Brandi Carlile is a road warrior. Since her self-titled debut in 2005, she and bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth have toured non-stop, building a sterling reputation as a great live act and recording four more albums, including the newly released, Bear Creek. For the first time Carlile took on producing duties, along with the Hanseroths and Trina Shoemaker, an acknowledgement of both the strength of her own musical vision and having learned from two of the most acclaimed producers in the industry -- Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett.
Known for bringing an earthy, passionate voice to deeply personal songs of her own crafting, Carlile is also unafraid to put her own indelible spin on the songs of such icons as Elton John, Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen. If you've ever rocked out to her foot-stomping "Folsom Prison Blues," you know what I mean. She doesn't just cover a song, she owns it. The respect and admiration she has for her musical heroes comes burning through.
Ahead of Carlile's stop in Louisville, she carved some time out of a busy schedule to answer a few questions about the new album and the show she's bringing to the Iroquois Amphitheater next Saturday, August 11th.
Q: I read that you took on producing duties for Bear Creek. What did you learn from the experience that you will take with you into the next project? Would you like to produce for other artists?
Brandi: The biggest challenges at the time felt like time and scheduling constraints. I had nerves about the organization of the process without an overseer but after the first day and with Trina’s influence, I realized that’s a pretend obstacle between a band and self-production. It was so rewarding to hear what we could do for ourselves, to make music at 2 o’clock in the morning and to really get to try everything you wanted to hear. With this newfound confidence I would love, with the help of the twins, to produce other artists.
Q: As a songwriter, has your approach changed significantly from when you first started out? Are there any topics that you actively try to steer away from or is it "anything goes"?
Brandi: When I first started out, I thought I would eventually learn to write songs about other people's lives, fantastical images like "Benny and the Jets" and more story-telling type songwriting. This has become less and less true as my songs have become more and more autobiographical and personal. I don’t fight it, I think it’s a big part of me figuring out who I am and I hope our listeners can appreciate it.
Q: Your show in Louisville is part of the Iroquois Rock and Stroll. With that in mind, what are some favorite parks and green spaces that you've discovered while touring?
Brandi: I love the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. We’ve had the opportunity to play in several amazing botanical gardens that double as non-profits such as the Red Butte Garden and the Meijer Botanical Gardens -- we love to walk around and explore whenever we can.
Q: Who is on the road with you in the band (besides the Twins)?
Brandi: We don’t have Allison Miller [drummer on the album], we have a new drummer Konrad Meissner, Josh Neumann on cello and Jeb Bows on the violin. It’s great because with the addition of these new musicians, we are able to capture all of the different instrumentation from all five of our records, even Live at Benaroya Hall.
Q: The songs on Bear Creek seem very diverse in their sound. What are the qualities you had in mind to bind them together? Is there one song that was sort of the "hub" that helped you arrange the whole package?
Brandi: There was no hub song and there was, in fact, no laboring over sequencing or genre specific writing. This was the point to BEAR CREEK; it was to celebrate the innocence of songwriting and making an album as if we had no understanding of the status quo.
Q: You've played some classic covers over the years that have become fan favorites. Have you worked out some new ones you're going to spring on us in the current tour?
Brandi: Yes, several new covers but a lady never tells!
Get 'em while they're hot!
Tickets have been going fast. For more info, visit the Iroquois Theater website or go straight to the Ticketfly purchase page. Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra is opening this 8 p.m. show, which is sponsored by 91.9 WFPK and benefits Louisville Public Media. Prices are $29 for ticket only and $39 for ticket, public radio membership, and a Rock-n-Stroll t-shirt. You can also learn more at WFPK's website.
Below is a fiery performance of "Raise Hell" from Brandi's recent appearance on the Craig Ferguson show: