Every year there are a number of young recording artists touring with considerable buzz. But few live up to that hype. When Brandi Carlile showcased songs from her eponymous debut at Austin's South By Southwest music conference in 2005, there was a great deal of expectation.
She had signed a major label deal with Columbia and made Rolling Stone's “10 Artists to Watch” list.
“I remember what that was like,” Carlile said during a phone call from Los Angeles. “I just tried not to think about things. I just went out and performed.”
Carlile impressed throughout her 2005 tour. She opened for Jamie Cullum, who was labeled the next big thing, and she stole shows from him with her spirited performance and set of pipes.
“I just tried to make an impression,” Carlile said.
Well, Carlile, 32, made a lasting one. Carlile has been a consistent force over the years. The laid-back songsmith will perform Sunday, the closing day of the Clearwater Jazz Festival, in support of her latest album, “Bear Creek.”
“I've tried to grow with each album,” Carlile said. “It's all been very gradual for me. I've been climbing up the ladder one rung at a time, which works for me. I'm just taking it album to album and trying to grow with each one. What I try to do is learn from some of the amazing people I've met in this industry.”
Carlile was fortunate enough to work with Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' keyboardist Benmont Tench and the iconic Elton John while making 2009's “Give Up The Ghost,” which was produced by Rick Rubin.
“I was like a kid in a candy store with all of that amazing talent supporting me,” Carlile said. “Benmont is amazing. Chad is so great. And then there is Elton John. Who doesn't love Elton John? He's a legend, who is a hero of mine for so many reasons. To have people like that and Rick, who is so cool, work with me. It's just incredible to have that kind of experience. The great thing is that I get to meet all of these amazing people because of what I do. But getting back to what I do, I'm a musician and that's the greatest job in the world, at least for me. I can't tell you how fortunate I am.”
The high profile guests make for good copy, but it would be insignificant if Carlile's songs were pedestrian. She has proven to be an accomplished writer. Her introspective songs, such as the moving “In My Own Eyes,” the soaring “Looking Out,” and the sublime “That Wasn't Me,” are deep, dramatic and passionate.
“I love to write,” Carlile said. “I put everything I have into it.”
And Carlile is an accomplished entertainer, who is adept at engaging the audience. “You have to work at that,” Carlile said. “But it's something I've always wanted to do. I just don't want to go up there and disregard the audience. I've gotten better at connecting. I think that's due to having more and more experience under my belt. I just want to get better and better live. I have the best time on stage.”