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Brandi Carlile takes off “training wheels” on new album

You can hear our extended conversation with Brandi and
another exclusive song performed at the 97.3 KIRO FM
studios Sunday at 3 p.m. on Seattle Sounds with co-hosts
Chris Kornelis, Seattle Weekly music editor and Josh Kerns

Brandi Carlile has always been a home girl of sorts,
never straying from from her roots in the tiny Maple
Valley town of Ravensdale even as she achieved worldwide
fame. And the acclaimed singer-songwriter gladly wears
her heart on her sleeve on her new album “Bear Creek.”

“We wanted to make a record that was literally and
figuratively close to home,” Carlile says during a visit
to the 97.3 KIRO FM studios Tuesday afternoon for a
special live performance on Seattle Sounds, airing Sunday
at 3 p.m.

The album was named for the studios in Woodinville
where the album was recorded, a relatively short hop from
the area where Carlile grew up and her extended family
that now includes collaboraters Phil and Tim Hanseroth
call home.

It’s a major departure. After working with iconic
producers T-Bone Burnette and Rick Rubin on her previous
albums, Carlile and company decided to produce the record
themselves, which she said felt like “taking off the
training wheels.”

“You find yourself not doing things, not taking the
initiative, not being ambitious or playing instruments you
don’t really know how to play because you want to impress
them with what you know how to do best. So as soon as
there’s an absence, that’s when you really experiment for
the first time,” Carlile says of the experience doing it
all alone.

The freedom to do what she wants was hard earned after
years of playing wherever and whenever she could,
including busking at Pike Place Market, which she credits
for helping her become the performer she is now.


Brandi Carlile talks about her new album between playing a
couple songs at KIRO Radio. (

“It was less about (making money) and more about what
it is that makes people physically stop what they’re
doing. And once you can learn that busking you can take
that into bars and you can make people put down their
beers and you can get into restaurants and make them put
down their forks. And then in a theater they’re like
sitting ducks and that’s what you want to have in your
tool belt,” Carlile said.

But she admits there were some stinkers along the way,
including her regular run at a couple of local Duke’s
Chowder Houses around town.

“Just because people weren’t going out to listen to
music, so they were kind of pissed when they were just
eating their steamers and I’m just like singing “Sweet
Home Alabama” as loud as I could,” she laughs.

While breaking through in such a cutthroat business was
hard, finding her way amidst the challenges and prejudices
as a gay young woman growing up in a small town was even
harder. So now Carlile embraces her sexuality and
celebrity in hopes of helping others. She’s taken an
active role in helping support the upcoming referendum to
defeat opponents of same sex marriage threatening to
overturn a bill legalizing gay marriage in

“I wouldn’t call it a responsibility, it’s not nearly
that ominous. It’s just kind of a privilege to be honest
with you. I mean I was influenced by so many gay artists
and celebrities and people in the public eye as a teenager
living in a small town that I feel like it’s an honor to
get to kind of be a role model in that way for other kids
that might live in small towns, or that might need to know
that when they grow up they’re allowed to get married,”
Carlile says.

And if or when that day comes, you can rest assured
you’ll find Carlile in the same small town, with her
family and friends close by, making what some would call
her own kind of country music that shines through on “Bear

“To me it just means rural music. So I think in that
sense I make almost exclusively country records. But I
consider us a rock and roll band and the whole
compartmentalization of genres is so bizarre to me I
always kind of thought that Johnny Cash was rock and roll
and Bob Dylan was country,” Carlile laughs.

-Josh Kerns/Seattle Sounds co-host

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