Brandi Carlile + Catherine Shepherd — Country’s Greatest Love Stories
Fans familiar with Brandi Carlile's passion for advocacy and activism won't be surprised to learn that the Americana superstar met her wife, Catherine Shepherd, while they were both working for the same charitable cause.
At the time, Shepherd's job was to be in charge of English singer-songwriter and Beatles member Paul McCartney's charity work. The couple first began corresponding when Shepherd got in touch with Carlile about donating some memorabilia to Carlile's Fight the Fear initiative, which provided self-defense training for women in abusive or violent situations.
"We communicated for about a year, and the entire time, I thought I was talking to somebody who was 65," Carlile recalled to Rolling Stone in 2019. "It was an interesting way to fall in love."
Part of the reason for that mix-up was because Shepherd was based in the UK at the time, and the two had no reason initially to see each other in person. That changed after a backstage meeting at a show in New York City, during a trip Shepherd took across the pond as part of her work.
Activism wasn't the only thing the two bonded over: In a 2012 interview with Richmond Magazine, Carlile said that Shepherd was a talented amateur musician, and though she didn't have any professional aspirations as an artist, their shared musical interests made for some fun at-home jam sessions.
"She plays guitar and sings really well," Carlile explained. "We jam at home all the time ... We really do enjoy playing and singing together."
Carlile and Shepherd got engaged in 2012. In a sweet coincidence, they announced their big news just before the passage of Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in Carlile's home state of Washington. Carlile explained at the time that she didn't see her engagement as a political statement per se, although she was vocal about her support for equal marriage rights.
"It's definitely not a political thing at all, but I do believe that it's important, because I have a platform, to make my engagement known and for it to be an open discussion around marriage equality," she told Richmond Magazine. "In this country it's a civil rights issue that I feel really passionate about, and I've felt really passionate about always."
The pair got married later that year, and in October of 2012, Carlile used Facebook to share a little bit of the big -- and hectic! -- event with her fans.
"See I'm sure all weddings have an insane week preceding the event but me and Catherine might have won that contest," she wrote. "Bailey (the dog) had to be rushed to the vet on our wedding day, and the day before the wedding, we had to put down one of our goats (RIP Tim). To top it all off, our priest didn't show up! Ha ha! (Not her fault but it'll be one of those funny stories we'll be telling for years.) My church friends Jason and Mandy were there and Jason performed the perfect ceremony with 15 minutes notice!"
Still, Carlile added, it was all the little imperfections that made the day absolutely perfect. "It was truly one of our best days, completely awkward and human and beautiful. I'm married to my best friend and nothing has ever brought me more joy than that," she said.
Carlile and Shepherd welcomed their first child, Evangeline, in 2014, and a second daughter, Elijah, in 2018. Carlile describes her experience with parenthood -- even mentioning her eldest daughter by name -- in "The Mother," a song on her Grammy Award-winning 2019 studio album By the Way, I Forgive You.