Brandi Carlile has been continuously touring since her self-titled debut album was released by Red Ink/Columbia last summer. But the 23-year-old singer/songwriter wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been absolutely non-stop,” Carlile tells Billboard.com. “But it’s a small price to pay. It really beats baggin’ groceries, y’know?”
Indeed it does.
Last week, the album’s lead single, “What Can I Say,” entered Billboard Radio Monitor’s Triple-A audience chart at No. 20.
But what does this taste of success mean to a small-town girl from Washington state? For now, she gets to ride in “a bus instead of a van.”
That thoughtful simplicity is a big part of Carlile’s folky charm. In fact, she even recorded a majority of her album in the log cabin that she calls home.
“Sometimes you like the way stuff sounds when it’s done s***ty, y’know with the road noise, the crickets or whatever you hear in the background,” she says, adding that usually the first take is “the most honest and pure. After that, it might get cleaner, it might get prettier, but it’s never as honest.”
These days Carlile is “chomping at the bit” to record her sophomore set, so she has tried to create a cozy home away from home while on the road.
“Our back lounge [on the bus is] a little recording studio,” she says. “We brought our little digital 8-track recorder and a couple of bad microphones and all kinds of stuff.”
Tucked away in that back room, Carlile draws inspiration from the likes of Elton John and his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin, who she calls “an unbelievable storyteller.”
The first time she heard John’s music was also the first time she ever “heard anything other than country, and it flipped me out. I started writing songs immediately.”
Soon, she says, “I had all these gigs in tiny, tiny rooms — like chowder houses and bars and restaurants — and made like 50 bucks a night. And it all kinda went downhill from there.”
Although success has been a slippery slope to climb, Carlile’s perseverance has paid off and she has since graduated to some much larger venues. Through March 30 she is on tour with Jamie Cullum, and then without missing a beat, she hits the road again on April 5 with Train.