“My greatest heroes have really paired their music with humanitarian efforts, activism, so I wanted to do that right away,” Brandi Carlile says in a mini-documentary depicting her work with her own charitable Looking Out Foundation. The short film, premiering on Rolling Stone Country, chronicles Carlile’s visit during the holidays to the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.
For the past 10 years, the Washington native has gone inside to perform an acoustic set for inmates. In the above clip, shot during the 2017 holiday season, she sings her deeply personal “The Mother,” which she wrote after the birth of her first child, daughter Evangeline. Carlile is also seen being presented a Christmas wreath made by the inmates.
“I believe the voices of incarcerated women should be amplified almost above all the rest,” Carlile tells Rolling Stone Country. “They have something to teach us from a place that can only be perceived as complete humility and a desire to change our hearts. When used for wisdom and a beacon to light the path of young people, these testimonies are sometimes a matter of life and death. I need to be a part of this movement because while I have my freedom, I can’t fully see the forest for the trees.”
The IF Project, which was based on the question posed by a Seattle police officer to inmates – “If there was something someone could have said or done to change the path that led you here, what would it have been?” – is a program that helps incarcerated women (80 percent of whom, like Carlile, are mothers) tell their stories. The program is centered on intervention, prevention and reduction in incarceration and recidivism, and also works with young adults to identify better choices and to learn from people that have been in their shoes. Carlile has been supporting the IF Project since its inception and her Looking Out Foundation has, to date, donated $100,000 to the project. The mini-documentary premieres just before Giving Tuesday, the annual campaign to encourage charitable donations on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving.