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The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about a life shaped by music in this candid, heartfelt, and intimate story. 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, 14 times in as many ye The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about a life shaped by music in this candid, heartfelt, and intimate story. 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, 14 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 listeners 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 15 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.


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The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about a life shaped by music in this candid, heartfelt, and intimate story. 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, 14 times in as many ye The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about a life shaped by music in this candid, heartfelt, and intimate story. 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, 14 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 listeners 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 15 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.

30 review for Broken Horses

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Honestly, what is there to say when you read the memoir of an artist whose music you’ve loved for 14 years? I discovered Brandi Carlile on MySpace in 2007 and was immediately obsessed. When I finally saw her on stage for the first time in 2010, I was hooked. She is a truly epic performer...one of those singers who sound even better live than they do on the album, and that’s saying a lot. The fact that she’s a lesbian is icing on the cake. Her music was the soundtrack to my coming out and to mine Honestly, what is there to say when you read the memoir of an artist whose music you’ve loved for 14 years? I discovered Brandi Carlile on MySpace in 2007 and was immediately obsessed. When I finally saw her on stage for the first time in 2010, I was hooked. She is a truly epic performer...one of those singers who sound even better live than they do on the album, and that’s saying a lot. The fact that she’s a lesbian is icing on the cake. Her music was the soundtrack to my coming out and to mine and my wife’s love story. It continues to be an integral and ongoing part of our lives and story. This memoir was everything a superfan like myself would want it to be - so authentic and transparent about who she is and about her childhood in poverty, with loads of fascinating story between then and up until now. Her spiritual journey is woven throughout. If you know her songs, you know she’s a gifted storyteller, and this books certainly confirms it. I was riveted the whole time. If you don’t know her music, listen to The Story (an unofficial lesbian anthem) or The Joke (a gorgeous song directed at LGBTQ+ youth as well as other marginalized or oppressed groups) to start with. Her voice is otherworldly. And either way, her memoir is worth reading simply for the adventurous and interesting life she’s lead.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tai Tomasi

    I stayed up late to finish this candid memoir on the day it was released. It was as relatable and amazing as I expected. Brandi Carlile’s words are a gift to the LGBTQIA and other marginalized communities. If you have ever felt like a misfit or out of place, this is a powerful read!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dana Klein

    You know that book you plan to still have on your nightstand when you’re 80 years old? I hereby promise that Broken Horses will survive any and every apt switch/life move that I make. I feel like I’ll always want it close by.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I mean- she's my favorite. How could I not give it five stars? Brandi writes like she sings- with truth and heart. I mean- she's my favorite. How could I not give it five stars? Brandi writes like she sings- with truth and heart.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Full disclosure: I have been a Brandi Carlile fan for a number of years, kicked up a notch in the last few years by the group's "By The Way, I Forgive You" album; the album from her side project with Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris: The Highwomen; her stunning performance of her incredible song, The Joke, on the Grammy Awards in 2019; and her oh-so-welcome musical performances shared via Facebook during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. In other words, I already had a favor Full disclosure: I have been a Brandi Carlile fan for a number of years, kicked up a notch in the last few years by the group's "By The Way, I Forgive You" album; the album from her side project with Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris: The Highwomen; her stunning performance of her incredible song, The Joke, on the Grammy Awards in 2019; and her oh-so-welcome musical performances shared via Facebook during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. In other words, I already had a favorable bias toward this memoir. But I did not know all that much about Ms. Carlile personally other than that she and her wife, Catherine, have two young daughters. This memoir painted a fresh and honest and even somewhat dorky (like me!!!) portrait of the artist as a still-to-me young musician: at once surprising and full of the expected moments in the trajectory of a star of Ms. Carlile's caliber--her unabashed thrill when she performed on stage the first time as a child in her native Washington (state); her experimentation with different genres outside the Western Grand Old Opry setting in which she first cut her musical chops; the years of scrimping and cobbling together equipment and resources to continue to put herself in front of a live audience; issues with drinking and drugs (although in the latter case, it was a combination of steroids for her damaged voice and Xanax to help her sleep in the wake of the effect of the steroids). But she also had other obstacles to overcome: being gay in a Baptist family; being gay in a largely anti-gay musical genre; being a woman in a decidedly male-centric musical genre; and her own self-doubt. On the other hand, she boldly contacted and approached music industry people and other celebrities--Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Barack Obama, to name a few--some of whom became friends and mentors; and she has been extremely generous with others, including Tanya Tucker, whose comeback album she produced and which earned Ms. Tucker her first Grammy--when she was in her sixties. This memoir is also partly a love story written by Ms. Carlile to those people who make up her family--blood or otherwise: her parents, brother, sister; grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; her wife and daughters; and her band mates, twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, and their wives and children, all of whom live on a large tract of land owned by Ms. Carlile that contains the cabin she herself built about twenty years ago. And probably the most surprising aspect of the story of Brandi Carlile is her deep spirituality in the face of a Baptist community--and especially its pastor--who rejected her in a crushing way during her teenage years. In fact, in the title track of her Grammy winning "By the Way, I Forgive You," she publicly forgave the pastor who humiliated her. I think Ms. Carlile herself would be probably be equally thrilled and embarassed by this comment: If you are looking for examples of grace in this world, look no further than Ms. Carlile's memoir.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katie Crosby

