Though she grew up not far from Seattle, Brandi Carlile is more than a little bit country.
The singer, who will perform this weekend in Seattle and Dec. 8 in Olympia, often tells stories of her rural upbringing in Ravensdale in South King County, and her latest album, “Bear Creek,” is attracting such labels as “alt-country.”
“Washington State is not known for it, but the vast majority of the state is farmland,” Carlile said in an email interview this week. “That’s one of the things that makes it so special, and it’s one of the things that makes the fact that it’s progressive so unique.”
The singer has been performing about as long as she can remember. She was 8 years old when her mother took her to audition at the Northwest Grand Ole Opry (named for but not affiliated with the one in Nashville).
“Even at that age, I was already well versed in classic country and western music,” she said.
At one point, she even sang backup for an Elvis impersonator. “My best friend was the Elvis impersonator’s daughter, and he gave us the opportunity to learn some of the beloved background vocals — 25 bucks a show.”
She and her country roots have come a long way since then: Her first-out-of-the-gate performance of “Folsom Prison Blues” was featured in the all-star tribute concert “We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash.”
All that seems a far cry from performing with the Seattle Symphony, but she’ll do that this weekend — as she did two years ago when she recorded “Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony.”
“It’s terrifying thinking that one mistake on your part could derail 40 other musicians instead of three,” she said. “But the result of all these nerves and all that tension is very profound when you’re standing in front of it all.”
And if her country and symphony ties don’t make Carlile enough of a contradiction, add in this: She’s a totally modern, totally cool indie chick — scoring millions of hits on YouTube (almost 9 million just for her signature hit, “The Story”) and contributing talent, tunes and money to many a righteous cause-oriented project.
Carlile also is a major label (Columbia) artist who’s had her music featured on TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and used as a background for a 2008 GM commercial touting its environmentally friendly cars.
Still, “Bear Creek” — named after the legendary barn studio in Woodinville where the record was made — comes by its country, bluegrass and gospel flavors quite naturally.
Carlile and her longtime collaborators and bandmates, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, took the opportunity to go their own way on the album after working with such notable producers as T-Bone Burnett and Rick Rubin.
“We all walk through the world with a certain rural mindset,” she said, “and it can’t help but come out in our music when we’re left to our own devices.”
The studio’s rural setting helped, she said on her website. “Bear Creek is very similar to home for all three of us. Musically, you’d be amazed at how you act when you feel at home.”
And listeners have responded. Released in June, it cracked the Billboard top-10 album list and also landed at No. 1 on folk charts.
But what makes Carlile who she is is her pliant voice, which Jonathan Takiff of the Philadelphia Daily News characterizes as having “lower range that can burn through carbon steel and a yodely sweet upper register that could charm the angels.”
Of course, having grown up in Western Washington in the ’90s, Carlile and the Hanseroths speak more than just twang and met in familiar territory.
“We grew up in the midst of the Seattle grunge scene,” the singer said. “I’d been playing with an acoustic guitar ... and they’d been in a punk rock band on the same circuit but totally electric.
“I wanted to plug in, and they wanted to strip down, so we met somewhere in the middle.”
Brandi Carlile with the Seattle Symphony
What: Folk rock singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who recorded an album with the Seattle Symphony in 2010, returns for three more performances.
When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday. The first two shows are sold out, although last-minute tickets may be available; seats remain for Sunday.
Where: Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle
Information: 866-833-4747, seattle symphony.org
What: Carlile and collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth will perform an acoustic holiday show. Although she grew up an hour’s drive away, Carlile said this will be her first proper show in Olympia.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 8
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia
Information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.orgThe Associated Press and Phildelphia Daily News contributed to this report.