You are the most-nominated female artist for the 2019 Grammys. How does that feel?
Dude. Somebody just told me that, in those terms, and I’m honestly in such disbelief, I don’t even know how to speak to it. Wow -- what a dream come true. What an honor.
How did you find out about your nominations?
[My publicist] Asha called me at 5:30 in the morning and woke me up. I’m on the West Coast. She told me, and I couldn’t even understand what was going on. I can’t even believe it -- even right in this very moment.
How are you celebrating?
I’m going to have the twins [Carlile’s co-writers and backup musicians, identical twins Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth] over, and I’m going to cook sea bass. We’re going to drink Dom Perignon, sit around, listen to our record and pat each other on the back.
Before this, you’ve only had one nomination, which is crazy to me. Does it feel validating to get this recognition after six albums?
I don’t know about “validating.” It’s just such an overwhelming honor. I’ll tell you the truth: Before my Americana album nomination for Firewatcher's Daughter, I thought that being recognized by the Grammy’s was such a far-fetched concept for me. I never even knew when submissions were due or when nominations were announced; it was just something I watched on TV like everyone else.
When I was told that I got nominated for Firewatcher, I was on an airplane and got a text from the guy who ran the record label saying, “Yo, B, congratulations on the nomination.” I just wrote right back saying, “No, this is Brandi.” I thought he was trying to text Brittany Howard because the Alabama Shakes were on my label. That was a shock to me, so can you imagine how I feel today?
And now you’re nominated in three of the Big 4 categories! This year’s pool of nominees has such a strong showing of queer women: you, Janelle Monáe, Lady Gaga, Linda Perry and so many more. What does this mean in terms of visibility?
That means everything, and we have a lot of people to thank for that. And Linda’s one of them, for sure. Those of us that are just a little bit younger than her and the Indigo Girls, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, K.D. Lang, George Michael and so on and so fourth -- our road has been paved with parody and humility. And that’s something I’ll never forget. Those people have been parodied for being gay through the course of their career in a way that would never be acceptable now.
Speaking of Lady Gaga, you're nominated in the Song of the Year category along with her and Bradley Cooper for their song “Shallow.” You made a brief cameo in A Star Is Born during a fictional Grammy performance -- it was meant to be!
It’s so weird, isn’t it? I’m just putting that together hearing you say that. And I recorded that song, “Pretty Woman,” for it with Marlon Williams.
If you win, what are the odds that you can get Bradley to reenact his oopsie moment from A Star is Born during your acceptance speech?
I think they’re quite good. Actually, Bradley was texting me his congratulations this morning, and I was gonna ask him if he was going to come on stage during my acceptance speech and wet himself. But he just wasn’t receptive to that. [Laughs]
Which nomination were you most surprised by?
Album of the year. There have been amazing albums made this year. All of the people I’m nominated with are exceptionally worthy -- and so many people that weren’t nominated are exceptionally worthy. So to have my album considered among those people is just stunning to me.
Out of your fellow album of the year nominees, which album is your favorite?
I almost don’t want to say because I don’t want to pick a favorite or influence anybody. I’m absolutely obsessed with Kendrick Lamar and Drake and the activists they are in their music. I cannot stay off Cardi B’s Instagram -- I’m obsessed with her.
I think Kacey Musgraves made a revolutionary record that I have listened to and worn out. She’s a brilliant songwriter and I’ve always known that. And then Janelle Monáe! She is just my queen. I absolutely adore her. There is just so much going on right now that I love musically. If I could pick any year over the course of my entire career to be included in the Grammys, it would be this year.
Between you, Janelle, H.E.R. and Kacey Musgraves, there are a lot of left-of-center singer-songwriter nominees this year. Do you think expanding the categories to 8 nominees helped create room for talent that is sort of left of mainstream?
One thing I don’t have an opinion on is whether or not that’s a good or a bad thing. I just don’t know enough to offer up an expertise on that. But I will say: Yeah, I don’t think I would have got in if it was down to five. And I think it’s cool because it gave an opportunity for a more diverse nominees list. And that’s diverse in all ways: in genre, in sexual orientation, in gender. There’s been a shift in consciousness.