    I’m fascinated by Brandi Carlile. As if forming a southern accent while living in the Pacific North West is not enough to capture my attention, I think it’s also because she defies categorization. You simply cannot put her in a box. Brandi draws a diverse crowd. Traditional soccer moms and misfit lesbians both share bread at her table. I’m not sure why she speaks to such different people, but I have a hunch it’s because of her honesty. Whether a person agrees with her conclusions or not, no one c I’m fascinated by Brandi Carlile. As if forming a southern accent while living in the Pacific North West is not enough to capture my attention, I think it’s also because she defies categorization. You simply cannot put her in a box. Brandi draws a diverse crowd. Traditional soccer moms and misfit lesbians both share bread at her table. I’m not sure why she speaks to such different people, but I have a hunch it’s because of her honesty. Whether a person agrees with her conclusions or not, no one can deny Brandi seeks to tell the truth. In a world where social media filters are rampant and society is married to materialism, her down to earth candor is refreshing. Fame does not seem to have changed her. Most of us spend our lives trying to escape from the expectations others place on us and Brandi offers an example of how to show up completely ourselves. She is candid about her ego and aware of her blind spots, but she strives for growth without abandoning herself. All of these themes are woven into this memoir. Brandi knows deep hurt and rejection, but through those experiences she also found forgiveness and redemption. This does not make what she’s been through acceptable, but it demonstrates the beauty of transformation when we refuse to define ourselves by what’s happened to us. I loved getting a window into the stories behind her songs as well as her process of personal healing. I found myself aching for more. We share a common spirituality and I day dream about getting to discuss Brennan Manning and Martin Luther with her one day! I admire how she champions people. When Brandi believes in someone, her tenacity, confidence, and admiration are unparalleled. The church may have shunned her, but the way she advocates for the downcast reminds me of Jesus. Her stories about Tanya Tucker moved me to tears. A true reflection of the “good news” if I’ve ever seen one. I felt a connection to how she described the children in her life. I really identified with what she wrote about being an aunt. My niece and nephews are my world so this part of the book was sacred to me. I’m grateful I get to walk the earth at the same time as Brandi Carlile. I look forward to watching her story progress and continue witnessing the people she will uplift and enfold. Surely it will be a part of book #2 and I’ll be the first in line to pre-order! She will always be one of the most fascinating people I know.

  7. 4 out of 5

    lori light

    My love of music is just a much a part of me as my love of books, so when one of your favorite artists writes a memoir, you know it's going to be a winner. When the musician happens to be very close to your age, there are countless things that make it feel like you're reading some of your own stories. I related to so much of Brandi's life...the medical trauma, the religious trauma. The weight of feeling like the world is changing fast, but maybe not fast enough? So much about this book really gu My love of music is just a much a part of me as my love of books, so when one of your favorite artists writes a memoir, you know it's going to be a winner. When the musician happens to be very close to your age, there are countless things that make it feel like you're reading some of your own stories. I related to so much of Brandi's life...the medical trauma, the religious trauma. The weight of feeling like the world is changing fast, but maybe not fast enough? So much about this book really gutted me. Growing up in the '90s, when everyone had opinions about AIDS and how it was God punishing the world for homosexuality. There is so much fucked up stuff that came out of that generation and we are still living some of that trauma today. And then there are living angels like Brandi, who are brave enough to live their truth, chase their dreams, and use their voices for change. After finishing this book today, I laid on my floor and had a serious ugly cry. As of today, I've had three major ugly breakdowns during the pandemic, and two of them were in relation to music. The other was about a much anticipated, cold, delivery burger, but that's another story. The first was in May of 2020 when I watched Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires play in Nashville for an empty room and thousands on Zoom. It was the first time the weight of what losing live music felt like for me came face to face what losing live music meant for the artists, musicians, and the countless folks that make the shows happen every night meant. The weight of it all hit me like a ton of bricks and I laid on my floor that night and cried for nearly an hour. I don't think I would have been able to peel myself off the floor if you'd have told me that night that nearly a year later and we are still not able to sit in rooms and listen to music and we are only just now getting to hug our friends. And yet, just like Brandi mentions in the book, there has been pause and space to grow things where there wasn't time or space before. I'm so grateful that some space allowed Brandi to complete this memoir and allow those of us who love her to peer inside her world and read her stories of legends like Dolly, Joni, and Elton. The true love that exists between her and music, her and the twins, her and Catherine, her and her fans. She's a gift to us all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen Schock

    I am a HUGE Brandi Carlile fan. So of course I read the book, an autographed copy in fact thanks to my thoughtful wife. I’m an avid reader of non-fiction and memoirs but putting my fan-girl aside, I have to be honest with you this book was a disappointment. It is undeserving of The NY Times bestseller title it now holds. In case you didn’t know, there is a certain path that authors have to take to get on the NY Times bestseller list. It’s like an Ivy League school, full of prestige but very few g I am a HUGE Brandi Carlile fan. So of course I read the book, an autographed copy in fact thanks to my thoughtful wife. I’m an avid reader of non-fiction and memoirs but putting my fan-girl aside, I have to be honest with you this book was a disappointment. It is undeserving of The NY Times bestseller title it now holds. In case you didn’t know, there is a certain path that authors have to take to get on the NY Times bestseller list. It’s like an Ivy League school, full of prestige but very few get on it. Some authors write an incredible book and it makes it to the NY Times list because of its brilliance or some “pay to play” to get on the list. Obviously Brandi played the game. Charging $33 for each book interview which guaranteed you got a copy of the book. That way they could work the system so that the sales came from various retailers across the country. Pairing Brandi with super celebs Dolly Parton or Alicia Keys meant casting an even wider net than her following alone. It’s a smart business decision. But it kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As a Brandi Carlile fan it’s interesting to hear the stories of how the band began, the struggles and how their relationships grew over the years. But the stories that are mentioned are very much on the surface, Brandi doesn’t get as deep or vulnerable as I was hoping she would. It’s lacking depth, and emotional intelligence. I expected it to be more like her music. In tune with the notion that in order to make a difference in the mind of a reader there has to be a plunge into the darkness in order for the light to truly shine. Instead famous names were mentioned, stories that glossed over the troubles of having an alcoholic parent or her own struggles with addiction to sleeping pills and steroids. All of this is to say, reading the book won’t stop me from being a fan of their music. Brandi and the twins are incredible musicians. If you don’t know them yet, just listen to the music. Don’t bother reading this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ken Hunt

