QUEER VOICES

Brandi Carlile Opens Up About The Power Of LGBTQ Representation In Music

“At the very least it can give someone hope,” said Carlile, the most-nominated female artist at this year's Grammys.

Brandi Carlile says she “can’t wrap her head around” being the most-nominated female artist at this year’s Grammy Awards, but she’s keenly aware of the overall significance of those accolades. 

The folk-rock singer-songwriter’s latest album, “By the Way, I Forgive You,” saw her talking a stance on a number of contemporary issues, like addiction, immigration and bullying. Released in February 2018, the album received massive critical praise and helped Carlile score six Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year (for lead single “The Joke”) and Album of the Year.  

“I feel like I’ve always been on the fringes of mainstream acceptance like that, but it means the most that I’ve received this honor at this point in my life,” she said in a new interview with Variety. “Being a 38-year-old mom, with two kids, who’s gay and lives on a farm, and is nominated alongside Janelle Monae and Cardi B, it’s kind of unbelievable.”

Carlile isn’t taking that newly expanded platform for granted, either. She went on to explain why she feels it’s more important than ever for LGBTQ artists to be open about their sexuality in spite of the professional risks that may arise.

“Representation can be kind of life or death for a kid in a small town,” she said. “At the very least it can give someone hope.”

The Washington state native, who cites Elton John and Freddie Mercury as influences and recently teamed up with Sam Smith for a duet version of her hit, “Party of One,” is about to kick off an action-packed Grammys week. In addition to Sunday’s awards ceremony, she’s due to perform at a MusiCares tribute to Dolly Parton on Friday and appear at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala the next day.

And though Carlile may be lauded by LGBTQ fans and advocacy groups for being so frank about her sexuality, she’s quick to credit other queer female artists, such as the Indigo Girls and k.d. lang, for having paved the way. 

“They were made fun of for being frumpy or not dressing right or not walking right,” she said. “Me and Courtney Barnett [a gay Australian singer-songwriter] are a product of the fact that they took those hits for us and now, nobody thinks it’s acceptable to say those things about us.”

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