This year’s most-nominated woman on Sunday’s awards show, marrying her wife illegally and her all-female festival
Eight days before the 61st Grammy awards, the woman with the most nominations is on a beach in Mexico having a massage.
Brandi Carlile is here in Cancún with her wife and kids – Evangeline, four, and Elijah, one – to organise and perform at the inaugural year of her all-female festival, Girls Just Wanna. But right now she is having a break from it all and reflecting on the fact that her sixth album, By The Way, I Forgive You, has gleaned six nominations, including in the three biggest categories of song, album and record of the year. Last year, the Grammys’ dearth of female winners came under scrutiny, and former president Neil Portnow declared that it was the women who needed to “step up”. The success of the pragmatic and political Carlile feels like the perfect rebuff.
At 37, deep into a 15-year career as a singer-songwriter of pop-rock, blues and folk, Carlile has a serene perspective on the Grammys. “I know I wouldn’t have been ready for this in my early 30s. I would have got stressed out, not slept, got sick, drunk too much. I would have gone wrong, you know? I know what it feels like to not have recognition. It doesn’t feel bad. But this feels a lot better.”
Carlile has never couched herself as staunchly country, yet this is her widest crossover to date. She had spent years writing introspectively as a lesbian with a nuanced outlook on love and struggle, a gay woman who was illegally married in 2012 before the abolition of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2015. Following Trump’s election, she understood that this was a revolutionary act. “I realised I was waking up every day political, as a gay mother with two daughters,” she says. “Being political doesn’t come from outside me any more. It comes from who I am.”