When Brandi Carlile hit the road late last year, she left her guitar cables at home.
The singer-songwriter’s Pin Drop Tour was revolutionary: an international tour by one of Americana’s leading ladies, with nary a P.A. speaker or microphone in sight. Backed by longtime partners Tim and Phil Hanseroth, Carlile played every show entirely unplugged, relying on the raw power of her voice — as well as the chemistry onstage, where the three musicians hollered, harmonized and stomped their way through the very first live performances of songs from The Firewatcher’s Daughter — to fill the gap left by a lower electric bill.
They brought along their kids for the ride, too. The Carlile camp has ballooned in size during recent years, with all three musicians starting families of their own. Wives, children and bandmates all crowded onto the same tour bus last October, when the group kicked off the first leg of the multi-month Pin Drop trek. A camera crew tagged along, too, grabbing footage of soundchecks, performances, family dinners, campfire hangouts, backstage high-fives and rare days at home for an upcoming documentary called “Wherever Is Your Heart.” Although a release date has yet to be announced, the trailer — which doubles as the official music video of the “Wherever is Your Heart” single — makes its debut today on Rolling Stone Country.
“We felt that the Pin Drop Tour needed to be documented because it was the first time that we had attempted — and, to my knowledge, anyone had attempted — an entire tour with no P.A. system or amplification of any kind,” Carlile tells Rolling Stone Country. “It was also our first tour as a family with all three kids, band and crew on one bus. We knew there would be chaos and we wanted to see what would happen.”
These days, Carlile and the Hanseroth twins aren’t just bandmates; they’re blood relatives. Phil married Carlile’s sister months before the release of 2012’s Bear Creek, making Carlile an aunt (and Tim an uncle) to the pair’s children. Everyone lives within a few miles of one another in Maple Valley, a former coal mining town located 45 minutes south of Seattle. Whenever they aren’t on tour, they get together on holidays and weekends. Carlile and Tim co-wrote “Wherever Is Your Heart” to celebrate that close, unusual connection.
“It’s a love song to our cultish little family,” Carlile explains, “stating simply that while our environment and lives change, we grow — but don’t grow apart — and home is wherever we are all together.”
With their summer tour coming to a close this week, the group will enjoy a rare break at home before hitting the highway once again in September. Virtually all of their 2015 shows have sold out, including a performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater last Saturday night, where Carlile and company plugged in for an electric, elastic set. Kicking off the year as an unplugged act and wrapping up the summer as an amplified roots-rock band might be the most standard path, but Brandi Carlile has never worried about carving out a strange arc to her career — as long as it keeps everyone moving forward.
“I don’t know if it’s common to have partners and children on the bus,” she admits, “but I can’t see living any other way. We get to rejoice in the highs and support each other in the lows. We fight like cats and dogs, get sick, get tired, get drunk, get lost and get found. Nobody is hiding anything.”