Carlile began the song, off her latest album In These Silent Days, seated alone at a piano. After playing the intro, she picked up a Les Paul and joined her longtime musical collaborators the Hanseroth twins on an elevated platform, where the stage lights projected all the colors of the prism behind them. Carlile’s sequined jacket acted like its own prism too, bouncing light around the room, while her producer Shooter Jennings played piano.
The Washington state songwriter entered the evening a multiple nominee, with “Right on Time” scoring nods for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Additionally, Carlile has a nomination for her participation in the Alicia Keys collaboration “A Beautiful Noise,” which was co-written by Carlile and Keys with Ruby Amanfu, Brandy Clark, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Linda Perry, and Hailey Whitters. The Grammys also caused some controversy when Carlile revealed that her songs and album were being considered only in pop and all-genre categories and not in the Americana field where she’s been a previous winner.
“The importance of staying and working within Americana is greater than just me,” Carlile said at the time. “There is not a moment where I don’t view my role as something larger. I feel great responsibility in representing marginalized queer people in rural America who are raised on country and roots music but are repeatedly and systematically rejected by the correlating culture.”
In the Grammys press room, Bonnie Raitt talked at length about her admiration for Carlile. “I’m so glad to be one of her mentors. She’s done so much for so many other women in the business,” Raitt said. “What she’s done for Joni and helping her back after her aneurysm has been amazing. I admire her a great deal and I’m glad to be someone in her vein of influence.”
This spring and summer, Carlile will lead the Beyond These Silent Days Tour, with stops including Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre, Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater, and Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Supporting performers vary throughout the trek but include Lucius, Indigo Girls, Celisse, and Ani DiFranco.
Additional reporting by Ethan Millman