When the summer-touring season ends, Northwest singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile and her band will head up to the San Juan Islands and lock themselves in a cabin.
They’re not necessarily trying to escape the rat race. But isolation and the freedom to experiment could help determine the sound of Carlile’s next album.
“We’re not going to record anything we write because we want to try something different on this record,” the 32-year-old Maple Valley resident said this week in a phone call from California.
“The vision is to go in completely unplanned and record it unrehearsed … and see if for the first time in our recording career we can capture some of that really spontaneous magic that happens when you don’t have to send demos to the record label to get permission to make the record.”
Carlile, who performs Thursday and next Friday at the Woodland Park Zoo, has left her longtime label, Columbia Records, to chart a new course.
“We parted ways with them beautifully and amicably,” Carlile said. “Those guys nurtured us and cared for us for all those years, and we adored the people who signed us and supported us. But it was just time.”
Carlile, who grew up in Maple Valley, got her first taste of show business when she was 8 years old and sang Johnny Cash’s “Tennessee Flat Top Box” with her mother. Her career started years later when she and twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth began performing at Seattle clubs.
In 2004, she signed a recording contract with Columbia Records, leading to a series of successful albums, including “The Story,” “Give Up the Ghost” and “Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony,” which reached No. 14 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart.
Known for a blend of folk, rock, alternative-country and Americana, Carlile sings in a clear, powerful voice tinged with melancholy.
Carlile’s most recent album is “Bear Creek,” recorded at the remote Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville with producer Trina Shoemaker, who has worked with Queens of the Stone Age, Sheryl Crow, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris and others.
More recently, Carlile collaborated with Harris on the song “Take Me Home Country Roads” for the album “The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver.”
“I love John Denver,” she said. “And I love his lyrics and the landscapes he sings about. They make me feel really connected to my home. When we got asked to do the tribute album, I immediately wanted to do that song. Emmylou expressed an interest in singing the harmony, and it was like a dream-come-true collaboration.”
Last year, Carlile, who is openly gay, married Catherine Shepherd of Great Britain. The couple settled in Maple Valley, where Carlile has spent most of her life.
Though Carlile’s next album could be “a four-on-the-floor rock ’n’ roll record,” she loves country music and envisions a day when Nashville becomes more supportive of openly gay artists.
“There are a lot of really good people making really good mainstream country music,” she said. “I’ve felt completely welcome when I’ve spent time with Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire. These guys are really progressive. They strike me as open, loving, down-home people.”
5 p.m. Thursday and next Friday (Aug. 22 and 23) at Woodland Park Zoo, 5500 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle; sold out (zoo.org).