Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile was walking in the woods outside Seattle as she answered questions on her cellphone. Suddenly, she ran into her wife, their two young daughters and dogs out for a hike. She offered to join them but they didn’t want to be involved in her interview.
So instead, the newly minted movie star talked about her role in the hit “A Star Is Born.”
“Movie star? More like an extra,” Carlile explained with a self-deprecating chuckle. “It was a pleasure to be part of such a great film. It was something I’ve never done before. I can’t act but I can sing.”
She spent two days filming — spoiler alert — the pivotal scene where drunken Bradley Cooper blows his comeback chance during the Grammy Awards. Thus it falls on Carlile to finish Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
The well-traveled singer, 37, didn’t have to audition for the movie (she thinks Cooper, the film’s director, saw her sing the song on the PBS show “Austin City Limits”). However, her tune didn’t make the movie’s bestselling soundtrack album.
“They explained to me some of their reasons for taking it off the soundtrack,” Carlile said with no bitterness but obvious disappointment. “They’ve told me they’re going to release it at some point.”
By the way, Cooper was in the studio with Carlile, supervising her recording of the song. “He produced that session like a proper music producer,” Carlile recalled. “I was taken aback at first because I wasn’t seeing him that way. But all of his production ideas were spot on.”
As Carlile stomped through the leaves, she talked about the all-women’s music festival she’s organizing for January in Mexico, her new duet with Sam Smith and her love of Minnesota, especially the cold weather. That’s why she’s returning for three nights at the State Theatre in Minneapolis this week.
On why Carlile waited until the end of her tour to visit the Twin Cities:
“What the hell! Lord knows the Twin Cities is probably the most supportive of my records as anywhere in the country, as usual,” observed Carlile, who often plays here twice a year. “It had to do with venues being booked up. There just weren’t multiple nights available.”
Then she started waxing as only she can.
“To be honest, I love the romance of the winter in Minnesota. I love to come there and integrate Christmas songs with my set. The moodiness of the cold in Minnesota is really inspiring to me.” There’s even a chance she’ll go ice fishing Up North with her “favorite cousin” Wade.
On her new song “The Mother”:
It was inspired by her relationship with her 4-year-old daughter, and how being a mother felt different from what Carlile had expected.
And the little girl loves the song.
“She calls it by its full name, ‘I Am the Mother of Evangeline,’ and she requests it every day in the car.”
She knows the song is about her but “she doesn’t understand the tongue-in-cheek/borderline critical attributes. She goes: ‘Mom who is the lady who trashed your car?’ I’m like ‘You are that lady, darling.’ She’s unfazed by me in almost every facet.”
On welcoming a second daughter in March:
“It’s really different. [I’m] much more confident and settled into accepting that a lot of my time is going to be spent looking after her, cuddling her or worrying about her. That took a minute to accept the first time around.”
Her children and wife travel with Carlile “pretty much full time.”
On the theme of her new album “By the Way, I Forgive You”:
Probing, profound and personal, it didn’t come by design.
Carlile recorded a mix of tunes — some with depth, others just fun or observational. She didn’t recognize the potential theme of forgiveness until co-producer Shooter Jennings sent her a sequence of the songs, eliminating three or four numbers that were about “get up and clap your hands.”
“Those things are like a sculpture where somebody starts to point out the shape and you take it a little further.”
On forgiving the minister who wouldn’t baptize her at age 15 because she was a lesbian:
Carlile was at a crossroads early this year, wondering if her faith was about the people in her faith community or about God. “I realized that people will make choices that will let you down, right or wrong. I wasn’t going to let what he chose not to do have that kind of power over me.”
So she wrote a Facebook post forgiving the minister, saying the experience didn’t damage her faith, and in fact inspired her to help other gay kids find acceptance. “I felt like that was a turning point in my life. I think I had already forgiven him; I just hadn’t said it out loud.”
On rerecording her new song “Party of One” with Sam Smith:
Both of them are ambassadors for Children in Conflict, an organization that raises money for children affected by war, especially in Iraq and Jordan. So they decided to record a fundraising duet.
“It was Sam’s favorite song. I really wanted to sing with Sam because I really think he has one of the greatest voices out there right now.”
On organizing the all-female Girls Just Wanna Festival in Mexico this winter:
As a teenager in the 1990s, Carlile was consumed by music made by women. The all-female Lilith Fair festival “was contagious,” she said, leading to more opportunities for women to get record deals, radio airplay and high-profile concerts.
But recently she noticed that male headliners have dominated festival lineups, especially in country. So she put together a festival Jan. 30-Feb. 3 near Playa del Carmen featuring Maren Morris, Indigo Girls, Margo Price, Patty Griffin, Lucius, KT Tunstall and herself.
“If I can get a few thousand people to travel to Mexico to see women headline a festival, promoters would take that as an indication that it’s time to give women an equal opportunity. It’s sold out. It’s a brilliant demonstration of the fact that women deserve a place in the commercial landscape of all facets of the music industry.”