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John Lamb, Published August 26 2010

Brandi Carlile hits road to tell her ‘Story’

If you go

It was quite a busy summer for singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile.

The 29-year-old spent the hottest months burning from coast to coast touring behind last fall’s “Giving Up the Ghost” CD. The tour winds down this week, but not before she makes her local debut Saturday at the Fargo Theatre.

With family in the area, the Fargo-Moorhead market was one she’s wanted to hit for a long time, but there have been a few detours along the way.

Tuning in

Carlile caught a break when Dave Matthews caught her set at the Sasquatch! Music Fest in Washington in 2003. A few years later she broke through to an even bigger audience when the medical melodrama “Grey’s Anatomy” started using her songs, including the video for her signature hit, “The Story.”

The appeal is mutual, as the singer/guitarist is a big fan of the ABC program.

“It’s really satisfying to know that when a programmer chooses one of your songs, they are choosing it based on its content and how it relates to real life or how it relates to what they are trying to show the world,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for anything more as a songwriter than for someone to choose a song based on its merit.”

“The Story” has also been used in commercials by General Motors, a Portugese beer and during the Ohio-Penn State game in 2008.

The singer knows other songwriters may be concerned over just what their songs are marketing, but she likes the exposure.

“I feel myself as a performer really rather than an introverted creator,” she says. “The art that I created is much more for the audience than it is about myself because it’s much more about expression. I’ll write a song, but the song isn’t finished until I sing it in front of people. … Creating something that may be able to permeate someone else’s life in a way you never intended, to me is a really satisfying part of being an artist.”

House party

While she played lots of dates this summer, Carlile’s highest-profile gig was a house party – at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The singer performed at the White House on July Fourth, calling the experience “incredible.”

She says the respect she has for the office as well as being able to perform for the troops and “eat barbecue on the president’s lawn instead of my lawn, was kind of huge.”

Not all planned shows happened, however. A number of this summer’s Lilith Fair shows were canceled because of poor ticket sales.

Having gone to Lilith Fairs growing up, Carlile credits founder Sarah McLachlan and the female festival for inspiring her to be an artist.

“So getting to be a part of it was just a huge deal for me, and I was looking forward to it like you cannot imagine. Like a little kid looking forward to Disney Land for two years,” Carlile says. “When most of my dates got canceled, it was a total heartbreak.”

She says the cancellations are just an indication of the trouble facing the touring industry and not a reflection of the acts, but that it offers a lesson.

“I think it’s important that we as artists keep our ticket prices at a price where fans can afford our music,” she says. “When times get tough, that’s the one thing everyone should always have access to. Class division just doesn’t have a place in rock ’n’ roll.”

Fargo family reunion

Carlile’s uncle Sonny from Waubun, Minn., just over an hour to the northeast, had been suggesting for years she bring her music to the area, so her first show here will also be a family reunion.

“It’s really amazing that I haven’t made it up there yet,” she says.

Since it will be her first show in the region, Carlile will stray from her standard tour set list and pull from all three of her albums as well as a few choice covers.

A rave review on the Kansas City Star’s website of a concert there last week called her version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” achingly beautiful” and an encore of Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” and “Folsom Prison Blues” “rugged” and rollicking.

“It should be a real fun night,” Carlile says of the Saturday show.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533