    I have been aware of Brandi Carlile for as long as I can remember since I moved to Seattle in 2002. I constantly hear how she played weekly at the Paragon in Queen Anne years ago and always wondered if I ever walked or drove by while she was playing there. She is widely acclaimed and loved and yet her music has never hit my music streams. At times I would cherry her pick songs on various streaming devices without recognizing one. So when this book showed up, I had to read it to get the scoop. I I have been aware of Brandi Carlile for as long as I can remember since I moved to Seattle in 2002. I constantly hear how she played weekly at the Paragon in Queen Anne years ago and always wondered if I ever walked or drove by while she was playing there. She is widely acclaimed and loved and yet her music has never hit my music streams. At times I would cherry her pick songs on various streaming devices without recognizing one. So when this book showed up, I had to read it to get the scoop. I listened to it on Audible because she reads the book and further sings the songs just described in each chapter and then provides over another hour of songs in the end. She is a regional legend in Seattle and influenced by many of my favorite musicians including Elton John and the Indigo Girls. I love love love music, and not like a wine with all the evocative adjectives, I like what I like. I usually suck at knowing the lyrics and am more drawn to the sound of the instruments. While I love many genres of music, and respect them all, opera and country are two that simply do not do it for me. Thus why Brandi Carlile's music is not familiar to me. Regardless, however, reading this book about Puget Sound native daughter and her incredible journey is well worth it. She grew up super poor in the Seattle area in a loving Christian, musical family with many challenges,, moving 14 times and constantly changing schools. She came out as the only openly gay teenager in her high school and has preserved her faith in spite of other practitioners of her faith not wholly supporting her. Hard-won success is a great way to describe her journey and has taken the good with the bad to land with a loving insular and extended family of spouse, children, sibs, and close friends. A good read for any music lover, Washingtonian, lovers of underdog stories, LGBTQ pride.....human being. Her voice is truly amazing and her covers of Elton John and Soundgarden blew me away.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Riah

    I'm soooooo glad I picked this up. I highly recommend it on audio as she reads it herself and sprinkled in songs at the end of each chapter, plus there's a bonus section of music at the end. There is nothing spectacularly juicy here. If you're looking for sex, drugs, and rock and roll/Americana lifestyle of a musician, you won't find it here. If you're looking for an artist's true voice, you can hear that in Brandi's music. If you're looking for an artist to spill the tea, look elsewhere. And if I'm soooooo glad I picked this up. I highly recommend it on audio as she reads it herself and sprinkled in songs at the end of each chapter, plus there's a bonus section of music at the end. There is nothing spectacularly juicy here. If you're looking for sex, drugs, and rock and roll/Americana lifestyle of a musician, you won't find it here. If you're looking for an artist's true voice, you can hear that in Brandi's music. If you're looking for an artist to spill the tea, look elsewhere. And if you want to know what a grammy-winning recording artist does with their money, I'll spoil it now... broken horses and building family. What you'll get here that you might not expect in a book is true human connection. This is a book about finding oneself and the plugging that self in to other humans with astounding results. Giving all you have for all you believe in, and doing it in a truly genuine way. Sometimes full of fear/anxiety and sometimes full of joy. It's not a name-dropping book, although there are so many other names you will recognize. It's much more of an artist family book. It's a fantastic read. Personal review for people who know me irl: What I personally was not at all prepared for, was that it was literally like listening to myself talking in my own head. Apparently, Brandi and I have the same inner voice. It creeped me out, and simultaneously helped me feel absolutely validated. I don't mean we have the same beliefs, or lifestyle, or story. Her autobiography is hers and hers alone. I mean we reflect on ourselves with the same voice and mannerisms in our heads. That has never, ever happened to me with any book I've ever read. Probably because I'm a weirdo... and I'm ok with that. I bet if you asked Brandi, she'd say she's a weirdo too. But that's just my guess. And I am not starstruck, pretty much ever, but if I ever meet Brandi Carlile I'm probably going to struggle not to just give her the biggest damn hug because this book was that connected for me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    One of my favorite memoirs, ever. I zipped through this, and I loved that Brandi Carlile ended each chapter with one to three songs. This book is so current, it ends during the pandemic. She had just obtained success at the 2019 Grammys, put together a couple amazing events, and suddenly all musicians had to stop touring. We were rooting for her success during the entire book, and suddenly *bam* shut down, just like the entire world. I came to this book because of her 2021 Grammy performance in One of my favorite memoirs, ever. I zipped through this, and I loved that Brandi Carlile ended each chapter with one to three songs. This book is so current, it ends during the pandemic. She had just obtained success at the 2019 Grammys, put together a couple amazing events, and suddenly all musicians had to stop touring. We were rooting for her success during the entire book, and suddenly *bam* shut down, just like the entire world. I came to this book because of her 2021 Grammy performance in remembrance of John Prine. My only disappointment in her memoir is that she didn't talk about her relationship with John Prine. There are only some hints. I've been a John Prine fan since 1976 or so. I have loved "The Story" for years, and fell in love with "The Mother" a couple years ago. During the pandemic I became more aware of her as I saw some of her John Prine covers. Now she has given us a gritty, authentic look into her chaotic childhood in eastern King County, Washington. Amazingly enough, even though some people would consider her upbringing "feral" and her parents rather "hands-off," the entire family remains close. She doesn't have problems with her parents, even though her dad went through years of drinking, and her mom struggled with anxiety and depression. It's a true Americana story of people that keep loving each other, even though they have disappointed each other. I was moved to tears by the end of most chapters, during the musical interludes. I am truly a Brandi Carlile fan now. I didn't know there was an "Americana" gender until I listened to this book. I grew up with my parents and grandmother hosting hootenannies, my dad played jazz piano in honky tonk bars, our parents taught us drinking songs on road trips. I *feel* this kind of music soul. I love that she is a Jesus Freak lesbian.

