Brandi Carlile c 2010
(thanks, Kirk Stauffer)
Brandi Carlile is a folk and rock singer-songwriter from Ravensdale, Washington. In a November 2002 interview with The Western Front Online she identified herself as a lesbian, and 10 years later married her partner in a Boston ceremony. Nowadays, this story doesn’t seem very farfetched or even rare. In fact, it’s quite commonplace for same-sex marriages to take place in many of the 50 U.S. states; however, growing up in a conservative town – and the daughter of a minister to boot – one can only imagine some of the trials and tribulations Carlile must have faced before coming clean to her family and friends.
Originally called Leary after the coal mining company of the same name, for over a century the isolated community of Ravensdale, 50 miles from Seattle, was a railroad and mining town. The city residents were predominately miners and their families were mostly Christians. And Carlile’s family was no different. At only eight years old, Carlile began singing and writing songs, and at 16 she became a backup singer for an Elvis impersonator, subsequently dropping out of high school to pursue a music career in the Seattle music clubs. Born in 1981, the singer was 21 before she found the strength to tell her parents about her sexuality. She told CBS News, “It’s so surprising and hard fought… If a 14- or 15-year old girl reads this in a small town who’s gay… there’s no reason she should stop dreaming… because I didn’t.”
Her second album, Give Up the Ghost, contains a song entitled "Pride and Joy" in which the narrator (possibly herself) appeals to her previously discouraged parents about coming out of the proverbial closet. “That’s the problem with the days, they’re never long enough to say what it is you never said and all the books you’ve never read.” Her voice and haunting words and melodies wring every last emotion out of her tunes. She channels heartache, longing, regret, and even hope. According to a review in Paste Magazine, “Love is the axis around which everything turns, whether coming or going… It’s not that Carlile is a romantic – she just faces the world with a probing grace, despite all the snags.”
As in many of her other songs, Carlile’s tendency to crack her voice emotively when she belts is present, particularly during the chorus. She grew up studying and listening to Freddie Mercury, K.D. Lang, and Patsy Cline, all of whom belted emotionally in their own right. She said in a CMT (Country Music Television) interview, “Cline was a big part of me discovering my vocal capacity. Most people don’t realize how loud she is. If you really listen closely, the amount of times in any given song she distorts, you might think it’s your car speakers or something. They didn’t quite know how to fully contain her voice then. She was loud.”
Carlile may have been influenced by Cline, but she seems to have much more to say in her lyrics. Thankfully, her adoring fans seem to agree with me. She won a Breakthrough Award in 2010 and she was nominated for Outstanding Music Artist at the 21st GLAAD Media Awards in the same year. Give Up the Ghost reached No. 9 on the Billboard Rock charts. Her hometown supporters must be proud and full of joy that she put tiny Ravensdale on the musical map.
~ Justin Novelli
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