BY Lesley Goldberg
November 02 2009 3:30 PM ET
Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile has been out since she was 15, when she was the only out student in her high school. Only recently commenting in the American press about her sexuality, Carlile has skipped being identified as a queer folk performer. The 28-year-old Seattle resident, who found success with 2007's The Story — the title track of which was featured on Grey's Anatomy — just released her third album, Give Up the Ghost, which features guest vocalists including Elton John and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Having recently completed the first leg of her tour to support Ghost, Carlile paused to discuss working with her childhood mentor, coming out publicly, and joining next year's Lilith Fair.
Advocate.com: What does the title of Give Up the Ghost mean?
Brandi Carlile: It's about transcendence. The term "give up the ghost" is most commonly used to describe somebody dying — like if you die, you give up the ghost. You could see that as a really bleak record title, but I see it as a big transition. I have been made well aware the past few years how artists can take their whole lives to write their first record and they have all these experiences to draw from — first love, coming of age, loss — and they have all these things to write a record about — all these profound things — then they write their second record based on being on the road, which is something that's significant, but it's kind of an unrelatable topic. I wanted to make a record based on transcending myself; right now, at this point in my life I'm writing about bigger things than what's happening in the moment.
How has your success with The Story influenced this record?
It influenced Ghost in a lot of ways; not so much my success, but how we recorded influenced Give Up the Ghost musically: the fact that we recorded it live, using old instruments and a lot of T-Bone Burnett's philosophy. Of course, The Story doing well made me really nervous about whether or not Ghost would or wouldn't be good.