Brandi Carlile gave passers-by quite the surprise earlier this month when she joined Dave Grohl at Seattle’s Pike Place Market for an inspired busking session. The Grammy winner says the impromptu performance took her back to the more lean years of her career.
“It was really surreal, because I used to stand right there with all my hopes and my dreams and the two chords that I knew, trying to make gas money,” Carlile told Rolling Stone on Saturday backstage at MerleFest in North Carolina, where she was headlining the bluegrass festival.
A Washington State native and longtime Seattle area resident, Carlile came into contact with Grohl through an as-yet-untitled project the Foo Fighters leader is working on.
“I don’t totally want to give it away, but he came out to my house to talk to me about something he’s working on. It’s more like one of his doc-series,” Carlile says. “We hung out and rode four-wheelers around my house all day, cooked dinner and did shots of tequila — just had a great time.”
The next day, Carlile and Grohl, who also spent a period in Seattle when his former band Nirvana ruled the music world, drove around the city in a trip down memory lane.
“We talked about and went to a few key places that were important in both of our lives, and places he used to hang out with Kurt [Cobain] and the guys,” Carlile says. “We have the same guitar tech that Nirvana used, Ernie Bailey. We talked about some of their scallywag shenanigans. Then we went to some restaurants and bars I used to play and busk at.”
With an urge to do something spontaneous, Carlile and Grohl called up Phil and Tim Hanseroth, the twin brothers and founding members of Carlile’s powerhouse band, and decided to do a pop-up show at Pike Place Market.
“[The Twins] got in their cars and drove up to Seattle with guitars,” Carlile says. “And we just walked up to the dude that was out front busking, gave him a $100 and said, ‘Can we busk for a few minutes?’”
Surrounded by hundreds of surprised onlookers, Carlile, Grohl and the Twins played around 15 to 20 minutes with acoustic guitars, touching on the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and the Foos’ “Times Like These.”
“It was really full circle, and there was a lot about that day that felt that way,” Carlile says. “Just the gravity of being with Dave Grohl and then being back at a place that I worked so hard and wanted so badly to make it, made me realize I have — and I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve realized that.”