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Brandi Carlile Talks Producing and Finding an Artist’s Authenticity

Brandi Carlile and Dave Way discussed production and more during their TEC Tracks session at the NAMM Show.

Dave Way (left) and Brandi Carlile (right) discussed production and more during their TEC Tracks session at the NAMM Show.
Dave Way (left) and Brandi Carlile (right) discussed production and more during their TEC Tracks session at the NAMM Show.

Anaheim, CA (May 9, 2023)—TEC Tracks sessions are always among the highpoints of the annual NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, but this year’s edition saw nine-time Grammy winner Brandi Carlile take to the stage not to perform but to share hard-won insights into music production, as she discussed how she approaches producing other artists and ensuring that songs underscore an artist’s authenticity.

The session, “Brandi Carlile on Producing and Uncovering the Artist in the Studio,” found Carlile joined by four-time Grammy-winning producer/engineer Dave Way. NAMM CEO and President Joe Lamond introduced the pair and welcomed attendees to the session.

Way interviewed Carlile to discuss her approach to record production. Both the creative and organizational aspects of production were covered, with Carlile expanding on the different steps taken and decisions made to bring out the “magic” in the process. The topics of song selection and band-building were also a focus, with Carlile discussing what she looks for in a song for each particular project and what it takes to gather the right studio ensemble. In both cases, Carlile said she prefers these decisions to project the authenticity of the artist first and foremost, rather than playing it safe to generate a by-the-numbers product.

On the Road with Brandi Carlile

“I’m just looking for the songs that reveal the artist most authentically, where it doesn’t sound like they came out of a staff writing room, or it doesn’t sound like they are not being revealed authentically in the song for whatever reason,” stated Carlile. “I always ask artists not to send me produced demos. I always ask for just a voice memo on your phone, a guitar and vocal. Not because I want to have an overbearing outcome on how the song turns out, but just because I don’t want me or that artist to get pulled in one direction in too strong of a way, to leave room for the moment, the moment that is rock ’n’ roll in the studio.”

Carlile also shared wisdom, techniques and insights she has learned from working with other acclaimed producers, including T Bone Burnett, Rick Rubin, Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings, and she discussed differences between producing her own music versus other artists’ work.

Aside from the production of her own work, Carlile has increasingly been a record producer for other artists in recent years, helming albums by Tanya Tucker, Lucius, The Secret Sisters and Brandy Clark. The 2019 Tanya Tucker album, While I’m Livin’, which Carlile co-produced with Shooter Jennings, won the Grammy for Best Country Album (Carlile’s first production Grammy for work with another artist). Her production work continues in earnest this year, with multiple high-profile projects in the pipeline, including the upcoming self-titled Brandy Clark LP, Tanya Tucker’s recently announced June release, Sweet Western Sound, and others.

Some of the discussion was dedicated to Carlile’s recent series of collaborations with songwriting legend Joni Mitchell, including Mitchell’s 2022 return to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival after a lengthy health-related hiatus and the resulting upcoming live album produced by Carlile. At the TEC Tracks session, Carlile played two preview tracks (“A Case of You” and “Both Sides Now”) from the upcoming Mitchell live album for the crowd, along with additional cuts from Tish Melton (“Michele” and “The Chase”), Tanya Tucker (“Bring My Flowers Now” and “Kindness”) and Brandy Clark (“Buried” and “Ain’t Enough Rocks”).