Her Best Work- For Now – For Floyd Fest Performer

Brandi Carlile

If you’re among the hundreds (thousands?) of Roanokers headed up the mountain to Floyd Fest 11 this weekend

co-founder Kris Hodges says you don’t want to miss Brandi Carlile’s set on Saturday (5:45pm on the Dreaming Creek main stage.)  Her newest album, “Bear Creek” was recently released. It is Carlile’s fifth and it debuted at number 10 on the Billboard chart. Is it her best work to date? “At the moment I would say yes but I typically feel that way every time I finish a record. This record definitely feels the most innocent and it was the most fun,” said Carlile in an interview last week.

 She recorded Bear Creek with her touring band, which includes twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. It was a stripped down production – and a change from working with notable producers like T-Bone Burnett.

“Making a record on our own was always a goal and always something we were talking about and aspiring towards,” said Carlile, who has performed on The Tonight Show and was featured on National Public Radio. “I probably would make a record with a big producer again at some point in the future – but I’ll probably do this a few more times first.”

Carlile, who has recorded a duet with Kris Kristofferson and has deep country roots (despite her Seattle-area upbringing) tries to describe her style of music: “I was sitting next to a guy on the plane yesterday and he asked me what kind of music I played; I said rock and roll and he started hysterically laughing. Seriously, to the point where it became embarrassing and he had to cover his face.”

She asked what had come over him; the man shrugged his shoulders and said he’d never heard music described that way before, that he expected some kind of description like alternative folk rock or emo prog. “Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that the trend of compartmentalizing music into a [specific] genre seems as strange to me as a 30-something woman in a baseball cap singing rock and roll seemed to him.”

Carlile has been involved with a number of musical collaborations – like recording with Elton John – and has opened for top names. Did she ever imagine starting out it would come to that point?  “No, I don’t think anyone ever thinks that they’ll get a chance to meet or work with their heroes,” noted Carlile, “but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t one of my favorite parts about being a musician.”

Performing at the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville was, “totally nostalgic. It was incredible to meet Little Jimmy Dickens and even more special to know that my family was in the audience.” As for appearing at Floyd Fest for the first time, “I’ve heard it’s a great time, I’ve heard it brings people together and I can’t wait to see it for myself.” Carlile has appeared at venues large and small, and on other outdoor concert stages like Red Rocks outside of Denver.

Carlile is also involved with her Looking Out Foundation and an anti-violence campaign. “We founded The Looking Out Foundation in 2008 as a way to support, through music, humanitarian outreach efforts. The ‘Fight The Fear Campaign’ was one of our most successful projects to date and we hope to re-launch this campaign at some point in the near future.”

Carlile isn’t saying that all artists have some obligation to be socially conscious and engaged in causes, adding that, “I do, however, I feel like it’s much more of an honor than an obligation – it’s not a burden.” This weekend it’s all about the music however, as Brandi Carlile gears up for her Saturday afternoon performance at Floyd Fest. “I can’t wait! See you there.”

(Some tickets remained for Floyd Fest 11 as of earlier this week. See Floydfest.com.)

By Gene Marrano