Brandi Carlile: The First Time She Ever Stood Up for Herself - Rolling Stone
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The First Time: Brandi Carlile

The Grammy-winning Americana songwriter on the first album she ever purchased and the first time she stood up for herself

The first album Brandi Carlile ever purchased was Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, on cassette, when she was about 14. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to listen to it long — as she reveals in Rolling Stone‘s “The First Time” video series, some kids “ruined it on the school bus with a magnet.”

Carlile, whose album By the Way, I Forgive You triumphed at February’s Grammy Awards, shares more pivotal firsts. Among them: the first time she stood up for herself (she pretended to know karate); the first time she performed in public (singing “Tennessee Flat Top Box”); and the first time she was inspired by a woman (Ellen DeGeneres’ decision to come out).

But it’s activism that is at the core of Carlile. She recounts how a book report about Ryan White, the teenager who became an AIDS activist prior to his death from the disease in 1990, set her on the path to making a difference, and also introduced her to Elton John, a friend of White’s.

“The first political thing I ever did was to disagree with my father and begin to grow up at a young age because of my education and my access to books,” says Carlile. “I knew growing up and going through my life that if I ever got a chance…that I would be an activist musician.”


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