Brandi Carlile Performs “Special Summer Solo” At The Tilles Center

Brandi Carlile 1
Brandi Carlile returned to the Tilles Center to perform her one-woman show.
Alexis Cornachio

In the mid-summer heat on July 22, American singer-songwriter and folk rock musician Brandi Carlile returned to the Tilles Center for her second night in a row to play “A Very Special Solo Performance.”

Brandi Carlile is someone who plays as if there’s a full rock band behind her even when it’s just herself on stage — a sentiment Carlile expressed to the crowd between songs. Standing center stage with just a mic and her guitar for most of the night’s performance, Carlile brought the crowd along on a visceral experience of her one-woman show. 

Brandi Carlile’s beginnings

Carlile grew up in the small town of Ravensdale, Washington — 30 miles from Seattle — and got her start playing at open mic nights in Seattle clubs.

A story she shared from one of her career underpinnings was when she got stood up by her now band members Phillip and Timothy Hanseroth at a gig she promised their rock band would headline for. 

“I realized that I hadn’t convinced them yet, how much of an important part of their future I was going to be,” Brandi Carlile said. “Somehow I must have made myself some kind of mystical promise that night.” 

After her consistent three to four song set, which exceeded the unspoken contract of the one to two songs you’re supposed to play at open mics, Carlile said the owners of a hotel told her she could host her own gig.

Brandi Carlile took the opportunity to finally ask Phillip and Timothy Hanseroth, a musical duo of twins she had taken interest in, to headline the show with their rock band. They said yes.

According to Carlile, halfway through her playing the opening set to the 40 person crowd she managed to sell out, the twins left Carlile to perform solo. 

It was one of the twins’s demo tape songs and now one of their and Carlile’s biggest songs, “The Story,” that pulled Carlile to the twins.

“I remember that song, and it washed over me in a way that felt like I was seeing and hearing something that I knew was going to change my life but I didn’t really know how and I just knew it was my song,” Carlile said. “So I got up on stage and I told them that the twins had a medical emergency and I played this song for the very first time and I knew I’d get them, and I did.” 

Brandi Carlile 2
Alexis Cornachio

Brandi Carlile’s “Special Summer Solo”

Carlile plucked away at the first couple notes on her guitar to lead into a stripped down version of “The Story” just as she did that night twenty some years ago in Seattle. 

In addition to playing some of her best, including “The Joke and “Right on Time,” Carlile’s set also consisted of some of the more stripped down versions of her words.

The artist shared personal stories with the audience between songs, bringing up themes that inspire her songwriting such as reconciling with vulnerability and femininity, as well as questions of womanhood and motherhood. 

Such an unfiltered performance was fitting to an engaged crowd that rarely held up their cellphones to record the experience or themselves. Instead, they took it all in.

Carlile energized them with the tempo stomps of her foot and the perpetually intriguing current of her voice weaving in and out of the notes from one of her six-string guitars, her lyrics spilled out into the crowd for them to hold onto and grapple with however they liked.

The audience’s reaction to Brandi Carlile

“I thought it was refreshing to see not a lot of phones in the crowd,” Beth Israel, from Port Jefferson, said. “People were listening and taking in the music, not taking selfies – there’s nothing wrong with that, but it just creates such a different vibe when you’re at a concert and there’s not that happening.”

Towards the end of her set, Catherine Shepherd — Carlile’s wife of 12 years — joined her on stage to play guitar and sing “You and Me on the Rockas well as their cover of the Indigo Girls’s “Closer to Fine which recently premiered in “Barbie.”

The crowd screamed in excitement as Shepherd walked onto the stage and the two intertwined their voices through the melodies and harmonies in song.

Brandi Carlile showed her audience yet again what happens when she’s left to perform solo. The answer in short: truth-telling.

Brandi Carlile 3
Alexis Cornachio