Brandi Carlile on the nature and magic of her latest release, Bear Creek

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In a time when many artists are playing it safe and sticking to the kind of music they know, Brandi Carlile decided to depart from the expected and take an entirely new approach to the music on her latest record, Bear Creek.  "We went into this studio with the mindset of shunning any tangible sense of continuity," Brandi explained, "it was something we’d been conscious of in the past and we wanted to see if continuity would happen without trying to make it happen."

There's also something very cozy about this record - perhaps because it was recorded amongst the vast forests and wetlands in Woodinville, Washington - or perhaps because it also includes natural sounds of the life outside of the studio. When you listen to the dreamy final track on the record, "Just Kids," you can hear the sound of creek life throughout the last half of the song.  "At the very end of the process, we filled the control room with candles and candy and listened to the whole record from start to finish." Brandi remembered, "...we’d been joking about it the whole time but hadn’t found a way to do it but finally, at that point, we took a microphone out to the creek and recorded the frogs."

There is little I can say to do this record justice - it is, in its entirety, extremely touching yet light and fun.  The opening track on the record, "Hard Way Home" is a nice little introduction to the down-home, sort of country, familial feeling that you get from all of the songs on <em>Bear Creek</em>. Songs like "100," "Heart's Content" and "A Promise to Keep" are true musical gems from instrumentation to vocal delivery and lyrics - the progressions on these three songs are just gorgeous.  "I'll Still Be There" and "In The Morrow" are Folk and Americana at their best.

Brandi is set to hit the road this summer with a variety of musicians including another Seattle favorite, Dave Matthews.  You can catch Brandi in your city - check out her full list of tour dates here!  Check out our interview and don't forget to pick up what is easily one of the best records of 2012 thus far: Brandi's latest album, Bear Creek, available NOW!

I had a chance to listen to the record and I can only think of one word to describe it: magical.  I can’t say that about many albums.  Is that something that you and the twins could feel in the studio?
Brandi Carlile: There tends to be a youthful innocence about the way that me and the twins work together, we lean heavily on the concept of kismet and magic.

What’s one of your favorite memories from the recording process?
At the very end of the process, we filled the control room with candles and candy and listened to the whole record from start to finish. It was then that we decided to name the record Bear Creek and we’d been joking about it the whole time but hadn’t found a way to do it but finally, at that point, we took a microphone out to the creek and recorded the frogs.

What do you hope people feel after they listen to the new album in its entirety?  Is there a theme?
We went into this studio with the mindset of shunning any tangible sense of continuity, it was something we’d been conscious of in the past and we wanted to see if continuity would happen without trying to make it happen.

What does this record mean to you?
It means independence, freedom and just youthfulness.

You're famous for your live performances - constantly gaining new fans on the road and drawing in the old ones time and again. How did you learn to leave such a resonating impact, to have that kind of connection with people on such a broad scale? Did you have a mentor? Someone you tried to emulate? Just lots of practice?
I consciously and subconsciously try to emulate Elton John on a regular basis with regard to my respect for performance art; but as far as just day to day love of music and performing, I take really seriously the exchange of energy that happens between an audience member and a person on the stage. I don’t think that there needs to be a divide between the two.

What vocal microphone do you use for your live performances?
I use the Neumann live microphone.

You’ve got a big tour ahead! Big venues, Dave Matthews...What are you looking forward to?
Dave Matthews is a unique performer with a unique audience; they set the bar very high with regard to the aforementioned exchange of energy. I look forward to having that with them and getting to know Dave better as a person.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
Elton John once told me to learn to embrace the concept of timelessness in my own generation.

I’d love also include a bit about your organization, The Looking Out Foundation.  How’s that going?  Are there any projects that you’re extra excited about right now?
Well, an organization we’re supporting at the moment is Charity: Water. In honor of my 31st birthday, I asked my fans not to buy me presents but to donate $31 to this cause; which helps to build freshwater projects for people in developing nations and my charity, the Looking Out Foundation pledged to match the total raised. I am really excited to see how much we manage to raise, my fans are notoriously generous!

Do your guitars have names?
I call my road weary touring guitar from the first part of my 20’s Willie, after Willie Nelson’s guitar. It has like three holes in it that I dug out over time with my guitar pick.

You could do a duet with anyone in history - who would it be?
Patsy Cline or Freddie Mercury.

Favorite song to play live?
The Story.

Thank you so much, Brandi!