Brandi Carlile on Indigo Girls: ‘They’ve Never Asked for Credit, But They Deserve It’

For this year’s annual Women Shaping the Future issue, we asked 12 of today’s top musical acts to talk about the women who have inspired them most in their lives and careers. Here, Brandi Carlile talks about what the Indigo Girls meant to her as a young fan, how they helped her early in her career, and how they’ve become close friends.

The Indigo Girls were so deeply influential in my life — not just musically, but also as an activist and as an out queer person. The representation and the visibility that they managed to scrape together at that time, despite all odds and all the obstacles against them, were really important for me in my life. I needed them.

I was about 13 or 14 years old, and I had come home from a friend’s house — it was a girl who I had a total crush on — and I was very confused about it. I got home, and my parents had rented the movie Philadelphia on VHS. I snuck it into my bedroom, popped the movie into my VCR. Obviously, it’s about a gay man who has AIDS, who gets fired from his job, and he’s made a pariah. He fights for himself and other LGBTQ+ people and people with HIV/AIDS, until he dies at the end. It’s a dreary subject matter, but it was so poignant to me that I felt this pull in my stomach. In retrospect, I realized that I was being galvanized towards something that I was only just beginning to understand about myself.