336 pgs. | $28 hardcover
“Iwas the most nominated woman in the 2019 Grammys…” narrates Brandi Carlile, in her new book Broken Horses.
“You’re GODDAMNED RIGHT YOU WERE!!!” shouts her longtime fan and ace reporter, me, at 3:00 am, scaring two dogs and at least three cats with her exhortation.
Some of us have been listening to Brandi Carlile since she toured with Jonny Lang in 2006. We watched her on YouTube late into the night, when the lyrics to Wasted spoke our stories when we couldn’t find the words. We listened to each of her albums repeatedly, their songs becoming a part of our life soundtrack. We cheered when we heard her songs on Grey’s Anatomy, and faithfully went to see her in concert with Phil and Tim Hanseroth every year. We lightly cussed out Jason Isbell for winning Americana Album of the Year that one time. We figured out how to tell the twins apart (Phil: Bass, Tim: Guitar). We know Brandi Carlile.
We thought we did, anyway.
As Biggie once said, “And if you don’t know, now you know.”
Brandi Carlile has lived in the in-betweens all of her life. Kind of country, kind of rock. Friendly but private. Fierce but a little busted. Sexy and silly. In Broken Horses, we learn about a rough childhood with young parents and little money. There was music, though. There was God and community and love.
We see those four things repeat throughout her (still very young!) life. We watch her collect her family members throughout the years, while building her musical skills. We learn about her relationship with Jesus and feel instantly reassured that she’d never be a dick about it. We learn about her tenacity. Her fierce love for her people is consistent. We see the cape of confidence that she wears so often that it eventually grew into her skin.
We learn that we didn’t actually know Brandi at all. What we knew was that the words that she was singing—written by her and her amazing band—narrated our lives, too. She sang about our pain, our triumphs, our loneliness, and our connections. Her songs are meaningful not because they’re a window into her, but because they’re diary entries that we could have written ourselves.
The audiobook has musical interludes that put each song into stark relief. We hear the story, and then we hear the song inspired by the story. It’s magical.
In reading Broken Horses, we find that Brandi Carlile is more than we could have imagined her to be, and more real than we expected. She feels like that kid we went to high school with. The one who was a little wild, really funny, really private, and really shiny. She has accomplished goals and worked her ass off. She is an activist, a mother, a wife, a friend, a rock star, and as country as a biscuit.
It’s cliché to say that I can’t wait to see what she does next, but you guys, I really can’t wait to see what she does next. | Melissa Cynova
Learn more about Broken Horses, read an excerpt, or listen to an excerpt of the audio book here, courtesy of Penguin Random House.