  12. 5 out of 5

    BookChampions

    There is a lot more to "the story" (isn't there always?), but my coming out journey has several Brandi Carlile signposts. I am so grateful for "The Joke" and "That Wasn't Me" and "Whatever You Do" and "The Story," and I've sobbed to all of them in my car. So listening to her new memoir, *Broken Horses*, on the other side of my journey, read in her own voice, was a true gift. The audiobook package is 5 star worthy. Fans of Brandi would be foolish to not listen to the audiobook, which also includes There is a lot more to "the story" (isn't there always?), but my coming out journey has several Brandi Carlile signposts. I am so grateful for "The Joke" and "That Wasn't Me" and "Whatever You Do" and "The Story," and I've sobbed to all of them in my car. So listening to her new memoir, *Broken Horses*, on the other side of my journey, read in her own voice, was a true gift. The audiobook package is 5 star worthy. Fans of Brandi would be foolish to not listen to the audiobook, which also includes at least two dozen unabridged and intimate solo performances at the end of each chapter, but the words themselves are also proof why she is one of my queer soul's musical champions. Here she is describing the cover of her album, *By the Way, I Forgive You*, just one of the passages that hit me pretty hard: "Scott Avett and Joni Mitchell are two of my favorite painters. Actually they both paint themselves a lot. It’s not vain. It’s a superpower to know what you look like. Not on the surface, but what you really look like. It’s even more of a superpower to know it and accept it. Now here’s the truly unattainable nirvana: What if you could actually know and even love it? Most people are unaware of the story their eyes tell or the way their lines show us how often they laughed. I don’t want to be worried about my face or my body. I want to love it. I wanted to know what I looked like and not just accept it, but really embrace it. I thought that Scott might know what I looked like so asked him to paint me." Those who have a passing interest in Carlile or just like memoirs will still find a ton to admire here. But for fans, this is a must read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    The memoirs I’ve been listening to lately have been hitting it out of the PARK. I was actually devastated when this one ended - I wasn’t expecting it, cause for once I wasn’t keeping track of how much was left; I could have kept listening forever. I was riveted by her stories of her childhood, of her music, of meeting and marrying her wife, of her daughters, of lessons learned, her friendship with Elton John, singing to Joni Mitchell, all of it. I don’t actually know how to put into words how mu The memoirs I’ve been listening to lately have been hitting it out of the PARK. I was actually devastated when this one ended - I wasn’t expecting it, cause for once I wasn’t keeping track of how much was left; I could have kept listening forever. I was riveted by her stories of her childhood, of her music, of meeting and marrying her wife, of her daughters, of lessons learned, her friendship with Elton John, singing to Joni Mitchell, all of it. I don’t actually know how to put into words how much I truly loved this - I want to buy a physical copy so I can highlight and bookmark so many passages. Her words are filled with such openness, such strong, simple, humble honesty - there is so much profound wisdom here (while never ever parading itself around as profound wisdom - it just simply IS, or at least so much of it was, to me). Her thoughts and observations on religion, and forgiveness in particular...she untangled and put into words so much I’ve been struggling to express lately, even just in my own head, and did it beautifully. And now I can’t go this whole review without acknowledging the SONGS included in the audiobook. We don’t just get a snippet of a line, or one full song, or two, but TTHHHIIRRTTY. Thirty+ full length acoustic songs to bookend the chapters, and for some unknowable reason, whenever she’d start singing, I’d start crying. When I wasn’t listening to the audiobook, I was listening to her discography. I’m literally still listening to the songs as I type this, and don’t plan to stop anytime soon

  14. 5 out of 5

    James

    This is the second memoir I’ve read this year with an explicitly Christian theme that does NOT derive from the loudly conservative and almost exclusively white evangelical sub-cult of Christianity. The other is Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am. Both books document an artistic path from abject poverty to general fame, mediated by faith in the example of Jesus. A personal sort of Jesus unshackled from the hidebound oppressions and scriptural misreadings that pervade the evangelical movement. Br This is the second memoir I’ve read this year with an explicitly Christian theme that does NOT derive from the loudly conservative and almost exclusively white evangelical sub-cult of Christianity. The other is Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am. Both books document an artistic path from abject poverty to general fame, mediated by faith in the example of Jesus. A personal sort of Jesus unshackled from the hidebound oppressions and scriptural misreadings that pervade the evangelical movement. Brandi Carlile deals with that sort of Christianity by telling of arriving to church for her baptism and being refused by the minister (who had spent the previous weeks preparing her for the event) — because Brandi loved a so-called homosexual lifestyle. She walked away from that minister and that church, but did not walk away from her understanding of Jesus, which abides. I’m her words, she remains “a lesbian Jesus freak.” But she’s not going to proselytize you and she’s not going to agree to cede Jesus only to the MAGA crowd. Quite loudly to the contrary, in fact. This is one of the most healing and generous and wise books I’ve ever read. Completely worth the time on that score alone. If you acquire the audio book, she is the reader and she performs relevant songs at the ends of each chapter. All of those songs are recapitulated album-style at the dnd of the book. Almost 2 hours of musical performance. A double album hidden inside an audio book. I wept freely throughout the entire thing. All of it. Start to finish.

