How Brandi Carlile Saved My Daughters From Disney

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You might assume that as editor of Paste, my kids have grown up on a steady diet of Flaming Lips and Death Cab For Cutie. But somewhere along the way, my cultural influence over them was overwhelmed by the folks at Disney. Roly Poly Olie eventually gave way to Hannah Montana, Zack & Cody and the horrendous Wizards of Waverly Place. High School Musical begat Camp Rock and Demi Lovato. Someone told them that they could find Radio Disney on the AM dial, and I'd have to endure Selena Gomez and Jesse McCartney through waves of static.

It's not that I didn't try. Blessed were those rare CDs we all loved—They Might Be Giants' No, the For the Kids series with Wilco and Aimee Mann, everything from Ralph's World. And every Paste sampler seemed to have a few songs they'd request on repeat. But no matter how many mix CDs I'd make for them, their first mp3 playlists couldn't have made the Disney execs smile any wider. (By the way, how is it that a record label can operate a radio station that plays almost nothing but its own artists over public airwaves?) Eventually, I just tried to use my influence to steer them towards the best of Tween fare—artists like Taylor Swift who actually write their own (very good) songs.

But when our 10-year-old Jordan started to sound a little like the snotty teenagers she was watching on TV, Hannah Montana and Wizards were outlawed. Soon after, we were fortunate enough to be guests on the Cayamo cruise earlier, and I made the family a mix of Cayamo artists for the drive down—Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards, Over the Rhine, John Hiatt. But it was Brandi Carlile they kept wanting to hear. By the time we saw her concert, my girls knew most of the words. At Emma's ninth birthday party (a lock-in at the Paste office) she cranked up "The Story" for her friends like it was the latest Miley Cyrus hit. The requests for Radio Disney stopped, and I overheard Jordan telling her friends she doesn't think Cyrus is a very good singer anymore.

So when Brandi recently came within half a mile of our house last week to play a pair of intimate performances at Eddie's Attic, I took them to the early show. It was the first real club concert for my kids. Eddie's has a no-talking-during-the-performance rule, and my usually very loud children abided. They sat patiently through a great opening set from Gregory Alan Isakov, eagerly awaiting Brandi. They mouthed all the words except when they couldn't resist singing along. When Brandi started clapping, they clapped. When Brandi told the audience to stand, Emma stood up on her stool with her hands in the air.

Jordan wrote her first song a couple of days after the show. She won't sing it to me yet, but the lyrics are great. She began guitar lessons earlier this year and is headed to girls rock camp this summer. Emma is saving up her money for a guitar now. When they think of a future rock star, the image is of a down-to-earth Carlile instead of a glammed-up Ashley Tisdale.

Disney isn't completely out of the picture. We still let them watch The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and we all love the brilliant Phineas and Ferb—the best thing Disney has done since The Little Mermaid. Where their love for Brandi's music leads them next is anybody's guess. There are a lot of pitfalls out there worse than Hannah Montana (they did start singing a Katy Perry tune a couple months ago). But right now I love it when even my four-year-old will ask for "cruise music" and we can crank up Brandi's "live from Paste" tracks and sing our hearts out.

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