While playing clubs, she encountered a band called the Fighting Machinists, featuring twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. Impressed by their instrumental skills and spot-on harmonies, Carlile became an instant fan of the band, and when the group broke up, she persuaded the Hanseroth twins to form a new group with her. While they started out as an aggressive rock & roll band, Carlile's emotionally powerful songwriting and acoustic guitar work soon became the dominant component of their sound, and they began touring regularly, headlining small venues and opening shows for Dave Matthews, Shawn Colvin, and India.Arie.
In 2000, Carlile recorded the first of several self-released recordings that sold briskly at shows. By 2005, she'd earned enough buzz to secure a contract with Columbia Records, which released her self-titled debut later that same year. The album earned enthusiastic reviews, and Carlile was named one of 2005's "Artists to Watch" by Rolling Stone. In 2006, Carlile and her band began work on her second Columbia album, The Story, with T-Bone Burnett producing. The record was released in spring 2007 to warm reviews, and the inclusion of its title track in several commercials (most notably a General Motors ad that aired during the 2008 Beijing Olympics) helped boost sales. Give Up the Ghost followed in late 2009 and cracked the Top 40, featuring production from another high-caliber studio hand, Rick Rubin, as well as a duet with childhood idol Elton John.
Carlile rang in 2010 by issuing a Valentine's Day-themed EP, XOBC. She also continued to tour, making a well-received stop at the annual Bonnaroo Festival that summer and collaborating with the Seattle Symphony during two shows in November. The symphonic concerts were recorded and released the following year as Live at Benaroya Hall. In 2012, Carlile returned with the album Bear Creek, featuring production from Grammy Award-winning mixer/producer/engineer Trina Shoemaker. Taking its title from the Washington recording studio in which the album was recorded, Bear Creek included the leadoff single "That Wasn't Me." ~ Mark Deming, Rovi