Brandi Carlile hangs out with Elton John

Folk diva Brandi Carlile lives in the rustic Washington town where she grew up, in a secluded log cabin with her pet Doberman pinscher Bailey. But the reclusive artist came out of her shell on the new CD “Give Up the Ghost,” on which she worked with Amy Ray, Chad Smith, producer Rick Rubin and her heroes Elton John and his string arranger Paul Buckmaster.
 
You were crazy for Elton as a kid, right? I loved Elton — it’s true. And I wasn’t only listening to him as a kid, I was preaching the gospel, going to school and trying to sell it. But I was already into costume jewelry and dressing up, so I had several pairs of huge glasses like his and I mainly wore a pair of bright red ones. I thought I was so cool, but I looked more like Sally Jessy Raphael.

What was your geekiest Elton-fan moment? There were so many! Probably when I dressed up for my seventh-grade talent show and sang “Honky Cat” in a three-piece suit, platform shoes and yellow, feathered glasses — just like the cover of “Caribou.”

Were you voted “girl most likely to live alone in a log cabin” in school? “Most likely to succeed” actually! I was always singing — from the time I was 8 years old till now, I’ve never stopped. So I think I kind of squeaked by in school just by having a purpose.

Had you met Elton before? No. But a few years ago, he called me on the phone. I’d said something nice about him in The New York Times, so he called me and sent some flowers and a bottle of wine. So when we made this record, we wanted him to play piano on this really funky “Tumbleweed”-type song, so I sent him an e-mail and he agreed to do it. So I flew to Vegas, where he was performing, and we recorded it there.

And? He was awesome! And hilarious! And all he wanted to talk about was music, which got me really inspired. He even scolded me a bit on artists that I should’ve known more about, like Leon Russell. But Elton is a way-paver for me as a humanitarian, and he illuminated a path for me as an artist, too. He’s just an amazing human being.

 

IF YOU GO

Brandi Carlile

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday
Tickets: $26
Contact: www.livenation.com

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