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“A literate singer/songwriter whose music splits the difference between pop/rock and folksy Americana, Brandi Carlile was born in the small town of Ravensdale, Washington, an isolated community 50 miles from Seattle. With few neighbors or friends nearby, she grew up learning to make her own entertainment, which included hiking trips in the nearby woods and self-taught vocal lessons. Carlile also grew attached to the classic country music her parents doted on, specifically Patsy Cline, and she made her stage debut at the age of eight after she was taken to a local country radio show by her mother. At 17, Carlile picked up the guitar, having developed a taste for rock & roll through Elton John‘s classic albums of the ’70s, and began hitting the Seattle bar scene, playing anywhere she could get a gig (including a stint singing backup for an Elvis Presley tribute act).
While playing clubs, she encountered a band called the Fighting Machinists, featuring twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. Impressed by their instrumental skills and spot-on harmonies, Carlile became an instant fan of the band, and when the group broke up, she persuaded the Hanseroth twins to form a new group with her. While they started out as an aggressive rock & roll band, Carlile‘s emotionally powerful songwriting and acoustic guitar work soon became the dominant component of their sound, and they began touring regularly, headlining small venues and opening shows for Dave Matthews, Shawn Colvin, and India.Arie.
In 2000, Carlile recorded the first of several self-released recordings that sold briskly at shows. By 2005, she’d gained enough buzz to secure a contract with Columbia Records, which released her self-titled debut later that same year. The album earned enthusiastic reviews, and Carlile was named one of 2005’s “Artists to Watch” by Rolling Stone. In 2006, Carlile and her band began work on her second Columbia album, The Story, with T-Bone Burnett producing. The record was released in spring 2007 to warm reviews, and the inclusion of its title track in several commercials (most notably a General Motors ad that aired during the 2008 Beijing Olympics) helped boost sales. Give Up the Ghost followed in late 2009 and cracked the Top 40, featuring production from another high-caliber studio hand, Rick Rubin, as well as a duet with childhood idol Elton John.
Carlile rang in 2010 by issuing a Valentine’s Day-themed EP, XOBC. She also continued to tour, making a well-received stop at the annual Bonnaroo Festival that summer and collaborating with the Seattle Symphony for two shows in November. The symphonic concerts were recorded and released the following year as Live at Benaroya Hall. In 2012, Carlile returned with the album Bear Creek, featuring production from Grammy Award-winning mixer/producer/engineer Trina Shoemaker. Taking its title from the Washington recording studio in which the album was recorded, Bear Creek included the leadoff single “That Wasn’t Me.” Carlile returned to Bear Creek Studios to put together her follow-up, The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Opting for a loose and live feel for the album, it was recorded almost without demoing any of the songs or overdubs. The album appeared the first week of March 2015.
In 2017, Carlile commemorated the tenth anniversary of The Story by assembling a star-studded charity album for War Child, Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of the Story. Inspired by an Adele cover of “Hiding My Heart,” the album also featured Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam, Kris Kristofferson, Jim James, and the Avett Brothers, among others. Carlile returned with her sixth studio album, the Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings co-production By the Way I Forgive You, in February 2018 — the LP became Carlile‘s highest-charting outing to date. In October 2018, she teamed up with English singer/songwriter Sam Smith for a lush orchestral version of album-closer “Party of One.” In December 2018, she received six Grammy nominations, including three of the biggest categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.” – Mark Deming, AllMusic
Every Lucius song is an act of enchantment, a spell cast by the indelibly harmonized voices of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. Onstage, the performance becomes an invitation to be witness to their transformation; the dance between two individuals becoming one voice, one vision, drenched in glitter and bound by psychic symmetry. And while the effect of this spectacle is hypnotic and gloriously strange, the songwriting continues to be the hand that reaches out from behind the curtain to hold the audience.
Over the past two years, Wolfe and Laessig have captivated audiences around the world by touring as backing vocalists in Roger Waters’s band—an alliance that formed on a whim at the 2015 Newport Folk Festival, then took on a life of its own as the two joined the Pink Floyd legend for nearly 200 tour dates. Despite that relentless schedule, Wolfe and Laessig carved out time to join Lucius drummer Dan Molad and guitarist Peter Lalish to create the 2018 album Nudes: a collection of acoustically driven songs showcasing their otherworldly harmonies, including covers of songs like the folk staple “Goodnight, Irene” (recorded with Waters himself).
Also featuring sit-ins from Wilco’s Nels Cline (on “Million Dollar Secret”), Nudes is the latest output from a collaboration first formed when Wolfe and Laessig met at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After graduating, the duo moved to Brooklyn and made their home in a Victorian mansion found on Craigslist, rounding out the Lucius lineup with Molad and Lalish and making their debut with 2013’s Wildewoman. Their sophomore album Good Grief arrived in 2016, encompassing everything from glitzy rhythmic pop to songs channeling the charm and crushed innocence of ’60s girl groups. Landing on various best-of-the-year lists, Good Grief also attains a certain transcendent vulnerability. “Some songs really feel like an expulsion of emotions, beyond your control,” notes Laessig. Adds Wolfe: “In a way we’ve exposed ourselves to reveal parts that are fragile, maybe even a little broken, but not destroyed. There’s certainly a little bit of humor, and there’s also a lot of truth and sadness.”
Now residing in L.A., the band has built an extraordinarily loyal following through the years, as proven by the Lucius doppelgängers who often populate the crowds at their shows. At the same time they’ve earned the feverish adoration of their fellow musicians, with Wolfe and Laessig lending their vocals to albums by artists as eclectic as Nathaniel Rateliff, The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, and John Legend. As Lucius continues to tour in support of Nudes—with all-acoustic tour dates scheduled throughout the U.S. this spring—the band is now at work on their highly anticipated third album.