Interview: Maranda Pleasant

Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?

Brandi Carlile: Musically, the twins [Tim and Phil Hanseroth] inspire me with their songs and song beginnings. They influence me to write more than anything ever has. When I hear one of them playing abstract music off in the corner of the room somewhere, it’s like I’m getting a glimpse into some part of my soul I can only access with them. It’s like finding the way back into Narnia.

In life, I’m most inspired by entertaining people and driven by the desire to do it by such a powerful force that I think it influences everything I do.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

BC: Among other things, Jesus came to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Privilege and complacency paralyze me with fear sometimes. But the less vulnerable we are because of privilege, the country we’re born in, or the security we enjoy, the more vulnerable our souls are to apathy.

MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?

BC: It’s impossible to just come up with one thing that I could say to the world. That’s why I’ve spent my life in the pursuit of the opportunity to sing to it. Summing it up goes against what fuels me.

MP: How do you handle emotional pain?

BC: Usually by trying to explain it. Bad idea—even whiskey is a better idea than that. I pray a lot at night and sometimes during the day. I handle it differently now than when I was in my twenties; I’m learning to let my wife [Catherine Shepherd] help carry my darkness, and it’s much lighter now.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?

BC: I used to turn to nature and animals a lot. And fishing. I spend time still with my Bible and the gospel music, and I still have to feed the animals! But my wife and daughter have brought me a world of perspective when I’m feeling just a little “extra important.”

MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?

BC: “The mole can’t live in your dollhouse.” It’s a long, funny story, but when I was about eight years old, I found a very dirty baby mole on the ground on the way home from my bus stop. I had a beautiful, new Victorian dollhouse at home. My mom had been obsessing over perfecting all the miniature pieces of furniture and all the luxury that you could experience by peering through the tiny windows from inside the singlewide mobile home we actually lived in. So, of course, I saw the dirty little mole and knew how much better off she’d be in a tiny silk bed, so I took her home in my pocket and moved her into her new four-story dollhouse. You know how the story goes: she was dead in an hour. I remember my parents saying to me that not all living things can survive in my dollhouse, especially not me or the mole.

You can’t change people, but most importantly, unless you’re their momma, you don’t even know what’s best for them. Bear the burdens of others, but don’t put them in your pocket too.

MP: What truth do you know for sure?

BC: That there is a creator and a redeemer, and that the purpose of it all is love.

MP: What causes or organizations are you passionate about?

BC: The Half the Sky Movement, based on the old Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky and that the oppression of women is the single most corrosive and urgent problem of our time.

The Fight the Fear Campaign, teaching women and girls to defend themselves but, most importantly, that they are worth defending. We teach self-defense classes in underserved and at-risk communities but, most recently, in high schools where one in three girls will become the victim of sexual violence in this country. We aim to change the unacceptable culture of sexual violence.

Doctors Without Borders. This organization is conceptually one of the most powerful groups of people I’ve ever encountered. While fighting Ebola in the affected nations is the most currently astounding undertaking that they’re a part of, they’ve been risking their lives in third-world, war-torn countries for years. All while shattering political and race stereotypes for years. These doctors could have done a very different thing with
their years of education, and they deserve more funding, if not medals, from their respective countries.

MP: Tell me about your latest projects and why they are important to you.

BC: The Fight the Fear Campaign is something I started with a group of women in Seattle. It is funded by the Looking Out Foundation and my friends and fans at Again Today. Even before I had a daughter, I was passionate about global women’s issues, but now that she’s here, I’m even more inspired to leave a better world for Evangeline.

MP: What is love for you?

BC: Honesty, selflessness, influence, honor. It’s so easy to love my girls that it’s hard to verbalize.

MP: What is the most important thing for us to do as beings?

BC: Love your neighbor.


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