Saturday, August 16, 2008

a tale of two ROCKIN' musicians and their GM commercials: Brandi Carlile's "The Story"


(above) from GM's ad presaging the future . . . plugging in
at your local alt fuel cell depot
(above) a page from Brandi Carlile's most excellent website
(above) from the video for "The Story" - worth checking out
-
As with probably hundreds of thousands of other seriously-hooked Olympic television-watching fans (go Nastia Liukin!!!), I wouldn't have learned about singer-songwriter-bandleader Brandi Carlile had it not been for an intriguing commercial created for General Motors, promoting their newly fuel-efficient and technologically-forward vehicles, an ad which has been given considerable airing in prime time.
-
Carlile has a mesmerizing voice. That's what just chased me to buy her CD (her second major-label release) and download the GM video again. Her voice has a really haunting sound, in a timbre that's always grabbed me. And GM's message at least comes off like they're changing direction . . . and for the better . . . and what's not to like about that.
-
THE STORY (the name of the album as well as the song) was released on April 3, 2007. Initially, the album peaked on May 5, 2007 at #58 on the Billboard 200 chart. But due to the GM ad airing heavily during the first half of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the song has increased in downloads and is currently sitting at #36 on Billboard's Top 100 "most downloaded songs" chart, and #5 on the "most downloaded rock songs" on iTunes. Also currently, THE STORY album is #9 on Billboard'sTop 100 "most downloaded albums" and #1 on the Top 100 "most downloaded rock albums" in iTunes. Pretty fine accomplishments, no question.
-
So who is Brandi Carlile?
-
She's 27 years old, born and reared in Ravensdale, WA, a very rural town north of Seattle. Columbia Records discovered her in late 2004 on the strength of her home recordings made during her early scufflin' days, and reports from musicians like Dave Matthews that she was the real deal.
-
In 2005 she was featured on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "10 Artists to Watch in 2005." By the end of 2006, she had toured and supported other musicians including the Indigo Girls, Chris Isaak, Tori Amos, and Shawn Colvin. The development of her music also was greatly influenced by her songwriting and musicwriting partnership with bandmembers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, as well as the esteemed T-Bone Burnett who was brought in to produce THE STORY.
-
Then in 2007, the popular television drama "Grey's Anatomy" began featuring some of her tunes. Likely it was the association with "Grey's" which hipped GM's advertising execs to a fresh talent with a compelling song.
-
Many people now have commented, both reviewers and bloggers, that Brandi Carlile evokes comparison with Elton John (and his partner songwriter Bernie Taupin), Bette Midler, Leonard Cohen, the Indigo Girls, Rufus Wainwright, Ani Defranco, and Jeff Buckley. As for myself, she just sounded immediately like I should check her out. Different. New.
-
Ok, so why did this admittedly "loud mouth tree hugger" (her words) make an alliance with General Motors?
-
On her excellently organized and visually compelling website http://www.brandicarlile.com, she delivered this response:
-
"Hey all, I'm writing you from a plane bound for Portugal. While we're gone, you may have already heard our song "The Story" in an Olympic advertisement for GM. Depending on how you feel about music and advertising in general, you may be wondering why a band like us would do something like that. Well, I have a few good reasons, so allow me to shine a little light on the subject.
-
"When GM approached our band to use "The Story" in their 2008 Olympic ad, visiions of SUVs and full-size pickup trucks driving through a rugged mountain range were dancing through my head. I promptly and politely declined. (Although I don't want to be a hypocrite: our band did tour in a GM gas-guzzling van for many years).
-
"But when they came back to us and offered to involve us in [a much different] an ad campaign promoting hybrids, bio fuel, bio hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell cars, and yes, even the infamous electric car, the Chevy "Volt," I felt the need to think twice about having the opportunity to be part of a huge American car company creating an ad campaign for environmentally responsible cars. We feel they allowed more than a fair amount of input from us and made an honest effort to create an environmentally conscious ad. We are proud of it.
-
"I also believe in American jobs. Keeping people employed in the US and building fuel-efficient/alternative cars could help reduce and one day help eliminate our dependency on foreign oil. To really make a positive impact regarding the climate crisis, we all need to work together to make the change, even GM.
-
"Regardless of what my feelings are about the agenda behind the sudden wave of corporate environmental awareness, it's still awareness just the same.
-
"The twins I play with, Phil and Tim, and I are proud to say that every last penny from the GM ad is geing donated and split between several environmental organizations exploring alternative energy and effecting change on a grass roots level.
-
"Touring, while virtually unavoidable for an artist like me, can be wasteful and bad for the environment, so we're trying to find ways to lessen our footprint.We recently got involved with a non-profit organization called Reverb to help us plan a more environmentally sustainable tour. We will donate $0.50 from each ticket sold for the tour to help offset the CO2 emissions our tour will generate. The money will help support Reverb's mission as well as NativeEnergy's family-farm methane projects, which help reduce global warming pollution by reducing the amount of fossil fuels the farms themselves use for heat, cooling, and electricity, or by preventing emissions of methane gas from manure stored in lagoons.
-
"The emissions we'll offset include [each] venue's electricity, our bus, and [compensate for] fans driving to and from our shows. We're offsetting the equivalent of having one car drive over 3,000,000 miles!"
-
Thanks, Brandi, for giving me the opportunity to share your message with the readers of this ROCKIN' blog, and for them to chase down "The Story" for themselves. I love your sound, girl, so rock on.
-
In the following blog, I'll explore what was a far more controversial link-up with GM only three years ago, that of Steve Earle's "The Revolution Starts Now." Earle of course has written many brilliant automotive-themed or highway-based songs, not the least of which is "Guitar Town," and is himself the subject of one of the essays in ROCKIN' DOWN THE HIGHWAY.

No comments: