KIRO Radio's Josh Kerns talks local music
Seattle Sounds

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.

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Brandi Carlile talks about her new album between playing a couple songs at KIRO Radio. (MyNorthwest.com/Alyssa Kleven)

"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 Washington.

"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 Creek."

"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

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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