I’ve known who Brandi Carlile is consciously since about 2010 when a friend fell in love with her wife and they initially bonded over a mutual love of Brandi. The thing about Brandi fans (aka the Bramily) is that they are VERY into Brandi Marie Carlile. I witnessed it and I didn’t get it.
Prior to 2010 I’m pretty sure I had heard Brandi’s music around in my Lilith Fair, feminist festivals, fan of Indigo Girls since I was a pre-teen life. Somehow she never opened for Indigo Girls when I saw them. As the years wore on I gathered a few songs I like–I even played Every Time I Hear that Song on the second episode of my current podcast. The Mother really spoke to me, too!
Her song The Story only pierced my heart when Dolly Rebecca Parton covered it. (Which remains my favorite version and a song I like to tuck myself in to.) Turns out Brandi produced that version in the middle of the night (neither of those prolific women seem to sleep much)!
The Spotify robots are my favorite AI and they know me better than my therapist. They have been trying to set me up with Brandi Marie Carlile for many years. She autoplays all the time after songs I already like, and they pushed a bunch of projects she produced (and I loved before I knew she produced them!).
Thanks to the Spotify Robots I was an avowed Highwomen fan as soon as that album came out. I didn’t realize Brandi or Maren Morris (who I enjoy greatly, listen to all her albums, perfect for forest walks) were in the super group!
I have always wanted a house with a crowded table. (Insert all the grief feels about being a bachelorette who eats over her kitchen sink.) I recognized Yola in the title track of their first album and just didn’t realize who the Highwomen were. I just thought they were a group! I forgot that Maren Morris was blonde for awhile and did not recognize her!
The Secret Sisters “Late Bloomer” another Brandi Carlile production is an amazing song if you, too, carry the grief of the bachelorette or perpetual entrepreneur or whatever late blooming you’re doing. (You’re not too old, it’s not too late.)
I’m sure there’s some Divine Plan around me finally “getting” Brandi by Fourth Pandemic Summer.
I was inspired to listen to her audiobook Broken Horses this Spring based on the recommendation of one of my favorite internet moms on Instagram dot com. I could see her fall in love with Brandi after that book and start using her music frequently.
I love a mid-career memoir! Success leaves clues! Dolly Rebecca Parton’s 1994 My Life and Other Unfinished Business (linking to bootleg audiobook on you tube dot com) on cassette tape changed my life in 2008. I listened to it so many times I had to buy another used copy because a tape warped. I bought the paperback so I could reference quotes. That’s where I went from “Dolly fan” to totally in love with and devoted to Dolly Rebecca Parton.
When I started Brandi’s book I got kind of annoyed by the music at the end of each chapter. I listen to memoirs as I wind down at night (reducing my screen time for sleep hygiene–self care!) and if I wanted to listen to music I would choose that. (Someday I’ll treat you to my rant about the chimes in Eckhart Tolle’s audiobook for the Power of Now.)
As I reached the later chapters I had already walked through the gates of my consuming love for Brandi Marie and I LOVED the music. In a life defined by her music the DEPTH of the solo acoustic guitar and piano were such a value add to the audiobook. I immediately listened to the memoir a second time. And as she got to stories in her career that I could look up on you tube dot com I would look them up.
I seriously cannot watch this performance of Dolly Parton at the Newport Folk Festival without sobbing. In her memoir Brandi tells the story of coordinating the Dolly surprise and Dolly walking backstage covered up with her little fancy high heels. AND she tells the story of ASKING Dolly and continuing to ask her until she got the yes.
Since I read the memoir a second time I’m now on a deep dive of everything I can find–podcasts, interviews, old performances, etc… The Bramily has done a fine job of fan curation of Brandi’s herstory and all sorts of glimmers. And Brandi has done a marvelous job of saying YES to so many opportunities to share.
There is so much I admire about Brandi. Her relentless pursuit of whatever is on her heart (asking for help and persistently following up is one of my lifetime lessons). Her attitude–she said in this interview that she has always been excited at every moment of her career. That gratitude energy is big time important for quality of life and law of attraction.
She started out busking in Seattle and suggests it as a great way to learn crowd work. She connects so well with her audiences and the people she duets with. I love that she looks her fellow performers in the eye as she duets with them. In her you tube dot com documentary about the Pindrop tour (I loved this as an addition to the reflection in her memoir) she talks about how much she wants to be a conduit for love.
“I love people. That’s what I was put on this earth to do–love people. It might sound a little bit cheesy but I don’t really give a fuck. If I can stand on stage and have a theoretical esoteric conversation with 2,000 people what’s better than that?”
