No joke, Brandi Carlile is up for six Grammys

Folk and Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile describes herself as a chicken farmer who has not won anything in her life.
Folk and Americana singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile describes herself as a chicken farmer who has not won anything in her life.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • It was enough for Brandi Carlile that former American president Barack Obama was a fan. Since 2005, the folk and Americana singer-songwriter had quietly put out albums that had been well-received by critics and her fairly modest fan base.

She landed the occasional song on a big soundtrack and was nominated in 2015 for her first Grammy - for Best Americana Album.

Her LP, The Firewatcher's Daughter, did not win, but it was a big deal nonetheless.

Last Friday, she woke up to find that she had been nominated for six Grammys next year, including Album of the Year.

Carlile was the most nominated female artist, and behind just Kendrick Lamar and Drake, with eight and seven nods respectively.

Her most recent album, By The Way, I Forgive You, was released in February and will compete against those rap stars - along with Post Malone, Janelle Monae, Cardi B, Kacey Musgraves and H.E.R. - for the biggest prize of the night.

Carlile's empowerment ballad The Joke, is up for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best American Roots performance and Best American Roots Song.

She took a break from responding to a flood of text messages to speak by telephone about her shocking morning.

Who do you think was more surprised and confused - you or fans of Post Malone?

I do not know. I saw a lot of pictures of (pop singer) Belinda Carlisle and some pretty solid misspellings, so I imagine it was equal doses of shock all round.

How did you find out?

(My publicist) called me at 5.30 in the morning. Honestly, I did not know if I was awake - I was in absolute disbelief.

Within 15 minutes, I had about 130 text messages.

How would you describe Brandi Carlile the artist, for those people who are finding out about you for the first time?

Well, I am 37. I have a wife and two kids, and I have been doing this since I was a child.

I have put in my fair share of miles and time in a van and this is, for all intents and purposes, my seventh album and something that I poured my heart and soul into. To see it recognised this way is stunning.

You have said By The Way, I Forgive You is about "radical forgiveness" towards all the people who may have wronged you in various ways throughout your life. But was there anyone you thought of last Friday morning, in a flash of pettiness, like, "Oh, man, I showed you"? Be honest.

Totally - three or four. Actually, we were just talking about that and I was like, "I won't even let their names pass my lips because the gratefulness is the lesson I am learning most from this day".

I realised all along that I really essentially am a privileged white person in America who has never had anything other than my dreams come true.

Even though I did work really hard, I have perspective on this. And I would say I deserve it.

Did you have a sense in crafting this album with the producers that it might be a breakout for you? You have had commercial success before - a song on TV show Grey's Anatomy, for instance - but this feels like another level.

I thought it might emotionally be a breakout for me. I was reading a Joni Mitchell interview about the emotional state that she was in when she came to believe that it was time for her to write a record like Blue, where it was not observational, but personal revelations.

I knew it was that for me and it was the first time I was not hiding behind phrasing and punchlines and jokes.

But in terms of something like this, no, it never even crossed my mind. I am a chicken farmer. I have never won anything, not even a karaoke contest, and I have been in a lot of them.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2018, with the headline 'No joke, Brandi Carlile is up for six Grammys'. Print Edition | Subscribe