Here’s what we know about Brandi Carlile: Her lung power is a bigger threat to humanity than any nuclear war; she’s cool enough to sing with Elton John, who recorded a track with the singer for her last studio album, 2009’s Give Up the Ghost; and she’s totally girl crazy. Carlile’s fourth LP, Bear Creek, named after the secluded studio outside of Seattle she and her twin collaborators recorded in, takes her further into the Americana genre she’s gradually pursued since dropping her debut seven years ago.
Of all your albums, Bear Creek feels most indicative of your musical influences as a child.
It doesn’t surprise me. It’s the first record we’ve made outside the boundaries of working at a faraway studio with a major producer. It really did feel like the kind of record you make if you are a kid having a sleepover and the parents aren’t there. We ended up doing things that we didn’t expect.
“Just Kids” sounds like nothing you’ve recorded before. Can you tell me about that song?
I call that my 3 o’clock in the morning song, because after the session would end and everybody would leave, I would work on this crazy song that I had been tossing around in my head that no one got. I couldn’t get anybody to get it because it was too difficult for me to play.
You always come back to songs about childhood. Why do you feel a connection to that time?
I probably always will. I’m super in touch with my inner 8-year-old. I have The Neverending Story tattooed on my shoulders, and that’s just how I live my life – so I’ll probably always write from that vantage point. I hope I don’t ever lose that, because that’s my compass.
Are your twin collaborators, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, big kids too?
Oh yeah. We get together and catch frogs and things like that.
Is that what you did at Bear Creek?
Quite a bit. We went down to the creek a lot, and the frogs were insane. What you hear at the end of the record was just a really great microphone that we ran out the back window and down to the creek to record the frogs, which is difficult, believe it or not.
Why is Bear Creek significant?
That whole area of the northwest is significant to me. It’s a rural northwestern recording studio built from a 100-year-old barn – more similar to my living situation. It’s really near where the twins and I grew up; we all lived in the area, and we’d all get up every morning and carpool or just stay overnight there.
Many of your childhood influences were country artists, and you’ve gradually moved into that genre. Have you considered doing a country record?
Yeah, I’ve thought about it a lot. Someday I’d love to do a country duets record. Country is just full of duets and has the best duets there are. I’d love to do an album of duets with current country artists that I love – and then some of the older country artists that are hanging around Nashville that probably wouldn’t give me the time of day. But I would beg them.
Being a lesbian, do you think the country genre would welcome you with open arms?
I haven’t made any strategic moves or decisions to move toward a more country-defined flavor in my music or in my lifestyle. I love country music so much because of the way it sounds and because of its traditions, but also because it really does speak to the way I live when I am in my truck and I’m going to get hay for the horse and I’m chasing chickens around the yard.
My sexual orientation has very little to do with that, so I expect the country music industry to catch up to that sentiment – that even lesbians have chickens and horses and problems finding work and all the things that they sing about, and they will catch up to that eventually. I am of the strong belief that where you stand out most is exactly where you’re needed.
Next: Carlile recognizes her big gay following
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