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Brandi Carlile Sang to Janelle Monáe at the Grammys

Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae

One out powerhouse singing to another! 

Despite her being in the music industry for more than a decade and amassing scores of devoted fans, Brandi Carlile had arguably the biggest night of her career at the Grammy Awards on Sunday. The out musician picked up three awards for her albumBy the Way, I Forgive You and for the song "The Joke," which she performed for a rapt audience at the Grammys. Backstage, the 37-year-old performer and songwriter from Seattle told reporters that she was nervous performing, but when Carlile spotted a serene Janelle Monae in the audience, she focused on Monae and sang her anthem about "The Joke" -- about overcoming bullying -- to her.

Carlile, who began the evening with six Grammy nominations across Americana and mainstream categories, had already picked up three Grammys in the roots genre even before she stepped out onto the stage to perform.

"When the audience rose to their feet in the middle of your performance, what went through your head?" a reporter asked Carlile in the press room after the show.

"I was just so overwhelmed. I was so grateful to the [musicians Phil and Tim Hanseroth who've played with Carlile throughout her career] and to [her wife Catherine Shepherd and their two daughters]." Carlile said. "I got out there and I was freaking nervous as you can imagine I would be. I don't think I've ever done anything of that magnitude."

"I looked out in the audience and I saw one person standing up looking at me with total peace on her face and it was Janelle Monae," Carlile said. "It really touched me. I lost all of my nervousness and I just sang it to her. Everybody else rose to follow her and I don't think I'll ever forget that."

By the time Carlile took the stage, Monae had already wowed the crowd at the Grammys with a stellar performance of "Dirty Computer."

Watch part of Carlile's Grammy performance below.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist