Closing the Book: On her latest album Brandi Carlile says goodbye to her twenties | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Closing the Book: On her latest album Brandi Carlile says goodbye to her twenties

After turning 30, Brandi Carlile is ready to acknowledge her past and embrace the next chapter of her life.

Seattle alt-country singer Brandi Carlile isn’t likely to forget where she came from. But after turning 30, the singer is ready to acknowledge her past and embrace the next chapter of her life. With her fourth studio album, Bear Creek, Carlile is doing just that.

On Sept. 1, Carlile returns to Bend for her first headlining appearance at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Blitzen Trapper opens the show.

Carlile will be performing new music as well as her previous recordings. In that way, this album and tour are helping Carlile transition into the next phase of adulthood and to close the book on parts of her life.

“It’s about experiences that I’ve had,” said Carlile in a recent phone interview. “Like turning 30, ending a long-term relationship, coming to different terms with family and what the next life is. It’s about coming of age and moving on.”

Bear Creek is an album drenched in whiskey-drinking country music and boot-stompin’ handclaps. Each song is blended with Carlile’s classic Emmylou Harris/Patsy Cline voice. In a perfect metaphor for the old versus new concept, Bear Creek was recorded in an old barn renovated into a quaint and rustic studio. In Carlile’s words, the setting was perfect for the album.

“It was such a familiar environment,” said Carlile. “Everything worked perfectly.”

Even with the growth, in some ways Carlile is still the brash 22-year-old who guaranteed her songwriting partners, twin brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth, she would land them a record deal in a year’s time.

She is also the same performer who, in 2008, blew this writer away with her stadium-worthy, rock-your-socks-off cover of Johnny Cash’s  “Folsom Prison Blues” at Portland’s Oregon Zoo. It’s just that now Carlile has new roles to play.

The singer recently became an aunt when her sister and that songwriting partner Phil Hanseroth had a baby girl together. She finds a lot of joy in traveling with her niece who is  with the band on its current tour.

“It’s a nice thing to look over and see her with pink headphones on while I’m on stage,” said Carlile. “She inspires me.”

Carlile also popped the question in June to her girlfriend Catherine Shepherd, and the two are now engaged. Shepherd, who was a charity coordinator for Sir Paul McCartney, pairs quite well with Carlile, who founded her own charitable organization in 2008. Carlile’s The Looking Out Foundation focuses on alleviating poverty and homelessness while supporting the arts and women. According to Carlile, when it comes to philanthropy, she and Shepherd have to be careful not to get carried away.

“It’s something we are both really passionate about,” said Carlile. “But I do more music than philanthropy and Catherine does more philanthropy than music. We make these deals where after 6 p.m. we have to stop talking about philanthropy and music. We drink a lot of coffee and spend a lot of time conspiring about how we can change the world.”

While some of her current life is uncharted territory, she’s been contemplating parts of it for a long time. In fact, the singer remembers a time in her teens when all she had was her imagination to spur her songwriting on.

“A lot of [songs] were based on projections or theories about what relationships looked like when you grew up,” said Carlile. “Songs about heartache and oppression.”

Though Carlile ended up experiencing her fair share of both, today the singer is in a really good place. The new album may draw from some past events, but it also focuses on the future. And when it comes to that big picture, Carlile has always been able to make sense of it all through faith.

“Innately I’ve always had a really strong faith,” said Carlile. “I was never indoctrinated or educated, but I have a strong connection to The Bible and church. Where I am today is similar to where I was as a five year old, just with a few more bruises.”

Photo taken from

Brandi Carlile

and Blitzen Trapper

Saturday, Sept. 1, 6 p.m.

Les Schwab Amphitheater

344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr.

$35, tickets at

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...
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