At age eight, Carlile performed Johnny Cash's "Tennessee Flat Top Box" with her mother, Teresa Carlile and began playing the guitar and writing songs at age fifteen. At sixteen, Carlile became a backup singer for an Elvis impersonator. According to Carlile she was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder as a teen and dropped out of school to pursue a career in music.
Carlile began her career performing in Seattle music clubs with twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. She joined Columbia Records in late 2004 and recorded her debut self-titled album Brandi Carlile
the following year.Her second album The Story
was produced by T Bone Burnett. The album's title track was used in a General Motors television commercial. The song was also used in the 2008 commercial for Super Bock and helped the song reach number 1 and the album reach number 4 on the Portuguese charts. "The Story" was featured on the end credits of the romantic drama film The Lucky One
. Three songs from her previous (eponymous) album, "Tragedy," "What Can I Say," and "Throw It All Away," were further featured in the TV drama Grey's Anatomy
. Grey's Anatomy also released a version of the music video for "The Story" with interspersed footage of the show.She was featured on Rolling Stone'
s list of "10 Artists to Watch in 2005" and in 2006, toured as an opening act for Ray LaMontagne, Jonny Lang, Hanson, Indigo Girls, The Fray, Chris Isaak, Tori Amos, and Shawn Colvin.In 2007 Carlile performed at the Borderline in London and as guest on Newton Faulkner's UK tour. She was the opening act for Maroon 5 and OneRepublic during their Australia tour and in April 2008, she performed on the BBC2 show, Later... with Jools Holland
.Give Up the Ghost
was released in 2009 and debuted at No. 26 on the Billboard 200. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Rick Rubin, it featured a collaboration with Elton John on the song "Caroline" as well as Amy Ray, drummer Chad Smith and keyboardist Benmont Tench. In 2010, National Geographic Channel in Latin America chose the song "If There Was No You" from the album as a jingle to promote its series "Grandes Migraciones" (Great Migrations). Also that same year, during the 21st GLAAD Media Awards, Carlile was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for "Outstanding Music Artist" for the album.In 2011, Carlile's album Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony
reached number 14 on the Top Rock Albums chart. Carlile's next album, Bear Creek,
released June 5, 2012, was produced by Trina Shoemaker. The album is a collaboration between her and the Hanseroth twins. In an interview with American Songwriter
she says, "We decided a decade ago to split everything in our band evenly amongst the three of us. So nobody has any vested interest in getting involved with someone else’s song or their story. But nobody has a vested interest in keeping someone out of the story either. It always comes down to what’s best for the song." "Heart's Content" from this album was further featured in 2013's romantic movie Safe Haven
, when Katie (played by Julianne Hough) and Alex (played by Josh Duhamel) heard it on radio in an empty diner and danced to it.Carlile was also a judge for the 10th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book.On January 11, 2014, Brandi sang the National Anthem for the Saints vs Seahawks NFL Playoff game.Carlile recorded a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" for the compilation album Sweetheart 2014
Musical style and influences
Carlile is known for possessing a big voice that cracks emotively when she is belting. Her lyric content often showcases a "Southern sensibility" as well as reflections upon her personal experiences. Her music, although appealing to the pop genre, encompasses alternative country, folk, rock, blues and indie styles. Describing it herself, Carlile says "I mean, I couldn't be less interested in becoming genre-specific in any way. If I could be anything to the music industry, it would just be sort of a human eraser of lines between genres, just because it's so damaging – 'they're on that team, I'm on this team.' 'I don't like country.' 'I don't like rap.' I would just really like to prove to someone that doesn't like country that they do."Carlile grew up studying and listening to her favorite vocalists, experimenting with the capacity of her own voice. In interviews, she has referred to drawing upon various artists including Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Thom Yorke, k.d. lang, and Roy Orbison in her music. She often cites Patsy Cline as a major influence: "Patsy 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 that 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."
In a November 2002 interview, Carlile identified herself as a lesbian. She later told the Los Angeles Times
, "I don't have to have a lot of formality around it ... there were people before me who paved the way." In June 2012 she announced she was engaged to Catherine Shepherd. The two were married in Boston, Massachusetts on September 15, 2012.Carlile performed with Ben Taylor in the Eden Presents…Alive in the World concert series for the benefit of Eden Florida, an organization that assists children and adults with autism.In 2008, she created the Looking Out Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, to give financial support to causes that she believes in. The Looking Out Foundation has awarded grants to Reverb, the American Diabetes Association, and Honor the Earth, among numerous other organizations. Carlile also donates $1 from every concert ticket sale to the foundation. In January 2010, Carlile's Looking Out Foundation
partnered with the Seattle Police Department, the Indigo Girls, and two local Seattle self-defense studios to support the Fight the Fear Campaign. Also in 2010, Carlile contributed the track "The Heartache Can Wait" to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: More Hope For The Holidays
album.Carlile owns a Doberman Pinscher and a horse. She wears AURYN tattoos on her shoulders.