Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile is certainly busy. Freshly engaged, she released her new album, “Bear Creek,” last month, filmed a marriage equality public service video for her home state of Washington and has been wrapping up tour dates with Dave Matthews.
Factoring in her immense summer tour schedule which will bring her to Atlanta’s Chastain Park on July 27, one might wonder how she does it all. We caught up with Brandi to discuss marriage equality, babies and giving back.
Shannon: I wanted to start by congratulating you on your recent engagement to your partner, Catherine Shepherd.
Carlile: Thank you!
I also saw your new public service announcement for marriage equality in your home state of Washington. I assume you’d like to get married there and that was a big motivator for you to do this?
Absolutely! I’m going to get married in my home state whether it’s legal or not. If it becomes legal several months after I get married, I’ll just have another party.
One thing that I liked about the PSA is that you presented a very linear, logical argument that would be difficult to disagree with. Do you feel that the tide is turning on the gay marriage issue?
Yes. In fact, the opposition in Washington is having a difficult time even gathering enough signatures to get the issue put on the ballot. It’s really good news for us if they can’t even collect enough signatures – it’s a great sign.
You’ve been touring with Dave Matthews and headlining on your own. The dates just go on and on. Do you thrive on being that busy or is it a grind?
I thrive on it. I used to go on the road and shut myself on the bus like a time capsule and then stress over the shows or the songs and I would just turn myself into a touring machine.
This time, I have my fiancée, my sister and her three-month-old baby, who is just starting to laugh, on the bus with me. This time, it really feels a little more like home. If I could always be with the people that I love like this, I could do it indefinitely.
When I read about your “Looking Out Foundation” I was really impressed. It’s so broad in who receives help.
We’ve never seen a need to narrow it down. We like the model that Pearl Jam put together with their “Wishlist Foundation.” I like to focus on things that empower women, respond to civil rights violations, environmental stuff. We also do medical issues and research – it’s all over the board.
You are clearly a generous person. You give your time, talent and funds on a regular basis. Where did you get those values?
I was a real fan of certain artists when I was growing up. I had such admiration of them … to the point of obsession. Buying every tour t-shirt, owning multiple copies of their records, clipping photos … For me, a big one was the Indigo Girls. They were always involved in charity and causes like the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
My parents were also charitable people but we definitely needed a lot of help growing up. Our local food bank fed our family. The concept of outreach has always been part of the ethos of my life. Whether it was something that I wanted to do or whether it was something being done for me … I just told myself that if I ever got anywhere in life, I would try to use my platform to give back.
When you write a song, what comes first, music or lyrics?
It’s usually lyrics first because my songs are so much more connected to me. It might be because of my age that I am more connected to my feelings and am more drawn to articulating them.
Are you the disciplined type who makes yourself sit down and write something?
You know that irritation you get when you just have this feeling throughout the day and you can’t really remember exactly what it was so you think about it and remember it was an altercation that morning or you got bad news or whatever. It’s like a dull ache in the back of my head.
A song is happening for me at that moment. It’s coming together and I’m answering my questions and when the song is written, I can half way relax about it but I can’t fully relax until I perform the song for other people.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Why is it when I interview a lesbian and I ask about a celebrity crush, they name a man?
[Laughing] I don’t know – I sort of feel like he’s the male version of my fiancée. Here’s the thing: His eyes always look like he’s about to start crying. If I had to name a girl, it would be Sheryl Crow.
I asked some of your fans what they would ask you if they were me. Here was my favorite: What’s your favorite smell?
That’s the best question I think I’ve ever gotten! I love the smell of horses. Definitely horses.