Letís start off. Your album, Bear Creek, comes out Tuesday. If you could describe this album in five words, how would you do so?
Well, I think itís brave. I think itísÖ Iím going to use a hyphenated word and say I think itís genre-undefined. I think itís turbulent and I think itís risky for us.
How do you find it risky?
Because thereís nothing to hide behind with this album. We donít have a big producer or structured system to hide behind. There wasnít another place. We did this album on our own, and we did it in a place that is so similar to where we live and so close to our home that itís making a statement for us. If you give us the reigns completely and we can make our own album, this is what it will sound like. Thatís a big deal.
You had the chance to work with Trina Shoemaker on this, along with other great producers on past releases. Were there any key differences working with each of them? Did you approach each album differently?
Well, working with T-Bone Burnett was super intense, but thatís a privilege, you know, because heís such a presence. He considers himself an audience member, which is a really cool thing to have in the studio because then you can sort of capture some of that edge and that live appeal of a show. We can feel itís such a presence and thatís a really, really cool thing. He was there every day. He taught me a lot about myself and a lot about recording.
Rick Rubin has an understated appeal in the way that he produces. Heís really hands off, but heís got a presence because of the fact heís been around for a long time and heís done a lot of special things. People know his name and they think thereís greatness attached to it. So I certainly wouldnít argue that.
But on this album, working with Trina was a collaborative effort. It was more like she was kind of in our little band than anything else. It wasnít even going to be a co-production effort. It was just something that happened while we were in the studio. We all got together and weíre like ďHey, you know what? Nobodyís really producing this, weíre all just making music here.Ē So if there is a credit to be given, I think everyone should get it. We just kind of gave it to Trina and me and the twins.
Would you consider co-producing in the future? Or even self-producing?
Man, every album kind of speaks for itself. Once it gets closer to the time itís happening, so Iím not totally sure. I mean I may write an album of heavy metal songs and why not make one with Bob Rock. I donít know. Probably not. Yeah, probably not. But I think chances are that we will probably produce our next record.
Not only have you worked with some phenomenal producers, youíve actually had the opportunity to collaborate with some legends on past releases. Is there anyone youíd like to or even love to work with in the future?
Yeah, man. You know what Iíd love to do? Iíd love to do a duet with one of the country greats we still have. Theyíre such treasures we still have in our lives. You know like, Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn. Straying from recording, with how homogenous and club-centric radio has really become in the recent years, do you ever feel tempted to make concessions toward airplay?
No. Not one bit. Not at all. Even though thatís the case about pop radio, I think that a few really great things slip through the cracks in the pop radio realm. You know, the Adele recordís slipped through the cracks. The Gnarls Barkley recordís slipped through the cracks. Thereís that guy now, whatís his name. Whatís that guy with that new song? The Australian guy?
Yea, thatís right. Yeah. I never can pronounce his name. Some stuff definitely slips through the cracks, but those people never set out to break through the pop radio. As far as radio goes, my fans listen donít really listen to pop radio anyway. They go to shows, and I value that quite a bit more.
You seem to co-write a lot with the twins, Tim and Phil Hanseroth. Does one usually come in with a skeleton and you guys flesh it out together, or do you all co-write together when it comes to music?
Through the years itís changed quite a bit. It kind of ebbs and flows. On one album, Tim will write most of his songs by himself and then Iíll write most of my songs by myself, and Phil will write most of his songs by himself. Some albums, we write our songs together as a trio. Some albums a couple of us collaborate more than the other one because one of them has a weird hobby or something like that. You never really know. It has to do with the nature of our family and our friendship. One thingís for sure though: having been together with the twins as long as I have been, itís become more and more of a way of life and a privilege to interpret what it is that they have to say in their songs as well as what I have to say in my songs because weíre kind of seeing the same sky every day. Weíre kind of waking up to the same life. So when they write something, usually it applies to me and it applies to one of the brothers. Itís the same thing Iím waking up to every day.
Did you have any songs in particular that you play live thatís a little more emotional than any other?
Yeah, I would say I feel really emotional when I play ďThat Wasnít MeĒ because itís new but also because itís so lyrically and deeply personal to me. When I play that one live I definitely feel the weight of the lyrics for sure.
This is kind of an offshoot question, but do you have any plans to reissue Brandi Carlile on vinyl? It looks like a few are selling high on eBay.
All my albums are currently on vinyl. Every single one; we reissued the debut album recently. So, Brandi Carlile, The Story, Give Up the Ghost,even Live at Benaroya Hall and now Bear Creek are all out on vinyl. Thatís really important to me.
You have a summer tour coming up. Do you have any other future plans for the album tour wise?
Yeah, tour dates are really exciting for me because a lot of the venues that weíre playing are venues that we were opening up for other people for the last decade, like Wolf Trap and Red Rocks and Chastain (Park), and being the ones playing when the sun goes down is a really big deal to me. Thatís really the biggest part of the plan that Iím most focused on and most excited.
I know your birthday is tomorrow. Instead of gifts, you encourage your fans to donate towards the Looking Out Foundation. Was there any one moment that moved you to create such an organization and what is your main focus with that non-profit?
Oh, thank you so much. Well, my fans going to donate hopefully towards my clean water project. Itís basically a project where the money goes directly towards one given cause. In particular this personal birthday drive is about digging wells. Last year we dug two wells and this year weíre trying to dig three or four in areas where they need clean water, and access to clean water. Last year we reached $2800 and raised $5600. This year our goal is $5000 and Iím going to match it, so it doubles whatever it is that we get. So thatís what I want people to do for my birthday this year.
For the Looking Out Foundation, there was a moment where I decided to do that. I had been asked to participate in a commercial for GM, the American car company. At the time it was such an environment groundswell and I was finding myself morally conflicted with aligning our band and our music with an American car company that was notorious for sort of producing gas-guzzling vehicles. I said no. GM came back and asked me to be more involved with the commercial instead of saying no. I thought about it a bit and they said they would like to do the commercial about all environmentally sustainable cars and try to give their company a facelift and alter their path. I had to think about that because I do believe thereís something important to be said for not preaching to the choir, you know?
So in the end I agreed to do the commercial and was really proud of it because it was a really cool commercial with people plugging their cars in their garages and stuff like that. I took all the money that they gave me and donated it to grassroots environmental organizations, but to do that you have to have a 501(c)(3) number and it got me thinking about outreach, and it caused me to start the Looking Out Foundation.
Thatís a great story. I guess I should wrap this up. Do you have anything else to say to your fans?
Iím so appreciative and looking forward seeing them out on the road and if they want to show their support for the foundation or for our band in any way, just come see us play. Itíll cover that.
Thanks again for this interview, we really appreciate it.
It was my pleasure. It was so nice talking to you and I appreciate you asking about the foundation, so thank you so much.