Advertisement

Hanseroth Twins Branch Off From Brandi Carlile for a Side Project: ‘We’re Not Out for World Domination — We Just Want to Put Something Beautiful Out There’ (EXCLUSIVE)

At some point, probably everyone who is a Brandi Carlile fan has listened to the exquisite three-part harmony she does with the Hanseroth Twins and wondered: What would it sound like if that were just two-part harmony? Or, more plainly, would Phil and Tim Hanseroth sound as compelling as lead singers as they do as pretty much the most acclaimed harmonizers in modern-day pop?

Truth be told, that hasn’t remained a complete mystery. Carlile has sometimes ceded the stage to the Hanseroths during a concert for the identical brothers to perform a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” or the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts.” But not since the Brandi Carlile band took shape in the early 2000s until now have Phil and Tim stepped out as lead singers with a piece of original material. That changes with today’s release of “Remember Me,” a debut single that arrives ahead of a full Hanseroth Twins album that is expected in late summer.

More from Variety

This doesn’t represent a breakup of the longtime Carlile mothership unit — as is clear from the fact that, on Thursday night, they opened for themselves for the first time, doing a short Hanseroth Twins set before backing up Carlile at the first of two shows at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. Hours before taking the stage for that show (twice), they sat down for a Zoom call with Variety to discuss how they came to do a project under their own banner.

“Brandi has put it so well,” says Tim Hanseroth. “She says our band is like a triangle, and she’s at the top and we’re on the bottom — and she wants the twin project to also be like a triangle, where me and Phil are at the top and she’s at the bottom, still supporting us, with production ideas and stuff like that.” (Officially, though, the brothers are self-producing their album, whatever outside counsel they might be taking.)

“In our band with Brandi, I’ve never really had any desire to do the frontperson thing,” he continues. “You know, we were in a rock band for many years before we met Brandi, where we were fronting the band, and it was cool and fun… and a lot of work. We only started singing when we were young because the singer of our rock band quit and we had a hard time finding a singer. It’s always been such a utility thing for us. With the Brandi Carlile band, I’ve always been really comfortable singing backup, because I’ve never really fancied myself a lead singer. But it’s a good place to go back into for us, that territory of like, ‘OK, cool, we’re lead singing again.’ Which is kind of daunting, for somebody who’s always — not out of just being humble — generally just considered myself (to be like), ‘Well, I don’t know if I’m good enough to sing in front of a band.’ But, we’re gonna try it, you know?”

Clearly, the brothers could still stand some braggadocio lessons. The humility is not for lack of being constantly told what great singers they are over the last 20-plus years — not least of all by Carlile, who’s been known to remark on how unusual it was for her to enlist the women of Lucius to sing a bit of backup on the last album, because the Hanseroth boys were perfectly capable of reaching a girlish range, if need be. But hearing the character of their voices up-front is still bound to come as a revelation — maybe even to themselves, from the sound of it — after a couple of decades of complementarity.

The forthcoming album is taking shape in something of a hurry, after 20 years of not being in a rush.

Phil Hanseroth says that, of the songs they’d been writing together recently, “Remember Me” happened to be “just the one we got done with first” in the studio. “And then we let Gregg (Nadel, the president of Elektra Records) know that we’d recorded the song and we wanted him to hear it. I sent it to him and 15 minutes later, my phone rang and he said, ‘Elektra’s putting it out, and we want a record. Can you get it done in a month? Because we want to put it out at the end of summer.’ He’s the one that was really like, ‘OK, this is happening — like, right now.’ The timing just feels really right, because we’ve decided to take a little while off of any significant kind of touring — just doing a few shows here and there — so it leaves us with a lot of time to get in the studio and finish up.”

“We’re a good chunk into it now,” says Tim. “We’re probably about half a record in (to the recording process), even though we’ve only really mixed and mastered the one song; we’ve got a pretty good little body of work.” Adds Phil, of the late summer release date Elektra is projecting for the full project: “Sometimes you get those dates and they’re unrealistic, but in this case, I think we can pull that off very easily.”

The idea was initially broached, and then abandoned, a few years ago.