  15. 5 out of 5

    F.E. Jr.

    There’s nothing more real or more practical in this universe than mysticism. Remember that...and it’s usually sitting right smack in the middle of grief - Brandi Carlile “Broken Horses” This musician is an insta-buy from me from back in her "The Story" days when my, then, boyfriend introduced me to her and the twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth. Her voice is both powerful and gentle, prophetic and playful. It's this dichotomy that continues on with this artist in her newly published memoir. We see, and There’s nothing more real or more practical in this universe than mysticism. Remember that...and it’s usually sitting right smack in the middle of grief - Brandi Carlile “Broken Horses” This musician is an insta-buy from me from back in her "The Story" days when my, then, boyfriend introduced me to her and the twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth. Her voice is both powerful and gentle, prophetic and playful. It's this dichotomy that continues on with this artist in her newly published memoir. We see, and she admits to, being two women. The performer with all the glitz and glamour of it all and then being the reserved, nervous, nail-biter softy. She'd decidedly human and humane, and restless, and needy, and loving and broken ...just like the rest of us. My connection with her was her being turned away from the Baptist church's baptismal waters for being a 'practicing homosexual' and the fact that she went on her own spiritual journey. Calling herself a Jesus Freak, she mentions that she's read Emergent writers such as Rachel Held Evans and Rob Bell. As someone who struggled with this his entire life, I thought I could not love this person more. I was wrong. Brandi Carlile is the voice of a generation. A firm believer in compassion, empathy, truth, and justice, and everything we need right now. I highly recommend this work. I read it in a day.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jenny M

    The long-awaited memoir of my favorite singer-songwriter did not disappoint! It's real, and raw, and poetic, which are the things that make her a great artist. I learned a lot from reading the book, but the thing I want to highlight here is an incident she writes about near the end that I witnessed firsthand, and even posted about on social media at the time it occurred. In January 2016, when Trump enacted the Muslim ban, there was a large protest in downtown Seattle. Brandi and the band were as The long-awaited memoir of my favorite singer-songwriter did not disappoint! It's real, and raw, and poetic, which are the things that make her a great artist. I learned a lot from reading the book, but the thing I want to highlight here is an incident she writes about near the end that I witnessed firsthand, and even posted about on social media at the time it occurred. In January 2016, when Trump enacted the Muslim ban, there was a large protest in downtown Seattle. Brandi and the band were asked to perform by Governor Inslee. I remember being at the protest, near the stage, and seeing her back there, waiting to perform, and then...she just never did. At the time, I was very disappointed (in addition to all the other things I was feeling during that crisis, as an immigration lawyer, and as an empathetic human being). She writes that she was supposed to sing a Dylan song, but increasingly realized that it would not be appropriate in the moment. Instead, the PA system was broken, so she and the band and their sound guy worked to untangle the wires and fix the speakers. She writes, "It felt better than singing because the glory came from quite literally amplifying the human beings who were actually affected by this atrocity." And thus, her self-awareness and checking of privilege are a good lesson for me, and for everyone.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    All the ⭐️’s! I have always been a huge Brandi fan. I’ve seen her in concert several times, and listen to her music regularly. She’s one of those rare artists who sound even better live. I could not wait to read her memoir. Once she announced there would be an audiobook, which she would narrate, there was no question. I pre-ordered. Listening to the audiobook was truly amazing! Brandi’s speaking voice is just as beautiful as her singing voice. She is a captivating storyteller. It was emotional and All the ⭐️’s! I have always been a huge Brandi fan. I’ve seen her in concert several times, and listen to her music regularly. She’s one of those rare artists who sound even better live. I could not wait to read her memoir. Once she announced there would be an audiobook, which she would narrate, there was no question. I pre-ordered. Listening to the audiobook was truly amazing! Brandi’s speaking voice is just as beautiful as her singing voice. She is a captivating storyteller. It was emotional and real with an intimate vibe to it. Like it was just her and I sitting around a fire, enjoying a drink, shootin’ the shit. I learned so much about her life and reaffirmed what a remarkable human being she is. This book was far better than I expected and I did not want it to end. l did my best to pace myself. Only listening to 1-2 chapters at a time to make it last as long as possible. Reasons to love to Broken Horses; 🎵 She sings at the end of every chapter! 😆 I laughed. A lot. Brandi is hilarious. 😢 I cried. Brandi is honest, flawed, and so down to earth. ❤️ You will absolutely fall even more in love with Brandi Carlile. Whether your a die-hard Brandi fan or new to her music, I would 100% recommend Broken Horses! Did I mention she sings in the audiobook? 😍 #BrokenHorses #BrandiCarlile

