Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' Inspired Singer-Songwriter Brandi Carlile's New Album

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click to enlarge Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' Inspired Singer-Songwriter Brandi Carlile's New Album
Courtesy of Shorefire Media
Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile got a lucky break about ten years ago when Dave Matthews heard her singing on a side stage at the Gorge, the outdoor amphitheater located just outside of Seattle. Matthews hooked her up with his booking agent, and Carilile has been busy ever since. Her latest album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, is another solid effort. It opens with the lilting “Wherever Is Your Heart” and shows off Carlile’s passionate voice as she belts out songs about insecurities (“The Things I Regret”) and feeling weak (“Blood Muscle Skin & Bone”). It’s a highly personal album that was influenced by the fact that Carlile was about to become a mother for the first time as she was writing the songs. She phoned from her Maple Valley, Wash. home to talk about the album and her found memories of playing to a rowdy crowd at House of Blues back in 2012. 

Talk about what inspired the Pin Drop Tour. You played your songs without any amplification for those shows, is that right?
I have a real passion for unamplified music just because it doesn’t have any boundaries. It’s not about the bells and whistles. It’s about something else. It’s about the words and the written word and connecting with people I have a real passion for it. It went really well. I hope to do another tour like it. I played some new songs and some older songs and some covers. It was a pretty well-rounded set.

Everyone in the band was in the midst of having a family when you recorded this new album. How did that affect the songwriting and recording process?
I think it affected it greatly because it’s so nuanced. I was getting ready to be a mother for the first time. [Guitarist] Tim [Hanseroth’s] little baby was in the studio learning to laugh. They would all go home and even when they weren’t there, they were still there. [It wasn’t] just the fluff that has to do with having kids and a family but also the angst and attention. It was a pretty special time.

Talk about the decision to cut the record live.
I always cut every record live. That’s the art of recording that I most readily embrace. I want to record the band in the same way that you would record a document as it’s actually happening in the world. Recording in a more modern sense, there is something to be said for that too. Nobody loves Muse or Radiohead or the Killers as much as I do but that’s not my approach.

You were listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” prior to recording. What made you gravitate to that song?
I always really liked Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks in particular. I have a penchant for their drama. I live in a band that is also my family. Things can get really strange and I love that about bands. I met [Fleetwood Mac’s] Lindsey Buckingham backstage at a Dave Matthews concert and he was so cool and so inspired. I went back to the dressing room and put my headphones on and started listening to “The Chain.” I realized, “We need to cover this song and it represents our band in a way that I can’t really explain.” It was fertile ground for something that happened on The Firewatcher’s Daughter.

A chain seems to have a negative connotation but you don’t think of it that way, do you?
No but yes sometimes. That’s the beauty of that particular image. It’s binding in the best and most comforting ways and sometimes in the most constrictive. It’s like everything else in life. It’s like two sides of a coin.

You wrote “The Stranger at My Door” after staring at a bonfire. What’s the story there?
I’m always staring at a bonfire. It’s something I do every single day. I have a fire and burn my paper garbage. I stand there and think about things. It’s where my ideas come to me and I contemplate life and fate and death. I was thinking about my daughter that was on her way and some of the ways I wanted to bring her up. And some of the ways I didn’t want to bring her up.

“Mainstream Kid” has a real swagger to it. What inspired the song?
Its like the oldest story ever told. I want to fit in; I don’t want to fit in. I want to fit in; I don’t want to fit in. Sometimes you’re proud of being a little left of center and sometimes you just want to be accepted. There has got to be an outlet for that.

The guitar work on the song is great.
I’m playing the rhythm guitar. Tim is playing the lead guitar. He co-wrote that song with me because that riff in the chorus was inspired by a Jimi Hendrix side project that I was doing. Tim came up with a great riff I could sing over and I love that riff. It’s my favorite song on the record to play live. It’s my wife’s favorite song too.

Any good memories from the last show you played in town?
I remember there was a fist fight during “That Year.” I realized there’s always a fist fight every time I play Cleveland. It never lets me down. There’s always a good rumble. It feels very punk rock.

Brandi Carlile, Anderson East, 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $32.50-$45, houseofblues.com.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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