Brandi Carlile Recalls Heartbreaking Moment That Led to Starting Girls Just Wanna Weekend Festival

When The Highwomen's Brandi Carlile started her Girls Just Wanna Weekend festival, it wasn't because she just wanted to get together a bunch of her favorite female artists to play. Instead, Carlile reveals it was her own dismissal from a show, at Madison Square Garden, due to her gender, which gave her the motivation to prove that women can sell tickets just as well as their male counterparts.

"I once was invited on tour with a band I worship," Carlile recalled to Billboard. "One of the dates was to open for them at the Garden. There was a promoter that wanted to take me off the tour, saying they wanted a male, guitar-fronted band to open. I lost the tour. I was so appalled, and of course, not until it hit my battleship did I realize what a problem it was –– that women weren't given a voice, particularly where this promoter thought men were more important, would buy more beer, would spend more money.

"That's when I started Girls Just Wanna Weekend," she continued. "I thought, if I can cause thousands of women to spend thousands of dollars to leave the country and see women headline a festival, it's going to send a message to bookers at home."

Carlile isn't used to things coming easily to her. The 38-year-old, who won a Grammy Award for the thought-provoking "The Joke," is no longer afraid to speak her mind, especially on things that matter to her.

"As I get older, I wake up more naturally political every day, just by the fact that I'm married to a woman and raising two daughters," Carlile reflected. "I was married before it was legal; I was denied a basic civil right in my own country for most of my adult life. There's really no way for me to get on stage and not be political. I would have to get on stage and not be a woman or not be a singer. It goes against the grain in a lot of ways for me to not use my voice to illuminate suffering and injustice. It's just who I am."


The 2020 Girls Just Wanna Weekend festival will include performances by Sheryl Crow, Wanda Sykes, Rita Wilson, fellow The Highwomen members Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires and more. The event, held in Riviera Maya, Mexico, is sold out.

Photo Credit: Getty / Gabe Ginsberg