WATCH: Brandi Carlile Sings Spellbound Rendition of Elton John’s ‘Madman Across the Water’

by Kati Kuuseoks

Brandi Carlile is one of those country gals you might want to keep your eye on. The 20th Annual Americana Honors and Awards Show just crowned her Artist of the Year last month. This is the second time Carlile’s worn that title, with the previous win back in 2019. Other bands have taken note, adding her to their dream collaboration lists. Pearl Jam, for example, brought her out for an epic rendition of “Better Man” at the Ohana Festival recently.

Covers are a great way for artists to pay homage to the legacies of others before them. In approaching a cover, there are also endless opportunities to make it your own. Eric Church is a prime example of that with the killer 15-minute medley he reprises time and time again. Brandi Carlile just threw her hat into the ring of fire covers with her spellbound rendition of Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water.” We’ve got the footage for you below!

Brandi Carlile Takes on the Howard Stern Show

When breaking down her choice of cover, Brandi Carlile tells Howard Stern: “I think it’s really rhythmically unique. There’s something really unhinged about it.” That’s a pretty apt description of the performance as well. Check it out:

Twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth join Brandi Carlile for the Howard Stern Show performance, also aided by a string trio. While Elton John’s original work features a famous piano riff, as so many of his works do, Carlile and co mix it up a bit. They opt for a guitar interpretation instead. Carlile speaks to what she gathers from the lyrics saying the song is about someone “who makes a spectacle of himself and realizes that he’s being laughed at … He’s not being fully appreciated for his genius, but he can kind of take it.”

Elton John’s Longtime Influence

During the interview segment of her appearance on the show, Brandi Carlile reveals that Elton John has influenced her for the bigger part of her entire life. At age 12, for example, she vividly remembers dressing up in his likeness for a talent show at school. She planned to perform “Honky Cat” and enlisted her mother’s help for the costuming.

“She made me, like, big, feathered sunglasses out of pipe cleaners and boat shoes that said ‘E’ and ‘J’ on each foot with, like, sequins and stuff.” She continues on saying “That was a big moment, actually.” It’s also something she touches on in her most recent memoir titled Broken Horses.

There may be that old adage of “don’t meet your heroes” but Brandi Carlile reveals Elton John to be “every single thing you hope he would be.” She continues her recollection of meeting him saying “That includes great at dirty jokes, [and he] curses every third word. But he’s also really upstanding and moral, and he’s got a lot of opinions.”