That is the motivation right there for amazing art–storytelling, songwriting, performance, producing, mothering, creating home and family.
I love how she (like Indigo Girls) is not afraid to speak truth to pseudo power. She stands up for what she believes in, and as a queer who loves country and has been putting together country queer gatherings throughout my life I love that she is committed to the Americana genre and won’t be put into pop categories.
When asked in an interview about whether the Highwomen will have another album she says their focus is on platforming other minority artists in Americana. And I witness her do it!
This summer I’ve watched Brandi hit 1 Million followers on Instagram dot com, her Spotify monthly listeners leap from 4 million to 6 million in a month (she’s opening for p!nk in giant stadiums) If anyone thinks she’s an overnight success it’s taken her nearly 30 years. Grit is one of the most determining factors for success and Brandi embodies it!
She’s now someone I absolutely don’t miss on social media, I keep her in my search history so I don’t miss her stories (don’t let the algorithm boss you around, decide who you want to consume on social mediia!). Her newest album In These Silent Days is incredible, and she has a second version “In the Canyon Haze” that is somehow even better. When an artist is peaking in their most recent work, for me that is true Greatness. (You’re only as good as your last at bat.) That’s something I want to keep paying attention to when its caught my spirit because there’s more unfolding for me to witness.
Brandi has absolutely “caught my spirit” and I can only say that about maybe 6 people.
If I was given the opportunity to interview Brandi Marie Carlile for my podcast I would first talk to her about her relationship with God. She speaks of her faith in the memoir and here and there but I want to know about her devotion and spiritual practice. I bet we could talk for an hour on that alone.
I want to ask about asking for help. Relentlessness. Times she heard a “no” and times she’s given a “no.” When you’re not hearing no you’re not asking enough, and being able to give a no means your yes has real meaning!
I want to ask her about building family. “Brandi Carlile” is legally a band that is a trio. Brandi is a double Gemini (moon and sun, we don’t know her birth time on the internet so her rising is a mystery*) and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she shifted from playing with her “Irish twin” brother to playing with a pair of actual twins who are incredibly talented.
I think she has leveraged the emotional support and psychological safety of that stage/family relationship (she considers them her brothers) to perform her best and pour her love out to the crowd regardless of the slings, arrows and set backs that keep a lot of us from persisting.
Her reflection in the memoir about her Grandmother Dolores speaking faith over her and how she was born for greatness I think has a lot to do with her perseverance and vision for her life. I want more Grandma Dolores stories!
I love her love story with Catherine and I want more of her lessons in marriage and family on the road. I became a digital nomad just so that I could someday be a family on the road for part of the year.
I also love the way she lovingly refers to her “faults” in her memoir. Calling herself objectively bad with money. We are only able to love others as much as we can love the hardest parts of ourselves to love. Brandi is a genius at love. I want to know more about her ongoing relationship with money cuz we both have Chiron in Taurus which is about money wounding!
And I want know about her woods! She grew up in the woods I walk in every day (she grew up and lives about 120 miles from me, and our mycelial and tree networks are connected!). I am so in love with these woods and want to know her favorite plants and seasons. And where she likes to go on Whidbey Island which is very close to me!
I do not know why I was so primed to love Brandi for decades and it took me so long to get here but I’m grateful. The love she pours into her audience is felt. I live near Seattle so her fans are very concentrated here. When I’m at a lesbian potluck and Brandi’s name comes up I hear the rising spirit in the voices and the love from her fans.
Towards the end of summer I got added to an HBOMax account by friends who are family when my aunt was suddenly really sick and probably dying (she did pass, two weeks ago). I remember feeling all out of sorts that day but finally getting to watch Brandi Carlile In the Canyon Haze Live from Laurel Canyon lifted my spirit so much. This is what great art and digging into your curiosities can do–lift you up emotionally when you need it.
I am so grateful Brandi exists and never gave up! I hope this inspires you to go stream her stuff or read the memoir or deep dive and figure out what Brandi helps light up in you!
*If I were to guess her rising it’s Pisces. Brandi can be anything, she’s a shapeshifter, she’s emotionally gifted and brilliant at the psychic connection with her audience and otherwise doesn’t have Pisces in her chart. Her Mercury in Cancer could be why she’s so gifted at emotional connection and communication. Her Mars in Taurus is definitely the tenacity for pursuing her career and her epic work habit. I think it grounds her Gemini curiosity. Her Venus in Gemini is definitely where her shifting aesthetic shines, but I think she hasn’t looked better than she does now. Her swishy masculine style is a favorite of mine!
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