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October 8, 2009

Checking in with Brandi Carlile

brandi carlileOn her new album, "Give Up the Ghost," singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile got a little help from a lot of high-profile friends.
Rick Rubin produced the album, which was released Tuesday. Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith played on it. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Trench played on it. So did Indigo Girls member Amy Ray. Carlile even performed a with Elton John.

Tonight, Carlile comes to Rams Head Live

Here, Carlile talks about her approach for the album, and how she recruited such a star-studded cast of guest musicians ...

brandi carlileWhat were you listening to and where were you coming from musically when you started work on "Give up the Ghost?"

I was listening to two records in the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum that I was planning to approach. One was "A Night at the Opera" by Queen - the other was Johnny Cash's "American Recording." I wanted to understand production when it isn't equated with over production, and an intimacy that is so bare that feels heavy. Queen and Johnny Cash have more in common emotively than you'd think!

How did Rick Rubin come to produce it, and what did he lend to the feel of the album?

Rick Rubin is a producer and yet holds an executive position at Columbia records so most of the bands on our label get the opportunity to learn from Rick and his amazing history with making great records.

It gets complicated at times when the line becomes blurred between a creative collaboration with a producer and the infiltration of the record label executive into the creation of art. I felt both things working with him ... his role in making this particular record with us was pretty ambiguous. The result is a record that I'm very proud of and a lot of great lessons that I will learn from throughout my musical life. Art vs. commerce is an age old battle and I believe art will always land on its feet.

It looks like you got contributions from a number of high-profile players, from Amy Ray to Elton John and Chad Smith. Did you go into the recording process with the idea of working with other people, or did it just happen that way?

Chad Smith was an amazing Rick contribution! As well as Benmont Tench. Elton has been a childhood hero since I was 11 and he brought the song "Caroline" completely to life! Amy is my dearest friend and I couldn't imagine making this record without her voice.

How did the Elton John collaboration come to be? Did you meet him to record, or was it done separately?

I flew to Vegas to record "Caroline" with Elton John. He was unbelievable and played in one take what I knew somewhere in the back of my mind he would play ... he then sang perfectly and schooled me on new music. He introduced me to Leon Russel causing a ripple effect through my song writing I'm sure. He invited me and the twins (Tim and Phil Hanseroth) back the next night to see him play and he dedicated "Tiny Dancer" to me!!  The twins still won't stop teasing me for crying in the theater!

(Top photo by AP. Bottom photo by Anthony Saint James)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:21 AM | | Comments (2)


She's awesome, and the new album is great. Really looking forward to the show tonight.

Good interview, BTW. I hear a lot of bands saying that Rubin doesn't do much as a producer. But I guess having his name on your album lends it a certain cache and possibly increases sales.

Saw Brandi for the third time last night, and she was amazing. Somehow, the shows get better everytime. Great songs and great energy.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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