Brandi Carlile, coming of age, headlines sold-out Red Butte Garden; interview
Published: July 10, 2012 05:32PM
Updated: July 10, 2012 05:38PM


There is little criticism of Red Butte Garden’s outdoor amphitheater. You can bring in coolers. You can relax on the grass with unimpeded sight-lines. You can watch Salt Lake Valley fade beyond you on your right side as twilight turns to night, while red rocks on your left side remind you that you’re at the largest — and most gorgeous — botanical garden in the Intermountain West.

But critics carp every year that the schedule caters to the older, wine-and-cheese crowd. It is unfair criticism, given that Wilco and Bon Iver have already sold out the venue this season alone.

The youth movement at the Garden continues this coming week as 31-year-old Brandi Carlile headlines Sunday.

The secret about Carlile’s rousing live shows is apparently out, with her show sold out.

On June 10, the native Washington-stater released “Bear Creek,” the best studio album of her young career. While it doesn’t match the heights she reached on her lone live album “Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony” — because a studio album has never captured the energy she inspires live — the album is a rootsy slice of rollicking Americana that at the same time lays bare her emotions and vulnerability she hasn’t shown before.

“I was spinning out of control,” Carlile said of the tempest that engulfed her before recording “Bear Creek.” “Things weren’t lining up for me in my personal life.”

Take a look at her new song “100”:
Because I always dream about you
Every time I close my eyes
If I live to be one hundred
Will I ever cross your mind?

But Carlile’s characteristic Northwestern optimism shines though.

Here are some of the closing lines of “Keep Your Heart Young”:
So take a picture of the one you love and put it in a locket
Go dig up your time capsule and the blueprints for your rocket
Keep in touch on a fake CB and that same old tic-tac box
Pack your snowballs a little less tight and in the middle still put rocks
And keep your heart young

Despite the turmoil at home, there were two things that kept her inspired when it came time to record the new album. The first was the presence of her secret weapons, the twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, who have been with her since well before her first album. “The twins were the organized ones,” Carlile said. (Incidentally, Phil is married to Carlile’s sister Tiffany, and there is a crib in Carlile’s tour bus.)

The second reason is the studio where the album was recorded. It became so important that she named her new album after it.

“There’s 100 reasons why,” Carlile said about why Bear Creek was magical. “It’s a giant old barn. It’s very similar to where I live.”

The turn-of-the-century barn on a 10-acre horse farm has been the home of many influential projects over the past quarter-century, including those from Fleet Foxes, Soundgarden, Ra Ra Riot, and, not least, Josh Ritter, who recorded his 2005 album “The Animal Years” at Bear Creek. The first recording was Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

The studio encapsulated where Carlile is; she admitted to some trepidation over now being in her 30’s. “This is a big coming-of-age album for us,” she said. “We wanted a record that sounded like home.” Carllie added that she was a classic Gemini, whose sign comes at the transition from spring to summer.

When she thinks of summer, Carlile thinks of Red Butte Garden, she said. “I love Salt Lake City and I love Red Butte Garden,” she said. “For some reason, Utah fans are so great. The venue doesn’t hurt when it’s a beautiful garden.”

Brandi Carlile with You, Me & Apollo
When • Sunday, July 15 at 7 p.m.
Where • Red Butte Garden, 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Sold out