Brandi Carlile Discusses Why It Was Important for Her to Work With Tanya Tucker

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

Tanya Tucker’s 2019 album While I’m Livin’ made huge waves in the country music world. It marked Tucker’s return to recording after a decade. Additionally, it brought her two Grammy Awards. She took home Best Country Album for While I’m Livin’ and “Bring My Flowers Now” took Best Country Song. It was her first at the awards show after decades of nominations. None of that would have happened without Brandi Carlile.

After several phone calls to friends and family members, Brandi Carlile spoke to Tanya Tucker directly. Carlile told Tucker that she wanted to write an album based on the “Delta Dawn” singer’s life and experiences. So, Tanya shared her stories, and Carlile and her co-writers set to work writing While I’m Livin’.

While they were in the studio working on the album, they shot a documentary. The film not only takes fans behind the scenes of the album but also sheds light on Tucker’s life and career. The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile premiered in select cities last week. Wider audiences will be able to see it in November.

Recently, Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker sat down with NPR‘s Mary Louise Kelly to talk about the new film. During the conversation, Carlile talked about what made her want to see Tucker recording and touring again.

Brandi Carlile on the Importance of Tanya Tucker

In the interview, Brandi Carlile revealed that Tanya Tucker’s music had a massive impact on her own career. However, she says Tucker’s influence is much broader than that. “I don’t like compartmentalizing the genre in terms of gender,” Carlile said. “But, if you think about this, there’s been a whole lane in sort of female-fronted country music that’s, like, got this kind of like – The Chicks are like this – kind of sassy, kind of rebellious with a wide gait. They stand their ground. You got Miranda Lambert doing this. You’ve got several generations of women influenced by, like, a toughness that comes from…a rural sensibility.”

Brandi Carlile went on to talk a little more about that toughness. “[It’s] different than your typical Southern belle. It’s not feminine, it’s something else,” she said. Carlile credits that toughness to Tanya Tucker. “I just think that Tanya is the architect of that in the same way that Johnny Cash was the architect of the concept of his lament and the Man in Black and his stoicism and steadiness.”

“We just so happen to be lucky enough that she’s young. She was young when she started. She’s young now. We have her here. Let’s stop screwing around. Let’s make sure we get out and see her play because she built us,” Brandi Carlile said.

How did Tanya Tucker respond to that high praise? With her usual humility. “Well, that’s awfully nice of her to say so,” Tucker said to Kelly. “But it was, I mean, unintentional. I was just trying to – you know – trying to get by and survive and do the only thing I knew how to do.”