Last week, I finished Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile’s new memoir. While reading it, I struggled to understand the reasoning behind the title.
Literally it is a reference to the horses Carlile has had throughout her life. They are broken in the sense that they are insufficient in the qualities we typically value in a horse.
Upon further reflection, the entire book seems as if it is a triumph of broken-ness. While others may be drawn to strength, this book instead asks us to see how important vulnerability is in our lives and the stories we tell.
To hear her music is to let this vulnerability wash over us. The stories behind both her signature songs and those less recognizable are scattered throughout the pages – making you feel them even more deeply. Listen to any of the songs below and you will hear the strength in her ache and longing.
While I love musicians, I rarely like their memoirs – too much emphasis on bravado and wild stories (one obvious exception was Springsteen’s Born to Run). The typical musician memoir feels larger than life. Carlisle makes even her big moments feel smaller and relatable.
She tells her story, which is successful in ways that have nothing to do with the Grammys she’s won, with such humility, humor and love.
Speaking of which, Carlile writes of her collaboration with Tanya Tucker – one of her childhood idols. While her male counterparts were rewarded for their brazen “outlaw” image, Tucker was ostracized for hers. Carlile co-produced her comeback album with Scooter Jennings (himself the son of a famous country “outlaw”.) She recounts how she worked with Tucker to help her tell her story with such care. It is a testament to the kindness and strength one broken person brings to another.
Listen to their collaboration, Bring My Flowers Now, and you’ll see what I mean.
Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to share your love and brokenness with another person too.