Inspiration Through Music: Brandi Carlile

Just like driving, I have a very hard time trying to write a scene without music playing unless its a very specific scene that requires silence. In the car, I need there to be some other noise besides the rolling of tires on asphalt, the rush of air as cars pass, and the obnoxious honking of other vehicles wanting you to get out of their way. And just like when your driving, it’s good to find the right music for your mindset and the trip you’re about to take. In my current project, Night Time, Dotted Line, the entire novel is about two characters traveling from one coast of the United States to the other and the things they come across along the way. The whole novel basically takes place on the road. In my search to find good road music, I came across a song that I’d almost completely forgotten about who fits both of the characters perfectly, Brandi Carlile.

Several years ago, I watched a movie called “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” based off of Ann Brasheres’s best selling series of books. And that movie is one of my favorites. I remembered really enjoying the music in it as it seemed to reflect the emotions of the four girls who were in some cases traveling great distances and undergoing difficult changes in their lives. One of these songs was by Brandi Carlile, someone I’d never heard of until that moment. And the song “Closer to You” instantly became one of those songs that reminded me of driving on the highway. Several years ago while working on a thriller novel that featured my main characters from Night Time, Dotted Line, I listened to this song while imagining their journey across the country. Those scenes from that book inspired Night Time, Dotted Line and that song in particular has stuck with me. Carlile has a unique and gorgeous voice that blends the line between folk and alternative country. In the last several years, her songs have influenced a number of my projects. Today, I’ll be sharing four of them with you and what I see when I hear them.

Closer to You: The sun was a soft warm yellow, highlighting the shadows of the trees over the fields before them. The car zipped along the country roads, and the passengers drank in the scenery with pleasure. Funny to think that someplace that had looked the same all of the day yesterday could still stun them that morning. That it could look so different and beautiful in that tranquil way that the city never seemed to have. They’d laughed and joked the day before, had talked and referenced fears deeper than either one of them had thought they’d be willing to share with a total stranger. And yet today, silence was all that sat between them. The morning stole their exuberance for the day, stole their giddiness about the last leg of this trip being over. Stuck in these precious moments where the world outside seemed to emit a golden aura, they could only find joy at being lost in those few miles until the sun rose higher in the sky. (This is the song that I listened to while working on Night Time, Dotted Line.)

Happy: She locked the front door of the house and stared a moment at the rusty door handle. Finally she was leaving it all behind in favor of something new. This was going to be good. She was finally going to get somewhere instead of spending so much time lying in her house waiting for her life to begin. She’d rooted herself there because while it was also safe, it was a routine she was comfortable with, one that her mind could handle on a day to day basis. This change was all encompassing and there was no telling how she would feel about it in the coming days or months. She was liable to want to come crawling back here, back to everything she was used to. But now, she wanted to leave and go as far away from it as possible. She turned and moved toward the car, packed to the brim with all of her things. Knowing she shouldn’t turn around and look again, lest she get second thoughts, she climbed in to the car, turned over the engine, and pulled it out onto the dirt drive. She rode the suns rays down the country lane, further and further away from home. This will be good, she assured herself. Just wait and see.

Until I Die: She laid her head back into the cool grass and stared up at the night sky. Five days. Five crazy days of traveling were about to come to an end. She almost couldn’t believe it. When she’d set off on the trip, she’d never expected it to turn out this way. She’d figured it was going to be exactly the same as all the others; the obligatory strange silence and the parting of ways once the journey was over. But this was different. It had transformed somehow along with her intentions for taking the trip. Selfishness no longer drove it. It was just a desire to be appreciated, loved by someone now and to return the feeling. Stars began blinking into existence above her. She was glad the trip was over and at the same time, she wished it would never end.

Raise Hell: He squinted as he peered out the stage coach. Down the hill, following the dusty winding road, he recognized the faint outlines of a town tucked just between the two hills. And while he couldn’t determine much about it from so far away, he knew that this was the place where he would get the chance to start things over again. He glanced at his wife in the seat next to him. She leaned over him to look at their approaching new home and he smiled. He hoped his business partner was right. He hoped that this place would offer them redemption for the things they saw and reported on in the last town. This was the chance for a clean break with that place. But as the stage coach drew closer, he noticed something that made his blood turn cold. Just on the outskirts of town, there were corpses strung up on a sign post. It had been crudely painted in red that trespassers in the fields would be shot. These men looked not only shot but also beaten to a point where their faces were entirely unrecognizable. Suddenly, he had a very uneasy feeling about what he’d just gotten himself and his wife into. (This is a glimpse at a scene from my western story, “Landed.”)

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be checking out some music from the amazingly talented Bersarin Quartet, whom I’ve been listening to while working on Book 3 of The Monstrum Chronicles. Stay tuned!



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