Could Brandi Carlile Become the First Woman in 5 Years to Receive a Grammy Nod for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical?
Only nine women have received Grammy nominations for producer of the year, non-classical in the 49 years the Recording Academy has presented that award. Despite that tepid track record, you might want to bet on Brandi Carlile to be in the running when the nominations in that category are announced later this year. It will be the category’s 50th year.
Carlile produced Brandy Clark’s eponymous album, which was released May 19, and reteamed with Shooter Jennings to co-produce Tanya Tucker’s Sweet Western Sound, which is due June 2. That album is Tucker’s long-awaited follow-up to While I’m Livin’. Carlile and Jennings won Grammys as producers of While I’m Livin’, which was voted best country album.
No woman has been nominated for producer of the year, non-classical since Linda Perry five years ago. And no woman has ever won in the category, either on her own or as part of a collaboration.
The women who have been nominated for producer of the year, non-classical are Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (of Prince & the Revolution, 1984); Janet Jackson (alongside Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, 1989); Mariah Carey (alongside Walter Afanasieff, 1991); Paula Cole (1997); Sheryl Crow (1998); Lauryn Hill (1998); Lauren Christy (of The Matrix, 2003); and Perry (2018).
It’s a very different story in the producer of the year, classical category. Three women have won in that category, which was introduced five years after producer of the year, non-classical. And one of those women, Judith Sherman, has won seven times, which puts her in a tie with David Frost, Steven Epstein and Robert Woods for the most wins by anyone in the category’s history. Joanna Nickrenz has won twice (once alongside Marc Aubort). Elaine Martone has won once.
Carlile has become a Grammy darling in recent years. She has won nine Grammys, including three at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in March. She produced her eponymous 2005 debut album, and co-produced her fourth album in 2012, but the rest of her studio albums have been produced by others.
Carlile moved into production for other artists with The Secret Sisters’ You Don’t Own Me Anymore (2017) and Saturn Return (2020). She co-produced both albums with Tim and Phil Hanseroth, with whom she also co-produced the 2017 Various Artists album Cover Stories. Carlile teamed with Dave Cobb to produce Lucius’ 2022 album Second Nature.
In an interview with Billboard’s Jessica Nicholson, Clark praised Carlile’s skills as a producer. “She pushed me a lot,” Clark said. “I’ve never been as challenged by a producer as I was by her.”
Clark noted Carlisle’s approach to narrowing down the songs that ultimately make up the album: “I gave her like 18-24 songs and asked her to pick about a dozen. I liked them all, but I was surprised by some of her choices. She told me, ‘I chose the songs that I thought sounded like you wrote them in your bedroom, and not in the writing room.’”
That’s the kind of sound advice that shows what a good producer can do.