#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about faith, sexuality, parenthood, and a life shaped by music in “one of the great memoirs of our time” (Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed).
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND AUTOSTRADDLE • “The best-written, most engaging rock autobiography since her childhood hero, Elton John, published Me.”—Variety
Brandi Carlile was born into a musically gifted, impoverished family on the outskirts of Seattle and grew up in a constant state of change, moving from house to house, trailer to trailer, fourteen times in as many years. Though imperfect in every way, her dysfunctional childhood was as beautiful as it was strange, and as nurturing as it was difficult. At the age of five, Brandi contracted bacterial meningitis, which almost took her life, leaving an indelible mark on her formative years and altering her journey into young adulthood.
As an openly gay teenager, Brandi grappled with the tension between her sexuality and her faith when her pastor publicly refused to baptize her on the day of the ceremony. Shockingly, her small town rallied around Brandi in support and set her on a path to salvation where the rest of the misfits and rejects find it: through twisted, joyful, weird, and wonderful music.
In Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile takes readers through the events of her life that shaped her very raw art—from her start at a local singing competition where she performed Elton John’s “Honky Cat” in a bedazzled white polyester suit, to her first break opening for Dave Matthews Band, to many sleepless tours over fifteen years and six studio albums, all while raising two children with her wife, Catherine Shepherd. This hard-won success led her to collaborations with personal heroes like Elton John, Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, Pearl Jam, Tanya Tucker, and Joni Mitchell, as well as her peers in the supergroup The Highwomen, and ultimately to the Grammy stage, where she converted millions of viewers into instant fans.
Evocative and piercingly honest, Broken Horses is at once an examination of faith through the eyes of a person rejected by the church’s basic tenets and a meditation on the moments and lyrics that have shaped the life of a creative mind, a brilliant artist, and a genuine empath on a mission to give back.
Carlile, a multiple Grammy Award winning musician, recalls the pivotal events that shaped her music and identity in this captivating memoir. Growing up in a small town outside Seattle in the '80s, she sought the limelight early, entering singing competitions and teaching herself piano and guitar. Though her family struggled to keep food on the table, her mother's support gave her a quiet, stable confidence. "She'd helped me try to win... and she helped me truly express myself in front of my peers." After moving several times before high school, Carlile dropped out to focus on music. She's candid about her sexuality and how she reconciled her faith after being turned away by her hometown church when she came out. "There was grace in the outrage my public rejection incited in my family and in that tiny town," Carlile writes. She also offers a behind-the-scenes look at the music business, acknowledging how fortunate she was to garner respect from Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, and others she performed with. She doesn't sugarcoat the disappointments that came her way such as being booted off a rock tour because she was a "female-fronted opener" instead recalling them with a self-awareness that allows balance for her marriage, motherhood, and national tours. While the author's rise to fame was impressive, it is her raw emotion that resonates after the book's end.
By the way, I thank you….
This is one of the most entertaining, inspiring and humble memoirs I’ve ever read. I decided to really explore Brandi’s music after her recent appearance/performance on SNL, and as a result, I have become a huge fan. What a voice! Her music led me to this book, as well as to the documentary film she did with Tanya Tucker. I’m not normally one to become overly impressed by entertainers, but Brandi is the exception. Her humanity, character, and personal values come through loud and clear in the arc of her life, in the pages of this memoir, and in everything she does. Thank you Brandi, for a compelling and inspiring read, and for a playlist that will always be among my most treasured music.
Reflective introspection at its best…
Brandi Carlile has spoken to my soul through her music for a decade now, but the honesty provided here in these pages really affected me in a way that I was unprepared to meet because of the thoughts I had of already feeling like I know her. She shares so much of herself in her commentary at concerts, and I’ve followed her around the United States, seeing her upwards of nearly 15 times to date hearing much of that discussion. Plus, being a member of “Bramily,” her fan club, I’ve been privy to an extremely generous amount of livestream concerts, particularly during these days during the pandemic. She has so openly ‘gushed’ over her wife, has playfully shown us her kids as well as has cared for and has even educated them when appropriate, has always been proud of her roots and has taken family on tour or to special events, has given us access to her beautiful home in Washington state, has enlightened us with recommendations to read or important efforts to explore and get behind and support if we then so choose, has definitely encouraged us to support her charity, the Looking Out Foundation (for which I have actually volunteered…a TOP-NOTCH organization doing wonderful deeds), has drunk wine with us from her very own vineyard (XOBC) and has even held an online pajama party in celebration of her book being on the NY Times bestseller list, etc…. She simply takes us as fans along for as much of the ride as possible! It is highly unusual for an artist to be so enthusiastically brazen and again, that open, about his or her life. More unlikely than that, however, is for the artist to remain so kind, warm, compassionate, empathetic, caring, genuine, generous and pure loving toward her fans (amongst a gazillion other great traits)…maintaining balance and a sense of humbleness, all at the same time. Well, she has. Plus, she stands with dignity and integrity in everything she does…at least from anything I have ever heard. I do know from excerpts from the memoir that she’s had her share of struggles, but she has also owned them and ‘made them right.’ She learned the value of forgiveness and the value of her faith despite the pure disheartenment and devastation she faced at the hands of the church itself. She has never disavowed any personal wrong to my knowledge…just the opposite. She can stand with pride in all of her efforts as a result. So, saying all of this, I realize that Brandi has been challenged coming to terms with some of the distinct ramifications of writing this memoir. Nevertheless, I hope that she can embrace its overall beauty and authenticity as well as can recognize how impactful it can be to the lives of so many people…fans, old and new. It touched me in a multitude of unexpected immeasurable ways to which I am beyond grateful. I still tear up thinking back over some of the extracts. True, because I genuinely revere her, have the utmost respect for her and have a deep affection for her, some of my emotions are tied in part to the circumstances of her life. On the other hand, this book is simply stimulating to the soul, heart and mind. I do not believe that anyone can escape it unaffected or without some huge epiphanies or absent real change. It is just that powerful. It is definitively a book crafted from a lyrical genius as well. Brandi may have dropped out of high school, but she is masterful with the English language, amongst many matters in life, and has a second nature when crafting compositions. It only goes to show how resilience and perseverance are two of the most important elements when climbing any ladder of success. She has true talent, a gift from God, but she has also furthered herself via diligence and hard work, NEVER giving up, despite hearing “No’s” along the way. Failure was not an option, and it is evident in this memoir. Congratulations, Brandi! Continue fighting the good fight! You have arrived. This is THE READ OF THE YEAR!! Truly stellar…
Such a great book!!