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MEET THE GRAMMY CLASS: BRANDI CARLILE

The Firewatcher’s Daughter got some terrific press. Did you imagine that you were on track for a Grammy nomination?
We were really proud of our record but we couldn’t have imagined in a million years that we would get a Grammy nomination. It’s difficult to know what your friends and peers really think of your work, so this was affirmation for us in a big way. 

The Grammy for Best Americana Album recognizes the project in its entirety. This was an album you recorded largely in first takes. How does that feed the power of the creativity and the songs?
Sometimes in the studio I feel like I could do 15 or 20 takes of something and believe the takes are getting better and better, until I sleep on it. With fresh ears I realize the innocence of that first round of takes sounds better than the erosion that affectation and confidence can bring to a take. It’s amazing how many times we put a first or second take out into the world. The power is in the innocence of not overworking and overthinking a piece of music, and in our belief that every song has a golden moment that occurs while the song is being created. 



You’re nominated alongside Jason Isbell, the Mavericks, the Punch Brothers and Emmylou Harris. That’s some pretty staggering talent. How does that make you feel?
We feel incredibly proud to be included amongst such beautiful artists, and also to be included in the Americana category at all. For me, Americana is a kind of anti-genre and a rebellion against compartmentalization in general. 



Like Isbell, your songwriting is so personal, so to the bone. As a singer, your voice is so bold and broad. As an artist, you reach across genres as if none exist—but somehow you have a strong alt-country feel. Are you aware or intent on style? Or how does your gut know when it’s right?
I always feel like it’s right when it’s true, or when it really happened. There may come a time in your life where your feelings change about a person or an event and you don’t want to say or sing the words anymore because you’re embarrassed or even hurt by them. But you do it anyway, because you can’t change reality—in the same way that you can’t change what you were wearing in a photograph in high school. That to me is another characterization of an Americana artist like Jason Isbell.



You have slowly built your career, always focused on the music. Was there ever a moment when you wondered if it would be easier to just follow the obvious trail? Or was there no choice? Either way, how did you find the clarity to trust your path?
The twins [bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth] and I always just wanted to be on the road, we only ever wanted to bring the words to the people. For us, our records have been documents of this desire and these events. In some ways, our career has suffered due to our preoccupation with the road and live music. It’s so hard to maintain every kind of relationship inside of this lifestyle, but for us, it’s the truth. In the end, we believe that that’s the only thing that really matters.

 

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