Need To Know: Brandi Carlile


By Chris Azzopardi

Well, talk about this then, because I don't think a lot of people know that you actually did background vocals for Melissa Etheridge's Lucky album.
Yeah, I did -- you're right! I'm not even sure she knows it! [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] I'm actually not sure she knows it, because I was working out in a studio doing background vocals for people -- like an ambiguous voice, basically -- and her CD came through, and it was just something to sing onto. So I'm not even sure she knows I'm singing onto it.

You've met a couple of your idols -- the Indigo Girls and Elton John. But I understand you want to meet Ellen DeGeneres and perform on her show.
Oh yeah, I would love to meet Ellen. She's very special to me. I've always been a fan of Ellen, since she was doing stand-up -- before I knew she was gay. My parents knew I was a huge fan of Ellen back in the day, when I was a teenager. I think that's when they started to worry. [Laughs.] I remember I taped her coming out episode and I had it on VHS hidden with all my other tapes with a fake label on it that said 'David's Softball Game.'

When did you actually tell them?
When I was 15. I've been out for a long time.

When I first saw you in 2005, you performed for an obnoxious group of drunks. How does it feel to be able to play at venues for people who actually appreciate your music?
I'll tell you, not a show goes by where I don't think about it. It always feels completely overwhelming. I can't even let it all in, it's such a big deal to me.

Is the 'drunken screams' reference on the song 'Dying Day' a little dig at all those trashed people you used to play for?
I bet it is. Tim [one of the Hanseroth twins, Carlile's bandmates] wrote that song, so I think he's probably definitely taking a little shot at them.

What was it like meeting and working with Elton John on 'Caroline'?
It was amazing, and I was so nervous about it and so full of things to say that were going to be really profound and really exciting because Elton influenced me in so many ways, personally and musically. And when I came around the corner and he was sitting there in that room and I saw him, I couldn't think of a single one of them. But I was very pleased that he was wearing hot pink sunglasses. All I ever wanted was to sit in a room with Elton John when he's wearing hot pink sunglasses.

You had a bit of an obsession on him growing up, didn't you?
Yeah. That's putting it mildly.

When I saw you on this past tour, you admitted to having a hard time writing happy songs ' and even when you do there's this slight cynicism or pessimism. Why don't happy songs come easy to you?
I don't know. I guess I'm a happy person, but that's not really the place I create art from. But, of course, being a control freak, I can't stand that I can't create from a content place, so I forced myself to do that on this record with a couple of songs, particularly 'If There Was No You.'

That one and 'Caroline.'
And 'Caroline,' right. That was easy actually, because the truth is I wrote that song in a state of absolutely missing (my niece) Caroline so badly that I couldn't think straight.

You recently did a video for Borders where you went around the store and picked out your favorite albums and books. What else interests you?
I spend a lot of time fishing. I'm a fisherman -- a fisherwoman. I watch the Food Network and I try to cook all the things on there. I'm a food enthusiast.

I bet the twins like having you around.
Yeah, on tour we will stop on certain days off and get a hotel room with a kitchen in it, and we cook for our whole band and crew. That's part of our thank you to everybody for being on the road with us. And by we I mean me. [Laughs.]

For more info on Carlile, including a full list of tour dates, check out her website.

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