Brandi Carlile brings 'Ghost' to Alaska

Alaskan audiences will enjoy openly lesbian singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile in two local concerts during her Give Up the Ghost tour: July 15 at The Blue Loon in Fairbanks, and July 16 at the Discovery Theater in Anchorage.

Give Up the Ghost, Carlile's third album, features collaborations with Elton John and with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Her music covers pop, rock, alternative country, indie and folk. Songs from her second album, The Story, were featured on the TV show Grey's Anatomy, and she was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Give Up the Ghost.

Watch her new video of the catchy tune Dying Day:

Although she's been involved in Seattle's lesbian community for years, Carlile came out to the media in an October 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times:
She discovered rock music, through Elton John, an artist whom she calls "my greatest hero of all time." Much to her amazement, John became her duet partner on her new album, collaborating with Carlile on the "Honky Chateau"-style rambler "Caroline." He's one of several prominent guests who appear on "Give Up the Ghost," including Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and her "childhood hero and dearest friend" Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Carlile has something more personal in common with John: She is gay. But unlike her idol, who suffered many travails in his long trip out of the closet, she feels that her sexuality has neither helped nor hindered her. "I don't think it factors in to the way people relate to the lyrics," she said.
Then she did an in-depth interview with, which describes her as having "a walloping, from-the-gut voice that shreds through songs like it's some kind of singing chainsaw."
You've cited Freddie Mercury, k.d. lang, the Indigo Girls, and Elton John as some of your favorites -- and they're all gay. How does it feel to know that someone might call you a role model because you're gay?

Well, when I was at the age that I found them, they were gay role models just like I hope that somewhere in the world a teenager is able to look to me and my records in the same way. I hope that they're able to say the same thing about me from a place of success and from a place of acceptance as a part of society, instead of oppression. I hope that they're able to look to me and say that I was a role model and helped them get somewhere that makes happy with themselves, because my role models helped me get to where I'm happy with myself.

Before you confirmed you were a lesbian to the Los Angeles Times, your sexuality had been a mystery to some people. What does your sexuality being no big deal say about the progress that we're making as a society?

I was just talking with Amy Ray about this before the Times interview came out, because I had heard from my publicist that I was going to get to talk to Out. Anyway, she was talking about the leaps and bounds that we've made as a community -- not that we don't have a long way to go -- and how much harder it was then when the Indigo Girls were coming out. And I could see by talking to her that they -- along with k.d. and Melissa, Ellen, Elton John, and Freddie Mercury -- really laid it out on the line and demanded nothing short of acceptance from people. I believe that if you asked them why they did it, they would tell you that they did it to be included, so for the generations to come there would be a real shot to walk through the world, including this industry. The truth is -- I'm living proof of that. Those people are the way-pavers, and the best way for me to thank them is to take my place in the world seriously and live honestly.

So, no one ever asked you to keep it on the down-low? It just never came up?

No, never. No one ever asked me to keep it on the down-low. I spent a few days in New York City with Amy around the release of her record, and I saw her doing all these interviews for gay publications. That's the first time the light bulb went on in my head, and I was like, "Wait a minute, do these people want to talk to me?" [Laughs.]

I read somewhere that you're dating a cop -- is that true?

Well ... it is. I don't like to talk about that. I don't talk about my relationship because my partner didn't really make the decision to be part of my craziness. Cops need to have their privacy. [Laughs.]

You've met a couple of your idols -- the Indigo Girls and Elton John. But I understand you want to meet Ellen DeGeneres and perform on her show.

Oh yeah, I would love to meet Ellen. She's very special to me. I've always been a fan of Ellen, since she was doing stand-up -- before I knew she was gay. My parents knew I was a huge fan of Ellen back in the day, when I was a teenager. I think that's when they started to worry. [Laughs.] I remember I taped her coming out episode and I had it on VHS hidden with all my other tapes with a fake label on it that said "David's Softball Game."

When did you actually tell them?

When I was 15. I've been out for a long time.

What was it like meeting and working with Elton John on "Caroline"?

It was amazing, and I was so nervous about it and so full of things to say that were going to be really profound and really exciting because Elton influenced me in so many ways, personally and musically. And when I came around the corner and he was sitting there in that room and I saw him, I couldn't think of a single one of them. But I was very pleased that he was wearing hot pink sunglasses. All I ever wanted was to sit in a room with Elton John when he's wearing hot pink sunglasses.

You recently did a video for Borders where you went around the store and picked out your favorite albums and books. What else interests you?

I spend a lot of time fishing. I'm a fisherman -- a fisherwoman. I watch the Food Network and I try to cook all the things on there. I'm a food enthusiast.
Maybe that's how they got her tour to include Alaska - during the mid-July salmon runs!

In 2008, Carlile created The Looking Out Foundation to provide financial support to various causes that she believes in. The Looking Out Foundation provides grants to Reverb (a non-profit environmental organization), the American Diabetes Association, and Honor The Earth, as well as numerous other organizations. Brandi also donates one dollar from every concert ticket sale to the foundation.

In January of 2010, Carlile's Looking Out Foundation partnered with the Seattle Police Department, the Indigo Girls and two local Seattle self-defense studios to fund and support the Fight the Fear Campaign. The campaign was inspired by the assault on a local Seattle woman and her partner in their South Park home and will provide free self-defense lessons to women in at-risk communities throughout 2010.

Tickets and links
Brandi Carlile in Alaska:
July 15 at The Blue Loon in Fairbanks (tickets)
July 16 at the Discovery Theater in Anchorage (tickets)

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