by Annie Parnell, Managing Editor
Brandi Carlile’s newest single, “Right On Time,” provides a poignant look into the relationship at its center. “Come back now, even if you call me out,” the six-time Grammy award winner implores at the start of the piano-heavy ballad, an apologetic offering to a partner that’s coupled with a sincere promise to reinvest in their relationship.
As the classic advice goes, a fight between two partners can be a wake-up call — and a key moment for growth and reconnection. “It wasn’t right, but it was right on time,” Carlile acknowledges of this one, a mature perspective on conflict that comes through beautifully in such few words. Not many pleading songs to lovers feature such healthy communication skills, and when Brandi Carlile insists in “Right On Time” that “it’s not too late,” it’s one of the few times that the phrase is actually believable.
The song is also notable for the first half’s near-total lack of guitars, beginning as a stripped-down melody on piano and percussion that lets Carlile’s clarion voice and emotional resonance shine at the forefront. When the other instruments do kick in, they build upon each other as Carlile confesses to being afraid that “it’s getting to the point where I can’t carry it all” — a cathartic admission that shows how brave and empowering vulnerability can be.
“Right On Time” is the first single to be released from Carlile’s upcoming album In These Silent Days (out October 1), inspired by the emotional excavations from the process of writing her recent memoir Broken Horses and a year spent quarantined at home with bandmates and longtime collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth. “Never before have the twins and I written an album during a time of such uncertainty and quiet solitude,” Carlile says of the experience. “I never imagined that I’d feel so exposed and weird as an artist.”
The new album features influences of David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, and Joni Mitchell, the latter two of which have become close friends of Carlile’s. The music video for “Right On Time,” also out now and directed by none other than Courteney Cox, shows off some of those Bowie notes. Carlile, depicted in a sequined suit and elaborate makeup, comes offstage after a performance only to find that she’s trapped in the venue. Instead of leaving, she races inward, the concert hall melting away into rivers and forests as she searches for something real.
In a climactic moment of the music video, Carlile returns to the doors and steels herself to break through the glass wall that separates her from the street outside, only to find that after taking the plunge, the invisible barrier has melted away. It’s a potent visualization for our current moment, particularly as Carlile plans to return to her hometown venue the Gorge Amphitheatre for her Echoes Through The Canyon show on August 14. The show will feature both Sheryl Crow and Amythyst Kiah, and marks Carlile’s first full capacity hybrid show — both in-stadium and livestream tickets are available, and after the curtain falls, the show will be available online for rewatch until August 28.
In fact, Carlile certainly has a booked summer — following Echoes Through The Canyon, she’ll be performing at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre with the Colorado Symphony on September 11 and 12. In February, her famous Girls Just Wanna Weekend festival returns to Riviera Maya, Mexico’s Hard Rock Hotel, featuring a star-studded female lineup that includes fellow queer country stars Indigo Girls, Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, and Katie Pruitt, among many others. Oh, and she’s also nominated for the 2021 Grammy Awards in September.
For now, though, “Right On Time” is available on all platforms, and In These Silent Days can be pre-ordered here.
Annie Parnell is the Managing Editor of Country Queer and cohost of the radio show Cowboy Church. She also runs the newsletter Tugboat. Her writing and reporting has been featured in WTJU, We Are The Mutants, Gayly Dreadful, and the Virginia Literary Review.