky piano vibe that he had all the way through 'Tumbleweed Connection.' We went through the channels; I knew the worse he could do was say no. He didn't say no. He said yes.

"He responded directly to me, called me on the phone one morning. I was just like, 'Man, this guy, he is just no bullshit. He is so cool...' He was unbelievably funny and warm and stuck around for a long time after he was finished and schooled me on new music that was coming around the band. I've never been so inspired."

Carlile also tapped Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers for the "...Ghost" sessions, and she shared the vocal mic with Indigo Girls' Amy Ray, who Carlile calls "my dearest friend," on the song "Looking Out."

"She actually sang the background vocal live in the booth with me, which was really cool," Carlile says. "A couple times she laughed at me really hard when I missed some notes. It was really fun."

Carlile is promoting the album with her Give Up the Ghost Traveling Show, which runs through Oct. 24. She'll perform on the Cayamo: A Journey Through Song cruise in February and is also planning European dates.

May 28, 2009

How Brandi Carlile Saved My Daughters from Disney

By Josh Jackson 

You might assume that as editor of Paste, my kids have grown up on a steady diet of Flaming Lips and Death Cab For Cutie. But somewhere along the way, my cultural influence over them was overwhelmed by the folks at Disney. Roly Poly Olie eventually gave way to Hannah Montana, Zack & Cody and the horrendous Wizards of Waverly Place. High School Musical begat Camp Rock and Demi Lovato. Someone told them that they could find Radio Disney on the AM dial, and I'd have to endure Selena Gomez and Jesse McCartney through waves of static.

It's not that I didn't try. Blessed were those rare CDs we all loved—They Might Be Giants' No, the For the Kids series with Wilco and Aimee Mann, everything from Ralph's World. And every Pastesampler seemed to have a few songs they'd request on repeat. But no matter how many mix CDs I'd make for them, their first mp3 playlists couldn't have made the Disney execs smile any wider. (By the way, how is it that a record label can operate a radio station that plays almost nothing but its own artists over public airwaves?) Eventually, I just tried to use my influence to steer them towards the best of Tween fare—artists like Taylor Swift who actually write their own (very good) songs.

But when our 10-year-old Jordan started to sound a little like the snotty teenagers she was watching on TV, Hannah Montana and Wizards were outlawed. Soon after, we were fortunate enough to be guests on the Cayamo cruise earlier, and I made the family a mix of Cayamo artists for the drive down—Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards, Over the Rhine, John Hiatt. But it was Brandi Carlile they kept wanting to hear. By the time we saw her concert, my girls knew most of the words. At Emma's ninth birthday party (a lock-in at the Paste office) she cranked up "The Story" for her friends like it was the latest Miley Cyrus hit. The requests for Radio Disney stopped, and I overheard Jordan telling her friends she doesn't think Cyrus is a very good singer anymore.

So when Brandi recently came within half a mile of our house last week to play a pair of intimate performances at Eddie's Attic, I took them to the early show. It was the first real club concert for my kids. Eddie's has a no-talking-during-the-performance rule, and my usually very loud children abided. They sat patiently through a great opening set from Gregory Alan Isakov, eagerly awaiting Brandi. They mouthed all the words except when they couldn't resist singing along. When Brandi started clapping, they clapped. When Brandi told the audience to stand, Emma stood up on her stool with her hands in the air.

Jordan wrote her first song a couple of days after the show. She won't sing it to me yet, but the lyrics are great. She began guitar lessons earlier this year and is headed to girls rock camp this summer. Emma is saving up her money for a guitar now. When they think of a future rock star, the image is of a down-to-earth Carlile instead of a glammed-up Ashley Tisdale.

Disney isn't completely out of the picture. We still let them watch The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and we all love the brilliant Phineas and Ferb—the best thing Disney has done since The Little Mermaid. Where their love for Brandi's music leads them next is anybody's guess. There are a lot of pitfalls out there worse than Hannah Montana (they did start singing a Katy Perry tune a couple months ago). But right now I love it when even my four-year-old will ask for "cruise music" and we can crank up Brandi's "live from Paste" tracks and sing our hearts out.”

