Three- time Grammy award- winning singer songwriter Brandi Carlile has achieved phenomenal success over her 15-year career, taking in highlights such as a number 5 spot on the Billboard 200 with her 2018 album, By the Way, I Forgive You, and a number 9 spot with her preceding album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Along the way, she’s become an active campaigner for numerous social causes, and a prolific benefactor to various worthy endeavors. With the 2020 line-up for her annual music festival Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Weekend recently announced, there’s never been a better time to learn more about the rising star.
1. Most nominated female artist at the 61st Grammy Awards
Over the course of her career, Brandi Carlile has earned a total of 7 Grammy nominations. One was for Best American Album for her fifth studio album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter (2015), while 6 were for her sixth album, By the Way, I Forgive You (2018). The success of By the Way, I Forgive You made Carlile the most nominated female artist at the 61st Grammy Awards. Carlile ultimately came home with 3 awards that night; Best American Album, Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance.
2. She came out in 2002
In a November 2002 interview with the Western Front Online, Carlile ended the years of speculation about her sexuality by confirming that she identified as a lesbian. 10 years later, she announced her engagement to girlfriend, Catherine Shephard. Carlile made the announcement in a letter to fan-site, Again Today, after the Seattle Times broke the news earlier that day: “My biggest news ever is that I got engaged!!!!!!”, Carlile announced. “I realize the Seattle Times beat us to the punch but it’s cool that they care! In these times and on the eve of Referendum 74 it’s really important for me to help raise awareness around marriage equality so I’m stoked that they took an interest.”
3. She’s a philanthropist
Carlile has been highly active in charitable causes over the years, most notably with Looking Out Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to worthy causes. Carlile founded the organization in 2008 alongside band-mates, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, and has since been instrumental in awarding grants to numerous charities such as UNICEF, Doctor’s Without Borders, and the HRC. In addition to donating $1 from every concert ticket sale, Carlile gave the foundation a significant cash injection in 2017 thanks to the proceeds of Cover Stories, a collaborative benefit album which included tracks from such popular artists as Adele, Pearl Jam and Miranda Lambert.
4. She’s inspired a restaurant
Carlile is the inspiration behind The Carlile Room, the 13th restaurant opened by Seattle restaurateur Tom Collins. Visitors to the restaurant can enjoy seventies- style lounge cocktails in 1960’s inspired surrounds, while dining from a “thoroughly modern and progressive” menu. Located within spitting distance of Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, the restaurant serves a pre-and post- theatre clientele, and features regular live music nights with performances from local DJ’s.
5. She was featured on Obama’s year- end playlist
Carlile’s album By the Way, I Forgive You was well-received by both critics and fans alike, demonstrated by the inclusion of its first track “Everytime I Hear That Song” on former President Barak Obama’s year- end playlist in 2018. Other notable additions to that year’s playlist included “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” by The National, “Unforgettable” by French Montana (feat. Swae Lee), “Matter of Time” by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles.
6. She’s been a judge
As well as being on the receiving end of the awards process, Carlile has also been involved on the decision- making side. At the 10th Independent Music Awards, Carlile helped decide which of that year’s independent artists were most worthy of consideration. Joining Carlile on the judging panel that year were Susan Vega, Tom Waits, Shelby Lynne, Aimee Mann, and others.
7. She hosts a music festival
After becoming frustrated at the lack of female representation at mainstream music festivals, Carlile decided to take action. The result of her endeavors is the annual Girls just Wanna Have Fun Weekend in Mexico. Carlile explained the idea behind the festival to Rolling Stone:- “What I really want is for the festival to do so well that people will see it who are booking them, and understand that there is a demand for women”. The first festival saw performances from the likes of Maren Morris, Mavis Staples and the Indigo Girls, while the lineup for the 2020 festival includes KT Tunstall, Sheryl Crow and Patty Griffin.
8. She lives on a farm
When Carlile was just 21, she splurged on a farm on the rural outskirts of Seattle, a place she still calls home to this day. When she first acquired the property, it was on the run-down side, but Carlile has worked hard over the subsequent years to turn it into a pleasant family home for her, her wife and their 2 children. Asked by CBS News if she’d ever consider moving to a property more fitting of her current status, Carlile responded with:- “Oh, hell no, no way. And everything that I do make, I put it back into the house.”
9. She sang in her mother’s band
Carlile was honing her craft from a young age, regularly performing alongside her mom’s country band in bars across the state. “The highlight of my life was getting taken into bars, from bar to bar, at seven, eight, nine years old, and singing with my mom’s band,” she’s revealed. “That was just it. That’s what I was gonna do. Period.” Convinced that music was the career for her, Carlile dropped out of school, quickly got to grips with how to play the piano and guitar, and began performing anywhere and everywhere she could.
10. She was once a backup singer to an Elvis impersonator
When she was starting out in music, Carlile was happy to take just about any gig she could… something that saw her briefly serving as a back-up singer to an Elvis Presley impersonator. The Elvis impersonator in question covered the full range of Elvis’ career, from his young days as a 1950’s heartthrob to his later days as a jumpsuit wearing Las-Vegas showman. Aside from changing from a poodle skirt to a sequined dress midway through the show, Carlile’s part was fairly limited, with the singer revealing to Medleyville: “I think I just kind of stood there and snapped.”