A gifted singer/songwriter whose rich voice and literate storytelling belie her youth (she was only 23 when she released her major-label debut), Brandi Carlile was born in the small town of Ravensdale, WA, an isolated community 50 miles from Seattle. With few neighbors or friends nearby, she grew up learning to make her own entertainment, which included hiking trips in the nearby woods and self-taught vocal lessons. Carlile also grew attached to the classic country music her parents doted on, specifically Patsy Cline, and she made her stage debut at the age of eight after she was taken to a local country radio show by her mother. At 17 years old, Carlile picked up the guitar, having developed a taste for rock & roll through Elton John's classic albums of the 1970s, and began hitting the Seattle bar scene, playing anywhere she could get a gig (including a stint singing backup for an Elvis Presley tribute act).
While playing clubs, she encountered a band called the Fighting Machinists, featuring twin brothers Tim Hanseroth on guitar and Phil Hanseroth. Impressed by their instrumental skills and spot-on harmonies, Carlile became an instant fan of the Fighting Machinists, and when the group broke up, she persuaded the Hanseroth twins to form a new group with her. While they started out as an aggressive rock & roll band, Carlile's emotionally powerful songwriting and acoustic guitar work soon became the dominant component of their sound, and they began touring regularly, headlining small venues and opening shows for Dave Matthews, Shawn Colvin, and India.Arie.
In 2000, Carlile recorded the first of several self-released recordings that sold briskly at shows, and in 2005 she was signed to Columbia Records, releasing a self-titled album later that same year. The album earned enthusiastic reviews, and Carlile was named one of 2005's "Artists to Watch" by Rolling Stone. In 2006, Carlile and her band began work on her second Columbia album, The Story, with T Bone Burnett producing. The record was released in spring 2007 to warm reviews, and the inclusion of its title track in several commercials (most notably a General Motors ad that aired during the 2008 Beijing Olympics) helped boost sales. Give Up the Ghost followed in late 2009 and cracked the Top 40, and Carlile rang in 2010 by issuing a Valentine's Day-themed EP, XOBC.