December 1, 2008

Brandi Carlile With Seattle Symphony

By Kim Ruehl for Seattle Sound Magazine

The cellos start with dissonant chords in rhythms akin to mosquitoes buzzing. The whole orchestra builds then cuts out to let the harp take the intro. Focus turns to Brandi Carlile, who takes a slow stroll to the mic, cups it between both hands, closes her eyes and—exercising her skillful balance of power and restraint—sings the first verse of Elton John’s “60 Years On.” There must have been a moment in the imagination of a tween-aged Carlile when she envisioned her big voice one day dropping her in front of an orchestra. Now at the age of 27, here she is center stage at Benaroya hall, backed by the Seattle Symphony—under the direction of composer Sean O’Loughlin—who are playing the original Buckmaster score for her favorite Elton John song. More

November 30, 2008

Maple Valley’s Brandi Carlile delivers soaring set, new material with Seattle Symphony

By Ernest Jasmin for The News Tribune

Brandi Carlile was back home Saturday night, fresh from a batch of European dates. And it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was most special about Maple Valley songbird’s homecoming show at Benaroya Hall with Seattle Symphony. Was it the opportunity to preview three new songs from the immensely talented singer-songwriter’s forthcoming third studio album? Was it hearing already breathtaking numbers “Follow” and “Turpentine,” given sweeping, new life by arrangements featuring the Symphony? Or was it just the opportunity to have that powerful, bell-clear soprano tugging at the ol’ heart strings again? More

September 19, 2008 - The Freshman

Brandi Carlile's "The Story" wins The Freshman honors for the week of August 15, 2008.  For more go to mtvu's  "The Freshman".

Brandi Goes Big With GM Commercial

On Friday, August 8th, during a commercial break from the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Brandi Carlile's hit song "The Story" was heard by millions as it provided the soundtrack for General Motors' newest 60-second spot showcasing its line of eco-friendly vehicles - including the Chevy Volt.

For many it was the first time they'd heard Brandi's signature vocals. Shortly after the debut of this GM commercial, the internet was abuzz with people seeking more information about the singer and her story. Perhaps what has surprised those "naysayers" who rushed to label the band a "sellout" is that the band will donate every penny made from the GM commercial to support grassroots environmental organizations in an effort to bring an awareness to the amazing efforts being made to discover alternative fuel sources, keep jobs in America, and protect our planet!

To read Brandi's complete blog about "Why The Story is in a GM Commercial" visit Brandi's MySpace or

From Paste Magazine:  Brandi Carlile speaks out about, justifies GM commerical

By Veronica Sepe on August 14, 2008 2:40 PM

In recent years, it's become increasingly common for musicians to eke their way out of the indiesphere by planting their songs in, gasp, mainstream advertisements for major corporations. And while it may be disarming for music snobs to hear Sam Beam's serene voice coming not from their iPods, but from a commercial hawking M&Ms, everybody needs to make a living.

What's not so common is when artists provide explanation to their respective commercial endeavors. But when singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile's song "The Story" was recently used in a GM ad, she did just that. So before you get on your high horse about SUVs and global warming, listen to Ms. Carlile's reasoning:

"When GM first approached our band to use 'The Story' in their 2008 Olympic ad...I promptly and politely declined. But, when they came back to us and offered to involve us in an ad campaign promoting hybrids, biofuel, bio hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell cars and...the Chevy Volt, I felt the need to think twice about having the opportunity to be a part of a huge American car company creating an ad campaign for environmentally responsible cars."

Carlile went on to say that the group would be donating all money made by the ad to various environmental organizations that support alternative energy sources. In short, Carlile not only explained her choice, but also hurled some substantial weight against anyone prepping their betrayed cry of "sell out."

[May 12, 2008]

Brandi Carlile chats to I Like Music

Eartha Kitt sings her praises, kd lang would choose her to play her in a movie and the Indigo Girls asked her to sing on their album.

Sacha Whitmarsh finds out why there is something so very special about Brandi Carlile.

She's in the UK to promote her first album release here The Story with a short tour. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album is a showcase of the two sides of Brandi - the country girl with a giant indie swagger. The title track is a vocal triumph. It starts slowly, voice soaring gracefully but menacingly over gentle strumming, then dives like a hunting bird of prey as her trademark voice-break kickstarts the song into a passionate, anthemic belter. It's the strongest track on the album and will surely be a single. More


[December 6, 2007]

Singer-Songwriter Brandi Carlile Performs First U.K. Date at the Gibson Guitar Studio in London

Brandi Carlile recently performed an intimate showcase gig in the Gibson Guitar Studio in London’s West End to a specially invited music industry and press audience.  More

[September 13, 2007]

Perfectly Flawed

"Nobody wants to hear perfection, because nobody's perfect," Brandi Carlile declares over the phone as she lies on her lawn in Ravensdale, Washington — just outside the Starbucks capital . "It's something I've learned playing live shows, too. People want you to fuck up."

