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Since her self-titled debut in 2005, Brandi Carlile hasn’t merely been focused on making great art – though certainly she has, winning six Grammys and garnering the adoration of fans and critics along the way. But in addition to that, the Americana singer-songwriter has made a point of trying to leave the music industry better than she found it.
Covering the 2022 Billboard Pride issue, Carlile posed for photographer Lia Clay Miller for a serious of eye-popping photos spotlighting Carlile’s indelible sense of style of confidence.
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“Musicians kind of embody a character, so I always look into that and kind of see where my brain connects the dots,” says the North Carolina-born, Philadelphia-based photographer, who has photographed everyone from Hillary Clinton to Fran Lebowitz. Still, Miller says there’s something slightly different about working with another LGBTQ artist on a shoot. “I think there’s just a general language we speak that we can both understand. It kind of varies between each identity … trans women are a world on their own, for sure. But it’s good to have a mutual understanding of context.”
As for working with Carlile, Miller says “this one started with images of Amber Valletta by Peter Lindbergh in angel wings. I also wanted to mix in Brandi’s kind of rock glam aesthetic.” The city of Los Angeles was also a muse “I always think of L.A. as kind of the glossy over stylized version of L.A. editorially, so what’s better than a pink motel?” she says.
“I love that Brandi and the team really let us lean into the fantasy of this shoot. I wanted it to be a collaboration, but I also want it to be a heightened fantasy, too. I think it’s a good mix of both.”
Her favorite thing about the cover shoot, however, is a bit of Anna Faris film history. “They filmed a portion of the movie  House Bunny in the same location [of the cover shoot]. I mean … honestly that should be queer history.”
As for Pride month, Miller appreciates that it often means “a check,” but notes that said check is accompanied by the “realization that I would like to be working at the same capacity I am during the month of June the rest of the year as well.” Says Miller: “I’m appreciative because it’s the one type of year I am definitely booked, but I’d love to be just as busy the other 11 months of the year, as well. Also, hone, let’s burn the Pride t-shirts. They’re not helping anyone. Highlight queer talent. Donate proceeds to LGBTQ organizations. We don’t need the ugly merch.”