This Women’s History Month, Brandi Carlile is honoring Bonnie Raitt.
Long before she was the Grammy winner the world knows today, Carlile, 41, says she stood outside of Raitt’s concert at the Puyallup Fair nearby her hometown in Washington because she “couldn’t afford to go in.”
“I listened to her lecture rednecks about the environment,” the singer recalls to PEOPLE. “I remember she was one of the first purveyors of biodiesel buses.”
Later, she says, she went to one of Raitt’s shows at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, and she caught Raitt’s guitar pick that said “No Nukes” on it.
“I love Bonnie Raitt’s ability to speak to the every man while pushing radical — and they shouldn’t be considered radical — concepts that challenge people to think broader about one another,” she says. “I just think that Bonnie is a fantastic activist, speaker and leader. I have so much respect. She’s beyond reproach.”
In May, Raitt, 73, will perform at Carlile’s inaugural Mothership Weekend festival in Florida.
“We have a festival in Mexico called Girls Just Wanna Weekend, and we created that festival to speak to the fact that there’s a disparagement in headlining spaces for women in music festivals in the United States,” Carlile says. “That festival sells out every year the minute it goes on sale, so it’s starting to exclude people because it sells out. It’s also excluding people who have monetary restrictions because it’s in Mexico. So we wanted to do something like that stateside, not necessarily centered on women, but celebrating matriarchy.”
Like Raitt, Carlile thinks it’s important to incorporate activism into her career. At the festival, she and her wife Catherine will have an “action village” set up to spotlight LGBTQ+ rights, global maternal health and reproductive rights.
“It’s going to be really interactive,” says Catherine. “Basically, attendees are going to be able to visit these information booths and find out how they can support.”
The first few rows of the venue of the festival are also going to be transformed into a large cove they’re calling the “Teacher’s Lounge.”
“We set aside these passes for educators, and there’s these upgrade opportunities, and it’s a really good view of the gig,” Carlile says. “It’s our way to thank teachers in Florida who are really struggling with oppressive laws surrounding their curriculum. We just want to throw a party for them and have a spot where they can sit and drink wine.”
In the years she’s done her Girls Just Wanna Weekend, Carlile says she’s had so many “powerful” moments. The most recent festival was in January.
“Looking out from the stage this year, I saw so many men,” she says. “I loved it so much. That’s when you see the tides changing — when men realize their role and responsibility in platforming female leadership, and that they realize that it’s f—ing fun.”