The country-fried singer-songwriter, who's as obsessed with the Grand Ole Opry as she is Elton John, is in the midst of a freak break in her touring schedule as the headliner of VH1's "You Oughta Know" concert series. The thing is, you should've known about her two years ago when she released her eponymous debut, but, for Johnny-come-latelies, Carlile just released her sophomore effort, a spectacular array of 13 tracks that documents the past 10 years of her life. Rightly called The Story, the album was recorded (imperfections abounding) to two-inch tape with the help of producer T Bone Burnett.  More from the Phoenix New Times

[September 10, 2007]

Review: Carlile spins convincing 'Story'

It's been quite a few years since we've seen a new female pop star with as much potential as Brandi Carlile.

The 26-year-old Washington state native is so loaded in that regard that it seems almost unnecessary to bring gender into the equation. I mention it because the cannibalistic pop music world is particularly hard on young female artists and it's discouraging to note how many get mercilessly eaten up, then left for dead, by the

industry.  More from the Mercury News

[June 3, 2007] Music Education Fund

In honor of Brandi and as a gift on her 26th birthday, the members of donated over $3000 to a newly formed fund at the Maple Valley Creative Arts Council.  The members of are thrilled to offer their support to the Tahoma Junior High School music program and hope this initial donation will spur an ongoing incentive to support music education and the arts in Maple Valley.   To read more or to make a donation visit The Maple Valley Creative Arts Council

[June 2, 2007]

Singer delivers a concert gift to audience on her birthday

Sorry, folks. You're reading this with a very reasonable expectation: to find out what fast-rising Seattle pop star Brandi Carlile sounded like, Friday night at the Moore Theater.

Sadly, you're not going to get what you deserve, here. It's going to take a much better writer than this one to describe the urgent power that surges from her throat, or to break down her octave range, or explain the nuances in her deliberate hesitations and catches. More from the Seattle Times

[May 11, 2007]

All The World's A stage: Brandi Carlile "The Story"

Inflated balloons rest on a red carpet in the hallway, as if a party had just ended a few hours before. The auditorium is empty but it sparkles with life, and mysterious characters wander through the aisles. Slowly the lights come on and the air is filled with music, but it's still not clear what is real and what is imagined in this strange setting. More

[April 27, 2007]

"Anatomy" link propels sales of Carlile's album

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile's self-titled 2005 Columbia debut had a relatively quiet rollout. Released on the label's Red Ink imprint, the album, which has sold 74,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, never made it onto the charts.

Two years later, Carlile's follow-up disc, "The Story," is a completely different, well, story. Released April 3, the album opened at No. 76 on the Billboard 200 and made an impressive jump to No. 41 in its second week. More from Reuters

[April 11, 2007]

A New Album, A New Story

Once upon a time, an unknown artist named Brandi Carlile put out an album entitled The Story. Even saying her name does not really ring any bells, since Carlile and her music have been quietly sitting in the corner, waiting for people to discover them. Unfortunately for the Washington native, her fabulous voice and poetic lyrics will only be enjoyed by those who take the time to seek her out. Unlike many artists, Carlile is not in your face with reality shows and other self-promotional schemes; she relies on word-of-mouth to expand her fan base. More from the TorchOnline

[April 8, 2007]

Grey's New 'Story'

"Grey's Anatomy" now has a reputation as the place for viewers to discover new artists and bands, such as Snow Patrol, The Fray and KT Tunstall. During a one-hour special on April 12, the show will shine its big spotlight on singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, whose fiercely sung love song "The Story" is "Grey's" next music video. More from The New York Post


[April 5, 2007]

Brandi Carlile's voice is full of spirit

MIDWAY through Brandi Carlile's 19-song set Tuesday at the Troubadour, her tight-fitting suit jacket began to creep open at the neck — which was bad, Carlile explained, because she wasn't wearing anything underneath it. Per rock-show protocol, this elicited enthusiastic cheers from the capacity crowd. "Hey, I'm not that kind of girl," the 24-year-old Seattle native said with a laugh. More from the LA Times