Brandi Carlile Addresses Capacity Crowd at The NAMM Show
“Brandi Carlile on Producing and Uncovering the Artist in the Studio” featured 9x GRAMMY® winner Carlile in conversation with 4x GRAMMY winner Dave Way
At the recent 2023 NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, the TEC Tracks program included the session “Brandi Carlile on Producing and Uncovering the Artist in the Studio,” which featured Carlile (a 9x GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, performer, producer, No. 1 New York Times Bestselling author and activist) in conversation with 4x GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer Dave Way (Fiona Apple, Ringo Starr, Phoebe Bridgers, Echo in the Canyon, Sheryl Crow, Pink, “Weird Al” Yankovic). The session, which took place on Thursday, April 13, was attended by GRAMMY-winning engineers and producers, as well as musicians and content creators. TEC Tracks is a pro audio and music technology education program at The NAMM Show.
The session was hailed as a unanimous success, with many citing it as a highlight of The NAMM Show. The venue was filled to capacity, as NAMM CEO and President Joe Lamond introduced the pair and welcomed attendees to the session.
Addressing the crowd, Lamond stated, “We thank Brandi for flying in to do this session. This is a TEC Tracks that you will all remember for the rest of your lives.”
Aside from the production of her own work (in which she has played a major part since her self-produced, self-titled debut in 2005), Carlile has increasingly been in demand as 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.
In this TEC Tracks session, Dave Way interviewed Carlile to discuss her approach to record production. Both the creative and organizational aspects of production were covered in earnest, 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.
“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.
An emotional portion 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. Working with Mitchell has been a dream come true for Carlile, a lifelong ardent Mitchell admirer. 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”).
Joe Lamond closed the session by thanking Carlile for her insights and observations and invited her back for next year’s TEC Tracks sessions.
From left: Panel moderator 4x GRAMMY®-winning producer/engineer Dave Way; 9x GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, performer, producer, No. 1 New York Times Bestselling author and activist Brandi Carlile; and NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond, shown after the TEC Tracks session “Brandi Carlile on Producing and Uncovering the Artist in the Studio,” during The 2023 NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, on April 13, 2023. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of 15,000 global member companies and individual professionals. NAMM events and members fund The NAMM Foundation's efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music and advance active participation in music-making across the lifespan. For more information about NAMM, please visit www.namm.org.