“We started talking about it during the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, because we didn’t know what to do,” recalls Tim. “Everybody was kinda lost and we were like, well, at least we can still continue to be creative — maybe this would be a great time to make a record. But after about a month or two, we started doing our livestreams and other things and we’re like, ‘Oh, actually we can stay busy,’ so we put it on the back burner. And then we started up again in the fall. With Brandi… I guess permission wouldn’t be the right word, but she really encouraged us. She’s got all these killer projects going on., writing and doing stuff with other musicians, and she’s like, ‘You know what? I don’t wanna do a Brandi Carlile record for another year, maybe two. Maybe this would be a great time for you guys to make your record, you know?’ So we got that blessing from her to go do that, maybe four or five months ago, so we started writing.”

brandi carlile joni festival chris willman
Brandi Carlile and Phil and Tim Hanseroth at the Gorge in Washington state, June 9. 2023

There is always a stockpile of songs the Hanseroths are working on, as they have been as prolific as writers in the Carlile band as its namesake is. On the last two Brandi studio records, all the songs have been credited across the board to all three of them, but the more specific writing credits on the albums that precded those tells the tale of how the trio have written in every possible combination: individually, or in various pairings of two, or altogether. But for obvious reasons the twins rarely tailored the lyrics toward autobiography in the same way Carlile was able to.

Says Phil, “I think that one of the strengths of our collaboration with Brandi has always been that we’ve all three found our place and we all know what our strengths are. Like, I know I’m a better musician and songwriter than frontperson, by a country mile. But, as Tim said, it’s different when you’re writing with another singer in mind, so this project’s kind of opened up writing for ourselves a little bit, to a little bit more personal expression.”

That applied to “Remember Me,” a song they wrote with their children in mind, although it recalled territory they were able to explore on Carlile’s last album.

“We have a song on our last album with Brandi called ‘This Time Tomorrow’ that’s kind of the same thing,” says Tim. “Me and Brandi and my brother wrote that as kind of a love letter to our kids too, and we were like, well, let’s expand on that — I feel like that there’s more to say on that matter.”

Old habits can die hard, though, like the habit of imagining the greatest female voice in contemporary music singing their stuff. “I think as we write a song for our project that we’ll both be able to tell if it’s like, ‘Oh, man, Brandi’s gotta sing this one,'” says Tim. “Sometimes I can just hear her voice singing the words before I can hear my voice sing it.” “But so far,” adds Tim, “everything we’ve tried has been perfect for our vision of this project. And we may write a couple songs that will end up going to, like, Tanya Tucker or Zac Brown or the Highwomen or something. So if we run into one of those, we’ll just put it back on the back burner for a minute.”

The Carlile band isn’t taking the whole year entirely off, although it will be about as extended a rest as they’ve ever had from it. After this weekend’s D.C. shows, there is Carlile’s annual Mother’s Day weekend Mothership Festival in Florida. It’s safe to say that the Hanseroths will be involved along with Carlile in Joni Mitchell’s two-nighter at the Hollywood Bowl this fall. But there’ll be time for the Hanseroths to conceivably do some dates of their own around a late summer release, not that they plan to go hog-wild as road dogs as frontmen.

Says Tim, “I guess that’s just a wide open road. It can kind of be whatever it wants itself to be. And right now we haven’t even gotten that far with it, because we’re just trying to finish up the record. But we’re not out for world domination. We just want to put something beautiful out there that people can really connect with, you know?”

Wherever they take it, the Hanseroth Twins project is not destined to be quite as loud and hard-rocking a thing as the band they fronted and led through Seattle’s clubs before meeting up with Carlile and joining her to write and record that first album back in 2005.

When Variety mentions that we wish we could have been there for the pre-fame incarnation of a Hanseroth Twins band, Tim retorts, “I wish we could have been there. It was a pretty wild time.”

“There was lot more hair,” notes Phil.

“Yeah, a lot more hair, a lot more alcohol and whatever else,” adds Tim. “But yeah, thank God it was pre-smartphone. You know, there’s not that much incriminating evidence out there.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.