Viral Listenitis: Brandi Carlile

03 Mar


Every once in a while, I stumble across music that leaves me gobsmacked. Generally, when this happens a period of viral listening follows in which the newly found gems are listened to incessantly until I get tired or another viral listenitis germ is caught.

This happened with Ray LaMontagne and then Amos Lee, shortly followed by John Mayer’s Continuum and then Sara Bareilles. However, it’s been a few months since I’ve had a real “favorite” that commanded my attention. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find my new obsession at The Indigo Girls concert. After all, Mr. D and I only attended The IG concert because I wanted to explore more music and we had great seats.

We always arrive a little early to enjoy a cocktail before the show and to take in the opening act. You just never know what you might discover by doing so. On this night, I discovered one seriously talented artist that I just can’t put down. Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Brandi Carlile.

Brandi grew up in Washington State, out in the country where she practiced music to pass the time. She is heavily influenced by Elton John, Patsy Cline, Queen, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Her mother was a professional singer and her grandfather a yodeler. In the never-ending circular nature of music, she has opened for Ray LaMontagne and Chris Isaak.

Here is Brandi and Chris on Love Me Tender:

The pureness of her voice was so mesmerizing. She’s a bit Joni Mitchell mixed with Patsy Cline, with something about Karen Carpenter. You may have heard of Brandi from her highly acclaimed song The Story, which was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. The title track to her recently released CD that was recorded by producer T Bone Burnett in his private studios with vintage instruments.

The Story on Grey’s Anatomy

Almost all of her songs are self-composed or by one of “the twins” Tim & Phil Hanseroth. This duo is also extremely talented and is a great compliment to Brandi Carlile.


For me, the lyrics to these songs are seriously profound and the melodies haunting. Take for example the song Turpentine from The Story CD.

These days we go to waste like wine
That’s turned to turpentine
It’s six AM and I’m all messed up
I didn’t maen to waste your time
So I’ll fall back in line
But I’m warning you we’re growing up

A song that is reportedly about her tumultuous relationship with her brother, Turpentine strikes a chord:


After investigating Brandi and her songs over the last few weeks, I found that a few of her songs are credited to being about her relationship with her brother. In much of her lyrics, accompanied by powerful melodies, I can relate. In this performance, she identifies a young fan who “knows all the words”. Precious.

Wasted, with Zoe

These lyrics speak so strongly to me…

If you had eyes like golden crowns and diamonds in your fingertips you’d waste it
If shining wisdom passed your lips and traveled to the ears of God you’d waste it
And so I hate that your overrated most revered and celebrated cause you’re wasted

Then again it’s good to get a call
Now and then just to say hello
Have I said I hate to see you go…hate to see you go

Every time you close a door and nothing opens in its place you’ve wasted
And when you speak the words you know to those who know the words themselves you’re wasted,
You’re such a classic waste of cool, so afraid to break the rules in all the wrong places

Then again it’s good to get a call
Now and then just to say hello
Have I said I hate to see you go…hate to see you go

This song is one of those that builds like a crescendo, until you can’t wait to hear it again. I now know every inch of this song.

There were several watershed moments of this concert, but perhaps the most dramatic, show-stopping moment was when Ms. Carlile and the “twins” approached the front of the stage. After quieting the crowd, she explained that the wonderful old Saenger would provide the natural acoustics to perform their next number without amplification, if we all kept the noise down. It was pure. And, I love pure.

What Can I Say?

Ms. Carlile then pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat with a rousing rendition of the great Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues:

Folsom Prison Blues

One of my favorite songs of Brandi Carlile’s is Cannonball. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for three-part harmony, or maybe the Civil War feel of the song, but this song just speaks to me. Oh, and as an aside, The Indigo Girls actually provide back-up on this song on the CD.


As most of you remember, we had quite the Hallejuah discussion back at and even here. Brandi closed her set with a strong, Jeff Buckley-like rendition of Hallejuah. It was absolutely incredible.


I promptly purchased both the self-titled, Brandi Carlile, as well as The Story. Both CDs are superb. I have not been this excited about an artist since Amos Lee and the Viral Listenitis that overwhelmed me over a year ago. Do yourself a favor, go to iTunes and download The Story CD. If, like me, you like what you hear, purchase Brandi Carlile. I promise, you will not regret some investigation into this extremely talented musical artist.

Electronic Press Kit on Brandi Carlile


11 responses to “Viral Listenitis: Brandi Carlile

  1. morewines

    March 4, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Brandi Carlile
    The Story.
    That’s the song that stopped me in my
    tracks. Her voice cracks but that’s what
    makes the song.

  2. blueberry

    March 4, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Incredible music – lots to get excited about here! Thanks!

  3. jenfera

    March 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    I was in the car with my husband the other night when The Story came on the radio. He kept saying, “who is this? This is awful! Who is this? She stinks! Why is she screaching? Why is this on the radio?”

    I don’t think she’s all that bad. Not my favorite, but at least she’s different. Keep in mind my husband loves Daughtry and hates Taylor Hicks.

  4. music maven

    March 4, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I really fell sorry for your man, jen. No offense, but if he hears talent in Daughtry and none in Brandi Carlile….jus’ sayin’.

    No matter, Brandi is a keeper.

  5. Mark Jr

    March 5, 2008 at 4:06 am

    I get excited every time I hear a Cash cover, and that time I got goosebumps. She seems to know how to put on a show. Incredible voice, and WHO LIKES DAUGHTRY?

  6. Holly

    March 10, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    So glad that Brandi’s earning new fans over in the UK! For all things Brandi and to connect with other fans who know exactly what you feel when Brandi sings, check out our fan site at We have quite a UK contingent in our forum, too.

  7. music maven

    March 10, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Holly. I have many UK readers here even though I’m a Cajun living in Alabama. Heh. Hopefully, I’m helping her cause just a little. That’s what Music Maven is all about.

  8. Avia

    May 2, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I’ve never been so jealous of a little girl as when she played with Zoe!!! That girl has no idea what she experienced. I got a little teary eyed seeing that. Kind of wish I had that youth again!!

  9. white mug

    October 5, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Her brother wouldn’t talk to her because she is a lesbian. Her wonderful brother thought his talented sister was not worth talking to for years thanks to his literal views of the bible. He finally talked to her after she was signed by a label and it was evident she was going somewhere. I wish she would talk about it. Oh, but she won’t because she doesn’t want to be judged based on her sexuality.

  10. shdow from SFLA

    November 28, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Yep she’s a gem….she must have been down some hard roads to come up with all them songs her voice the lead instrument is precious…her lyrics have great meaning in my life…alot of coincidence….

    seems she lives to play for people…it’s her drive

    Brandi go go


  11. Maurzie

    November 12, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    incredible find as I roamed the viral stairways of youtube and landed by some strange accident here. Her voice and lyrics are everything we long to hear in these days of manufactured souless music that streams incessantly. The purity and wonder of it all.


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