  18. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    Full disclosure- I’m a huge Brandi Carlile fan. I first saw her and the twins perform at a NH music festival with the Indigo Girls years ago and I was hooked. The Story is one of my all time favorite albums and I Annually look forward to her NYC shows at the Beacon. Since her much deserved mainstream success with By the Way, I Forgive You, her concert venues have grown from the Beacon to Madison Square Garden. I wouldn’t have missed her first MSG show for anything. Was incredible. Hands down she Full disclosure- I’m a huge Brandi Carlile fan. I first saw her and the twins perform at a NH music festival with the Indigo Girls years ago and I was hooked. The Story is one of my all time favorite albums and I Annually look forward to her NYC shows at the Beacon. Since her much deserved mainstream success with By the Way, I Forgive You, her concert venues have grown from the Beacon to Madison Square Garden. I wouldn’t have missed her first MSG show for anything. Was incredible. Hands down she is one of the best live performers. Her vocals are insane. I have even enjoyed her Veep live stream shows during the pandemic. Needless to say, I bought this memoir the first chance I had, but despite having a hard copy on my bookshelf the only way for me to experience this book was via audible. To hear Brandi share her story in her own words and listen to her play songs autistically throughout is just incredible. The bonus chapter of an almost 2 hour concert is other worldly. This woman empowers women and is strength personified. She has built a beautiful chosen family and I’m so looking forward to see what else she will gift the world with be it through her music, her foundation, her song writing, or her elevation of female musicians. I am a fan always and can’t wait until the pandemic ends because a ticket to see Brandi Carlile and the twins will be the first one I buy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    First, I’m a fan. Heard a handful of songs a decade ago and loved the writing and her voice. I’ve been listening ever since but not obsessively. She’s been on my must see concert list for years but the timing has never worked. Then she showed up on a festival lineup I had preordered tickets to and I was thrilled! Covid killed that dream. So when I saw the book, I reserved a copy before its release. I switched to the audiobook almost immediately because a) she sings in between chapters and b) I l First, I’m a fan. Heard a handful of songs a decade ago and loved the writing and her voice. I’ve been listening ever since but not obsessively. She’s been on my must see concert list for years but the timing has never worked. Then she showed up on a festival lineup I had preordered tickets to and I was thrilled! Covid killed that dream. So when I saw the book, I reserved a copy before its release. I switched to the audiobook almost immediately because a) she sings in between chapters and b) I love to listen to stories. And she is a helluva storyteller. From her tough upbringing to her early days as an opry-style pageant singer to her Grammy wins and so much more, family is at the core. And her family (bramily on social media FYI) includes more than blood. Friends, lovers, artists, vagabonds, are the cast of characters that shaped her and she gives full credit. There are times when it seems a little name dropping, but she’s so fangirl about it that it’s hard not to relate. Personally, I like the way she weaves her stories of faith (not religion but faith) into the mix of her road through personal growth. She is one brave badass singer songwriter and I am now a little obsessed. She’s back on the lineup for that festival in the fall that the covid downtime turned into an all female lineup and I have tickets. Here’s praying the timing works.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Great storytelling! Super fun, weird, emotionally raw, accessible story told by someone in their late 30’s ... being a child of the 80’s as well, I totally lit up when she started talking about her beloved Teddy Ruxpin. I also grew up in the Northwest with a fairly religious family (kinda Baptist-y, as well), so her stories sound REALLY familiar. When she talks about taking the ferry to Whidbey Island, I can picture it perfectly. Her crazy roller coaster of a life, perspective on growing up as a Great storytelling! Super fun, weird, emotionally raw, accessible story told by someone in their late 30’s ... being a child of the 80’s as well, I totally lit up when she started talking about her beloved Teddy Ruxpin. I also grew up in the Northwest with a fairly religious family (kinda Baptist-y, as well), so her stories sound REALLY familiar. When she talks about taking the ferry to Whidbey Island, I can picture it perfectly. Her crazy roller coaster of a life, perspective on growing up as a lesbian in a very conservative community, her account of the leaving the church, then returning to her faith in a transformed way, accepting fully who she is, are super inspirational points, and speak to a great strength of heart and soul. She also talks about her great musical heroes, Joni Mitchell and Elton John, her amazing experiences with these musical giants, her struggle with overwhelming stage fright, and how she eventually was able to overcome it with the help of hypnosis. Another reason to get the audio book, is the fact that there is almost 2 hours of bonus music, sung by Brandi herself. I didn’t know who Brandi Carlile was before reading this. Next time someone asks if I like Country, I can say yes. Some people might call what she does “Americana,” but in my mind, she’s just as country as Dolly Parton.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This is a solid 3-star memoir with a bonus star for two hours of gorgeous music on the audiobook version. I do not attend the church of Brandi Carlile but I certainly like her a whole lot and think her music and singing is phenomenal (I absolutely love the Highwomen). She's funny and tough and she absolutely reveres her musical legends, which is endearing. The book includes stories about Elton John, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Joni Mitchell, and many more. Each chapter is followed by a song or tw This is a solid 3-star memoir with a bonus star for two hours of gorgeous music on the audiobook version. I do not attend the church of Brandi Carlile but I certainly like her a whole lot and think her music and singing is phenomenal (I absolutely love the Highwomen). She's funny and tough and she absolutely reveres her musical legends, which is endearing. The book includes stories about Elton John, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Joni Mitchell, and many more. Each chapter is followed by a song or two, which made for a great listening experience. However I sometimes felt like she was just about to get to a good, deep part, the chapter would end and the song would begin. It seemed like she held back just a bit - perhaps she is just more comfortable telling her story through music and art. I loved the chapter about her and Catherine becoming parents and same sex parenting identity, since Brandi was not the gestational mom. “I couldn’t be the dad for one more day.” “Gender identity sneaks up on you in pregnancy no matter how you planned it.” I loved the part when she met her half sister as an adult: “Come to my house with your whole entire family and stay with me for four days.” I want to know more about her communal compound living and how it all works. In conclusion, I really need to get ticket for her next show at Red Rocks. :)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Sommers

