Singer/Songwriter Brandi Carlile performs onstage at the Troubadour on April 3, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Trish Tokar/Getty Images)
Photo by Trish Tokar/Getty Images

'The Story': How Brandi Carlile's Powerhouse Love Song Became a Modern Classic

Brandi Carlile's "The Story" is a classic love song in every sense, with a hook so simple but so cutting as the words soar up into her crisp falsetto, "it's true, I was made for you." Released as the title track to her second album in 2007, "The Story" has since become a modern classic anthem with a story of its own to tell: how it helped a proud queer musican to find a space in the canon of American roots music.

Brandi Carlile's career as a singer and a storyteller follows the classic path of the struggling musician in a way that's not often seen anymore. Carlile was truly homebred by her home in the Pacific Northwest and the area is still proud to claim her as one of their own.

Her hometown of Ravensdale, Washington sits 30 miles southeast of Seattle's influential music scene, but at the base of the Cascade mountains it feels remote and insular. Carlile discussed in her memior Broken Horses how growing up in the conservative and religious area made her stick out as a visibly queer woman, and disconnected her from her community centered around the local church. She dropped out of high school and taught herself piano and guitar to the tune of the classic country singers her parents listened to like Hank Williams, but was further inspired by the out and proud showmanship of Elton John to become an icon of her own accord.

She found solace writing music with Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth, affably referred to as simply "the Twins" in her memoir, when they linked up in 2004. Carlile made a living travelling up to Seattle to busk on cold, rainy mornings in Pike Place Market, saving up enough money to record her self-titled debut album with the twins in 2005 and promote the album on tours with acts including Tori Amos, Chris Issack and Ray LaMontange. 

'The Story'

Carlile was pointed out as an artist to watch by Rolling Stone and other music magazines, which coincided with the time her co-writer Phil approached her with a song he had been working on since before the trio ever paired up. Hanseroth had a finished version of "The Story" that he couldn't perfect himself, so he asked Carlile to lend her powerful belting voice to the track.

They recorded the album The Story ("My Song," "Turpentine," "Cannonball," "Again Today," "Hiding My Heart") outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with the help of producer T Bone Burnett, whose resume includes Gillian Welch, Roy Orbison and Greg Allman. While most of the album was recorded traditionally with each musician recording their parts individually and compiled into one master tape, "The Story" was recorded live to tape, which meant everyone played and sang in unison like a private performance. 

Songs recorded live to tape gain an added mysticism to their own origin story, as if a performance so perfectly in unison could only happen at that one particular time in the artists' life. The renegade success of Brandi Carlile since "The Story," now with 8 albums to her name and throngs of accolades for each one, might actually suggest there was some sort sort of magic when they entered the recording studio. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 08: Brandi Carlile attends MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Dolly Parton at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.


The singer-songwriter's ode to feeling at home — and finally at peace — in the arms of a loving partner has been covered numberous times. Country legend Dolly Parton recorded the song for the 2017 compilation album Cover Stories, which benefited the organization War Child UK. LeAnn Rimes also covered the song on her 2016 album Remnants.

Among the many tv shows "The Story" has been featured in, the song was famously used in a 2007 episode of Grey's Anatomy. It was used once again in 2011, when Grey's Anatomy actor Sara Ramirez performed the song during a special musical episode. (Their recording was used again in a 2018 episode.)

Most songs need time to become a classic, but Brandi Carlile's "The Story" sounds so familiar, you can sing along by the final, exhilarating chorus even on the first listen.

The Story Lyrics:

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true, I was made for you
I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby, I broke them all for you
Oh, because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do, and I was made for you
You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess
No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what I've been through like you do
And I was made for you
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
Oh, but these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true, I was made for you
Oh, yeah, well it's true that I was made for you


READ MORE: Rooted in Country: Van Plating Shares How Brandi Carlile Helped Her Find Her Voice