Storms both figurative and literal inspired “Raise Hell,” a barreling rocker off Brandi Carlile’s fourth album, “Bear Creek.” Two years ago, the Washington State singer-songwriter found herself all alone in her dressing room in Boston, just minutes before an outdoor show that was on the verge of being canceled.
She was nursing a hangover and having doubts about her current tour. To make matters worse, “it was ridiculously stormy outside. There were tornadoes, and lightning was striking all around the tent where the show was supposed to be held.”
While she waited to see if the gig would be canceled, Carlile picked up her guitar with the intention of writing the sort of nakedly direct and incisive song that has become her signature. Instead, she says, something close to Charlie Daniels’ country-gothic “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” came out of her.
“Raise Hell” is an unusual song for Carlile: Not only is it upbeat to the point of desperation, but, more crucially, it’s written in the voice of a character who makes a deal with the devil.
The song’s ironic, dark tone belies the simple, laid-back approach Carlile took to recording it and the entire “Bear Creek” album. Instead of working with a big-name producer such as T Bone Burnett or Rick Rubin (both of whom helmed previous albums for her), she took her road crew into the studio with her and co-produced the disc with Trina Shoemaker.
“We go on the road with … our sound guy, our guitar tech,” she says. “They’re all family. But usually we go into the studio and use all new people. This time we just pulled the tour bus up to the studio, and everybody [from the touring crew] worked on the album.” Carlile found the experience so liberating, she named “Bear Creek” after that studio.
But that’s where Carlile’s dedication to the recording process ends; she says she prefers playing live, tornadoes or no. “A song is never done for me until I’ve performed it and it’s been received by other people,” she says.