    My love for this book is amplified and encompassed by my extreme love for Brandi Carlie’s music. The fact that she released an audible version in her own voice, with recordings of songs makes me want to start it over and go through it again. Not the most traditional style of writing but I enjoyed it nonetheless for a moment to truly begin to understand an artist so near and dear to my heart. I love knowing more backstory to songs I cherish. It’s weird to read a book written so current to the even My love for this book is amplified and encompassed by my extreme love for Brandi Carlie’s music. The fact that she released an audible version in her own voice, with recordings of songs makes me want to start it over and go through it again. Not the most traditional style of writing but I enjoyed it nonetheless for a moment to truly begin to understand an artist so near and dear to my heart. I love knowing more backstory to songs I cherish. It’s weird to read a book written so current to the events we’ve faced in this past year. But her approach to “hot topics” and passionate and positive change are empowering. She has stumbled through figuring out life, this world, and our place in it just like all of us and still is. She ends her book where we still sit - wondering when and where we will be able to gather together for live music again. I, too, long for this. My husband and I have seen her throughout the many stages of our relationship - dating, engaged, married, expecting, and fully submersed in parenthood. I look forward to holding his hand while she projects that beautiful strong voice in front of us sometime soon. For now, I appreciate this book for “bringing us together” in a different way. “I will learn to be comfortable with the continuum.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Gessner

    Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile is a fantastic read for those that love this artist or are just beginning to learn about her. I’ll be honest, I only discovered Carlile a few years ago after listening to her masterpiece “By the Way, I forgive You”. After just one listen, I was hooked. This book is no different. The minute you start reading it, you won’t want to put it down. While only forty years old, Carlile has lived a fascinating life, one that has had its share of ups and downs, and one that h Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile is a fantastic read for those that love this artist or are just beginning to learn about her. I’ll be honest, I only discovered Carlile a few years ago after listening to her masterpiece “By the Way, I forgive You”. After just one listen, I was hooked. This book is no different. The minute you start reading it, you won’t want to put it down. While only forty years old, Carlile has lived a fascinating life, one that has had its share of ups and downs, and one that has found her meeting her childhood musical heroes. For me, the stories of collaboration were the most enjoyable. Whether it be talking with her mentor Elton John, jamming with Joni Mitchell, or making sure the legacy of Tanya Tucker remains intact, this book covers an artist who is still growing, yet very well respected in her field by her fellow musical peers. One of the best parts of this book is the lyrics to many songs that accompany each chapter. It allows you to put deeper meaning into some songs, as well as give the reader the ability to discover other artists and songs that you SHOULD be paying attention to. If you haven’t discovered Brandi Carlile yet, now is the time. Put on a CD by her, and give this book a shot. It’s well worth your time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Seldon

    Imma be real: if you’re not already a Brandi Carlile and just like memoirs it’s a 3/5. A solid collection of memories from a rear and bird’s eye view. I would have liked more descriptions of feelings/anecdotes in the moment v from this distant POV but it’s still good and it’s still about Brandi Carlile which brings me to my second rating: If you ARE a fan of Brandi Carlile than it’s easily a 4/5 if not a 5/5 just because she is so cool and therefore her life and life story are too. Her tone feel Imma be real: if you’re not already a Brandi Carlile and just like memoirs it’s a 3/5. A solid collection of memories from a rear and bird’s eye view. I would have liked more descriptions of feelings/anecdotes in the moment v from this distant POV but it’s still good and it’s still about Brandi Carlile which brings me to my second rating: If you ARE a fan of Brandi Carlile than it’s easily a 4/5 if not a 5/5 just because she is so cool and therefore her life and life story are too. Her tone feels genuine, authentic, and not too much like she’s trying to sway her audience to like her and if that’s not true and I just got duped, well then she’s a really good writer and deserves the high praise anyway. My last rating is the best rating: the audiobook gets 1,000/5 stars. Even her speaking voice is gorgeous so it’s a really nice listen plus at the end of every chapter she sings a song or two and then after the acknowledgements there’s a bonus music chapter with every song she sings on the book. I felt like I was at concert for literally the first time in over a year. I am the type of person that calls audible and asks them to manually remove titles from my library so I can get the credits back but this book is staying!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I love Brandi Carlile- she’s been my favorite singer since I heard “The Story” in 2007. I rated this 5 stars because I enjoyed reading about her life. I also agree with some of the 3 star reviews in that if you’re not already a fan this book probably won’t win you over. At times I was confused by what I was reading and had to go back and reread pages. Towards the end she mentions the names of so many people I couldn’t keep track of what was going on and who was who! I’m about the same age as Bran I love Brandi Carlile- she’s been my favorite singer since I heard “The Story” in 2007. I rated this 5 stars because I enjoyed reading about her life. I also agree with some of the 3 star reviews in that if you’re not already a fan this book probably won’t win you over. At times I was confused by what I was reading and had to go back and reread pages. Towards the end she mentions the names of so many people I couldn’t keep track of what was going on and who was who! I’m about the same age as Brandi so I enjoyed reading about life through her eyes as I remember some of the current events and trends at the time. I love her family compound lifestyle and wish I had that setup! Brandi comes from a long line of singers, her band mates married her family members and it sounds like everyone in their life has some bit of singing talent. I can’t wait to see what their next generation of kids has in store for us! I also loved how at the end of each chapter she included songs that related back to the life experience she had just described. It gave new meaning to many of the songs I know by heart. I wish I had waited for the audio version of this book as I think it will be much better. She writes in a conversational style so I think hearing her read will flow better than the book did.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    I did not listen to this because I am a Brandi Carlile fan. I listened to it because I love memoirs in general and because a couple friends praised it on social media. (Plus, there are so few coming of age memoirs by gay women that it would feel like a betrayal not to read it.) I am now a solid Brandi Carlile fan -- not just of her music, but of her as a person and of her approach to living. If you want it, go get it. If you're an outcast, stand tall. If you've been knocked down, know you are lo I did not listen to this because I am a Brandi Carlile fan. I listened to it because I love memoirs in general and because a couple friends praised it on social media. (Plus, there are so few coming of age memoirs by gay women that it would feel like a betrayal not to read it.) I am now a solid Brandi Carlile fan -- not just of her music, but of her as a person and of her approach to living. If you want it, go get it. If you're an outcast, stand tall. If you've been knocked down, know you are loved to your core and fight on. It was surreal listening to her stories of jamming with Joni Mitchell and joking around with Elton John. She tells these stories as if none of them are world-renowned celebrities (including herself). She's so relatable despite her incredible talent and burgeoning fame, I don't think I would feel anything but comfortable if ever I met her in person. This is a really good read. And you MUST do it on Audible because the music she wove into her narration made her stories ten times more special. (Heads up re the Audible version: the last hour and a half is music only. I was not prepared for the memoir itself to end so abruptly!)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Broken Horses is a memoir by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. There is no possible way to for me to give an objective review of this book. I am a Brandi superfan. I have seen her in concert more times than any other artist in many states. As such I knew a lot of the stories at least from her adulthood that are included in the book, but not as many from her early childhood. I really enjoyed reading it, but I also have so many personal memories tied up in various songs or her stories about shows Broken Horses is a memoir by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. There is no possible way to for me to give an objective review of this book. I am a Brandi superfan. I have seen her in concert more times than any other artist in many states. As such I knew a lot of the stories at least from her adulthood that are included in the book, but not as many from her early childhood. I really enjoyed reading it, but I also have so many personal memories tied up in various songs or her stories about shows that I was actually at. I did really like how at the end of each chapter she included lyrics to either songs she referenced written by other people who influenced her or songs of her own that once you read the chapter you could see were very much written in reference to the events she talked about. I knew the origins of some of the songs from stage banter, but not all of them so it was great to get to see where they came from. I thought it was a great book, but as I said it's impossible for me to separate myself enough from it to say how much people who aren't Brandi fans would like the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tad

