Brandi Carlile Explains Why She Had to Record Her Latest Album in the Middle of the Woods

Categories: interview
Brandi Carlile
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It's been a good year for Brandi Carlile. She's got a new record, and she's getting married. In June, Carlile announced her engagement to Catherine Shepherd. With all that going on you'd think her new album, Bear Creek, would be more, ah, upbeat. But the songs resound with themes that are borderline lonely, or even broken-hearted.

"Absolutely," she agrees by phone from Flagstaff, Ariz. "I turned 30 on the cusp of Bear Creek. That period of time was the end of a lot of grief," she says, "and the beginning of new spirituality. These are not songs we as a band would have typically connected with. And, we abandoned the concept of genre." Bear Creek has been called the alt country-folk rocker's most personal work yet, which could be taken to imply that her previous records were less than. She's okay with that too.

"As you get older you compensate less for your lack of experience. When you're young, you're writing about love you're not actually in, things like that. I have more experience now. I have more subject matter to write about that integrates more of myself into the songs."

In truth though, Carlile does not always write all of the lyrics. She describes song writing as a team effort that includes her band members of the past several years, the twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanserothwhom she very nearly asphyxiated before they were officially a band.

"I had rented a practice studio for the twins and me. And I really wanted to impress them, to keep them in the band, and the place wasn't air-conditioned. So I went to an ice plant and bought these four huge cubes of dry ice and put them in the studio with some fans running behind them. It cooled the room down," she laughs, "and there was this cool smoke, but about 45 minutes later we were all feeling sick."

She otherwise describes the song writing process as "pretty random," says there's no real pattern as to whether words or music come first. Then she says this: "maybe the best ones are the ones when the words come first."

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