I really miss cooking for myself more than you can imagine,” folk rocker Brandi Carlile says. “If I could just make myself a grilled-cheese sandwich on the road it would make me so happy.” The 29-year-old is savoring her kitchen and time off in rainy but beautiful Seattle when reached by phone.
This summer Carlile and her band will trek across the country playing nearly every outdoor festival you can think of, including Bonnaroo and Lilith, in between her own dates, three of which find her in Virginia. The road-tested singer says she'd have it no other way. “Playing all of those outdoor venues is amazing. It's the best way to spend the summer,” Carlile says. “And I love playing Virginia.”
In 2005 the fresh-faced folkie wowed critics and music lovers alike with her self-titled debut, complete with a cover featuring the singer draped in a flag and wearing a Boy Scout shirt. From the more robust songwriting found on her latest disc, “Give Up The Ghost,” to a confidence that displays itself during her bone-chilling live shows, a lot has changed in five years … except her beloved Boy Scout garb.
She explains, laughing: “It started with one that I got at a vintage store in Capitol Hill, a little neighborhood in Seattle. I was just looking for a shirt that was tailored and fit well, but was also sorta androgynous and cool. I tried it on and loved it.” She adds, “Honestly, I didn't have a lot of money at the time, so I wore it to all of my shows. Then, fans starting bringing me Boy Scout shirts and my collection grew.”
Given those clothing choices, it's fitting that Carlile is a lover of the outdoors — in particular fishing. While breaks on the road are few and far between, she says, the sport is something she and the twins, her longtime friends and band mates Tim and Phil Hanseroth, make sure they squeeze in when possible. “We'll definitely go fishing when we're out in June,” Carlile says. And this lady isn't afraid to bait her own hook with squirmy critters. “Depending on where we go, we'll use different things,” she says. “But it's always live bait.” She also admits to regular karaoke indulgence, during which she and the boys sing romantic power ballads to each other. “We go all the time actually,” she says. “It's hip again in a tongue-and-cheek kinda way.”
Speaking of her voice, it's not uncommon for Carlile to unleash that freight train wail during her shows sans microphone and speakers, accompanied only by the naked strums and harmonies of Tim and Phil. Without fail, it leaves the audience slack-jawed. Despite some pesky Internet rumors about Carlile's steadily inflating ego, she seems about as humble as they come, donating $1 from each ticket to the Looking Out Foundation. And she remains in awe of a few folks herself. The whisky-drinkin' girl behind the gale force dreams of playing the daytime talker “Ellen.” “I ask my manager all the time when I'm gonna be able to play on that show,” she says. “But I don't think you get to officially decide. … I love Ellen. I've loved her for a long time. Like, since she had a mullet, let's put it that way.” S
Brandi Carlile plays National at 708 E. Broad St. on June 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets $16-$26. For information go to thenationalva.com.