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Thursday, January 20, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Music

Brandi Carlile: ready for her breakthrough

Seattle Times staff reporter

Brandi Carlile has always been a hard-working, blue-collar style artist, something of Maple Valley's Bruce Springsteen (if, you know, Bruce were a lot nicer looking and sang better). For the past few years, she put in her dues at Queen Anne's Paragon every Sunday night, cranking out three-hour concerts from a tiny stage. The Paragon has a bit of a reputation as a pick-up spot, and indeed this powerhouse pop singer picked up an unusually devoted following there.

"It's amazing how hard it is to get yourself up to rehearse," she explained, "but when you know you have to play somewhere every Sunday for three hours — it makes it a lot more fun."

Over the past year, the modest but ambitious singer set out to get national exposure; to tune up for it, she challenged herself and her bandmates — twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth — adding regular weekly shows at small, unpretentious places like Duke's on Alki, Medin's Ravioli Station in Ballard, the Dubliner in Fremont. "Five nights a week ... I treated it as a full-time job."

All those shows have paid off, as Carlile recently signed to Columbia Records. "We've been working so hard — we're so excited to get signed," she said, from a tour break in Baltimore.

Carlile and the Hanseroths (formerly of the Fighting Machinists) caught the eye of Columbia's Tim Divine when they opened for James Taylor in Los Angeles. Now Columbia plans to release her next album in May.

"We just had big meeting in New York with the Columbia president ... everybody there was super behind us," Carlile said.

The Tahoma High grad says the label will market her as "roots-rock acoustic with strong vocals," á la Shelby Lynne and Sheryl Crow.

Carlile is on tour opening for Jonny Lang. After stops in New Orleans, Dallas, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, the Carlile crew returns to Seattle in February to tune up the album and, of course, get in a show or two. It probably won't be at the Paragon or one of the smaller places — last time Carlile had a show here, she sold out two shows at the Triple Door.

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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