Five Covers of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story”

I love Brandi Carlile. Her voice hits all of those tender notes for me — partly because she has an amazing voice, and partly because I started listening to her in high school, starting with her self-titled album. I’d downloaded the song “Throw It All Away” from Brandi Carlile and burned the song onto a CD and put my CD player on repeat forever and ever. I attached myself to Carlile because I felt some kind of queer kinship with her — and this was before she (and I) came out officially. There was something about that hair. Something about those tomboyish clothes. Something about how gender-nonspecific a lot of her songs were — she’d always speak to a “you” and not to a “him” or “her,” which I conveniently used to fill in the gender blanks for myself.

Swoon. via

If you haven’t heard of Carlile, you’ve probably heard her songs — most notably, “The Story,” which was featured on Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a song that similarly gets to my heartstrings; Carlile’s strained and emotional voice does it for me every time. Covering the song requires a voice powerful enough to figuratively blow people away (Fus Ro Dah style, if you get what I mean). The emotional / musical crescendo of the song reaches fever pitch with the lines “I climbed across the mountain tops / I swam all across the ocean blue” — it’s amazing how well a lot of the cover songs keep this energy and make my eyes tear up a little (okay maybe more than a little). I just love this song, you guys.

Here are five cover songs of “The Story” (and one cover of “Throw It All Away” at the end because one: EMOTIONAL RELEVANCE and two: The singer is brilliant and has an adorable hair cut to boot). The covers range from a rockin’, tattooed lady / genderqueer band covering “The Story” to a Smith student belting her heart out at her Baccalaureate. Take a listen.

This first cover is by Carly Calbero — a Washington state native with a voice made out of a thousand beautiful things like unicorns and puppies and cookies shaped like baleen whales. She’s wearing what looks like a Tegan and Sara t-shirt, and has a friend accompanying her on a cajon (a sort of box-like percussive instrument that functions like a portable drum set). It’s an amazing cover.

Dallas musician Strawberry Riley — her voice is the soulful-est thing ever. Her Soundcloud page has covers of Etta James (“Sunday Kind of Love” covered exquisitely) and Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”). But let’s back to Brandi Carlile — the cover song features guitar by The Brown Boy and her voice carries the emotional quality of “The Story” perfectly.

The third is by YouTube user FamousGrrrouse, with an astounding performance at the Smith college School of Social Work Baccalaureate. While the venue might seem a bit big and echo-y, her voice fills the space beautifully — wait for the “I climbed across the mountain tops” line. Your jaw will fall off.

The fourth is by Kathy Camejo from Atlanta, GA, who carries the song brilliantly. Her voice is husky and deep at the right parts and high and affecting at others — plus I kind of love her leather bracelet and her backwards cap, not going to lie. She adorably banters a bit for the first 50 seconds; if you want to jump right in, skip to the 50 second mark to get to the music.

The fifth is performed by Workin Minerva, a band from South Lake Tahoe, CA. The Workin Minerva has performed at Reno Rainbow Fest in Nevada, and the band’s general aesthetic is loud, rocky, tattooed and gender non-normative, from spiky short red hair to plaid shirts and fedoras. Bonus points for watching the person on the left — the fist-pumping-est, adorable-est backup singer ever.

The last is a cover song of “Throw It All Away” that I had to throw in here because it’s my favorite Brandi Carlile song. It’s performed by Meg Mischler and she’s accompanied by guitar and cajon. Not only is her voice brilliant, but I love her hair. Did I mention that already?

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Whitney Pow

Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. They are a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University, where their research focuses on queer video games and new media. They are also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out their website at and follow them on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 53 articles for us.


  1. These are wonderful Whitney! And you’re right about her hair, it has magical powers.

  2. This is so relevant. This song is one of my top three favorite songs ever. I don’t think I could ever listen to it too many times.

    • Not only do I love your AS name (My Lover, Cindy), but I’ve totally listened to this song so many times just to hear Carlile’s voice crack as she runs into the second “All of these lines across my face” line. Hella emotional / sexy.

    • Sexmotional? That word definitely doesn’t sound like what it’s supposed to mean.

  3. haven’t listened to any of the covers (i’m at work), but i can’t imagine ANYONE being able to beat Brandi’s rich, clear voice!!! i love her!

  4. I LOVE Brandi Carlile. I get to see her in almost 4 weeks! She could sing the worst song ever and I would still love it. Her voice/everything is magical.

  5. This song never fails to give me goose bumps, oh how I love Brandi!! Although I don’t think anyone can sing it quite like her, these are some great covers. Thanks for sharing!

  6. OMG, this song has been stuck in my head for years intermittently, and I could never remember the words. Thank you!
    *will now commence learning the lyrics and driving her roommates insane by singing obnoxiously in the shower*

  7. I’ve never heard the original (I don’t understand how? But I’ve missed it). The covers are amazing though. Now off to google Brandi’s version and compare.

    • Since I wrote this a couple of days ago I’ve listened to the original and I swear it hasn’t left my mind since.

  8. Thanks for posting this – I hope it makes more people realize the greatness that is Brandi Carlile Band!! :D
    I tried listening to some of the covers, but because the song is already so over the top, someone without Brandi’s nuances just can’t do it justice for me.

    But I really appreciate Kelly Clarkson’s live version of Turpentine.

  9. Thank you! I thought I was alone in my love of Brandi Carlile..
    The Story is my absolute favorite song EVER, no matter when I hear it, or who is singing it, it brings tears to my eyes.
    Thank you for giving me more options to listen to, aside from Ms. Carlile herself and the rendition by Callie from Grey’s Anatomy.
    I thoroughly appreciate this post.

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