A queer girl believing in and dreaming of music from the start, Brandi Carlile has written a memoir that easily moves through years and miles, vibrant memories intertwined with songs and lyrics. Carlile’s own words palpably bring the people and moments who shaped her to life, documenting her search for success, love, and health; the tension with her lifelong Christian faith, and her hope in music and good people. Broken Horses made me cry more than once, albums on repeat, smiling all the while.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about faith, sexuality, parenthood, and a life shaped by music in “one of the great memoirs of our time” (Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed).
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND AUTOSTRADDLE • “The best-written, most engaging rock autobiography since her childhood hero, Elton John, published Me.”—Variety
Brandi Carlile was born into a musically gifted, impoverished family on the outskirts of Seattle and grew up in a constant state of change, moving from house to house, trailer to trailer, fourteen times in as many years. Though imperfect in every way, her dysfunctional childhood was as beautiful as it was strange, and as nurturing as it was difficult. At the age of five, Brandi contracted bacterial meningitis, which almost took her life, leaving an indelible mark on her formative years and altering her journey into young adulthood.
As an openly gay teenager, Brandi grappled with the tension between her sexuality and her faith when her pastor publicly refused to baptize her on the day of the ceremony. Shockingly, her small town rallied around Brandi in support and set her on a path to salvation where the rest of the misfits and rejects find it: through twisted, joyful, weird, and wonderful music.
In Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile takes readers through the events of her life that shaped her very raw art—from her start at a local singing competition where she performed Elton John’s “Honky Cat” in a bedazzled white polyester suit, to her first break opening for Dave Matthews Band, to many sleepless tours over fifteen years and six studio albums, all while raising two children with her wife, Catherine Shepherd. This hard-won success led her to collaborations with personal heroes like Elton John, Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, Pearl Jam, Tanya Tucker, and Joni Mitchell, as well as her peers in the supergroup The Highwomen, and ultimately to the Grammy stage, where she converted millions of viewers into instant fans.
Evocative and piercingly honest, Broken Horses is at once an examination of faith through the eyes of a person rejected by the church’s basic tenets and a meditation on the moments and lyrics that have shaped the life of a creative mind, a brilliant artist, and a genuine empath on a mission to give back.
About the Author
Brandi Carlile is a six-time Grammy Award–winning singer, songwriter, performer, and producer. Since her debut in 2004, she has released six studio albums and was the most nominated female artist at the 2019 Grammy Awards, with six nominations, including Album, Record, and Song of the Year.
Founded in 2008 by Carlile, the Looking Out Foundation amplifies the impact of music by empowering those without a voice, with campaigns focused on children living in war zones, prevention and reduction in incarceration and recidivism, racial justice, violence prevention, food insecurity, and more. To date, the foundation has raised over $2 million for grassroots causes.
Beloved by fans, peers, and critics alike, Carlile and her band have performed sold-out concerts across the world. Brandi Carlile lives in rural Washington State on a compound with her bandmates and their families, as well as her wife, Catherine, and their two daughters, Evangeline and Elijah.
“A vulnerable document . . . The resilience of her sense of self, through poverty and fame, is transcendent. One of her great strengths as an artist is a willingness to stare herself straight in the face and not flinch.”—Amanda Hess, The New York Times
“[Carlile is] perceptive, vulnerable, humble, funny and above all else, a good storyteller. She’d already proven her storytelling chops as a lyricist and she proves them once again in these pages. She knows how to use a few words to make a big impact. . . . Readers walk away feeling like they know the real Carlile.”—Associated Press
“Intimate . . . Carlile's story is too big to fit in a song. . . . The memoir covers it all with conversational ease. . . . This pulls the veil back in a way [Carlile] hadn’t done before.”—Vulture
“I thought I knew Brandi through her music and friendship, but I didn’t truly know her until I finished the last page of Broken Horses. I don’t think I truly knew myself until I finished the last page of Broken Horses. I read much of it with my palms sweating, heart swelling, tears falling. This book is a gift from Brandi’s soul to the reader’s. Broken Horses will go down as one of the great memoirs of our time.”—Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed
“I fell in love with Brandi’s voice, and then serendipity took over and I fell in love with the artist, the writer, and the woman. I believe we were fated to be true soul mates. Reading this book confirms my love and respect for her. If anyone ever has a doubt in their mind that the wildest of dreams can be realized from complicated circumstances, they should read Brandi’s story. It is about perseverance, humor, forgiveness, and manifestation. I absolutely loved it.”—Elton John, author of Me
“A good storyteller tells you about their life. A great storyteller guides you so deep into their heart that you actually end up seeing yourself. Brandi is one of the most gifted and generous storytellers of our time. Broken Horses led me right into Brandi’s heart, and my own.”—Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly
“An intimate, life-affirming look at a musician whose artistic journey is far from over.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)