    “People who are in positions of privilege must learn to find ways of fighting for the just treatment of others not by centering and platforming themselves but by holding up the ones who are suffering.” I’m a pretty recent fan of Brandi Carlile’s. Knew of her for years but hadn’t listened to any of her music until her most recent album. One listen to the first song and I was hooked. Her voice, her lyricism and her grace shine through in her music. And I’m happy to report that the same is true of h “People who are in positions of privilege must learn to find ways of fighting for the just treatment of others not by centering and platforming themselves but by holding up the ones who are suffering.” I’m a pretty recent fan of Brandi Carlile’s. Knew of her for years but hadn’t listened to any of her music until her most recent album. One listen to the first song and I was hooked. Her voice, her lyricism and her grace shine through in her music. And I’m happy to report that the same is true of her memoirs. Through this book, Carlile opens her life and her heart to public viewing. And her honesty and self reflection is so welcome and refreshing. I loved that she wrote about her struggles with religion and the ways in which her sexuality impacted it. I loved that she was so open about her familial relationships. I enjoyed her casual name dropping of the celebrities she’s gotten to collaborate with and I so appreciated the look she gave us into her songwriting process. This is definitely a top tier celebrity memoir. Aching, raw, honest and intimately aware of the privilege she has as both a celebrity and a white woman and the ways to leverage it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    At the 2019 Grammys, as Brandi Carlile built up to the epic note that concludes her song "The Joke," one woman stood up in the middle of the star-studded crowd. Carlile describes the moment in her new memoir. "It was Janelle Monáe. It was such a kind thing she did...I've tried to tell her what that felt like, what it meant to me, but she may never really understand." In a sense, with Broken Horses — named after the injured animals that were all her family could afford for her in the equine arena At the 2019 Grammys, as Brandi Carlile built up to the epic note that concludes her song "The Joke," one woman stood up in the middle of the star-studded crowd. Carlile describes the moment in her new memoir. "It was Janelle Monáe. It was such a kind thing she did...I've tried to tell her what that felt like, what it meant to me, but she may never really understand." In a sense, with Broken Horses — named after the injured animals that were all her family could afford for her in the equine arena — Carlile is paying it forward. Her book will inspire a new generation of women in music, and will be particularly meaningful for her fellow LGBTQ artists. She renders her life story with the eloquence and sincerity that will be very familiar to any fans who've followed her extraordinary career as a singer-songwriter. I reviewed Broken Horses for The Current.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dianne Winter

    I laughed, I cried, I felt uplifted. In recommending the book to a friend, I noted that the rollercoaster of emotions I felt reading this book were was not unlike attending a Brandi show. I've been following her music since I first saw her open for Jamie Cullum in 2006 (see page 130... we were at the DC show in March just after the huge snow storm of February that year), and the book was such an incredible look behind her music. As someone who knows her music intimately, I would, of course, have I laughed, I cried, I felt uplifted. In recommending the book to a friend, I noted that the rollercoaster of emotions I felt reading this book were was not unlike attending a Brandi show. I've been following her music since I first saw her open for Jamie Cullum in 2006 (see page 130... we were at the DC show in March just after the huge snow storm of February that year), and the book was such an incredible look behind her music. As someone who knows her music intimately, I would, of course, have loved to hear even more about the music writing/recording/touring process (it's in there, just not center-stage, so to speak), but there was so much realness, it's hard to even complain about that. My one actual criticism is I wish there were more dates included. It would go pages without listing what month/year we were in, and even though it was in mostly chronological order, I found myself cross-referencing the story in the book with shows I'd seen, or details I could dig up online. Do yourself a favor and read the book!

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