Carrie Rachel Grace Brownstein was born September 27, 1974 born in Seattle, Washington, and raised in Redmond, Washington. She began playing guitar at 15, and received lessons from future Sunny Day Real Estate/The Fire Theft frontman Jeremy Enigk.
After attending Western Washington University she transferred to The Evergreen State College and was in the band Excuse 17. Around this time, she met fellow student Corin Tucker, who was in the band Heavens to Betsy. The two bands toured together and both contributed to the Free to Fight compilation. They formed Sleater-Kinney as a side project, and released the "Free to Fight" split single with "Cypher in the Snow."
After graduating, she stayed in Olympia for three years before moving to Portland, Oregon. After both Excuse 17 and Heavens to Betsy split up, Sleater-Kinney became Brownstein and Tucker's main focus. They recorded their first self-titled album during a trip to Australia in early 1994, where the couple were celebrating Tucker's graduation from Evergreen. It was released the following spring.
They recorded and toured with different drummers, until Janet Weiss joined the band in 1996. They released six more studio albums before going on indefinite hiatus in 2006. Brownstein and former Helium guitarist/singer Mary Timony, recording as The Spells, released The Age of Backwards E.P. in 1999.
In 2006, Brownstein was the only woman to earn a spot in the Rolling Stone readers' list of the 25 "Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time." In summer 2009, Brownstein and Weiss worked together on songs (produced by Tucker Martine) for the soundtrack of a documentary film by Lynn Hershman Leeson.
In September 2010, Brownstein’s latest project was the band Wild Flag, with Janet Weiss, Mary Timony, and Rebecca Cole, formerly of The Minders.
Brownstein revealed in a 2012 interview with DIY magazine that Sleater-Kinney will just start playing music again in the future.
Brownstein began a career as a writer before Sleater-Kinney broke up. She interviewed musicans for The Believer magazine, reviwed a couple of music-related video games for Slate, and from November 2007 to May 2010, wrote a blog for NPR Music called "Monitor Mix."
In March 2009, Brownstein contracted to write a book to "describe the dramatically changing dynamic between music fan and performer, from the birth of the iPod and the death of the record store to the emergence of the "you be the star" culture of American Idol and the ensuing dilution of rock mystique." The book, called The Sound of Where You Are, is to be published by Ecco/HarperCollins.
Brownstein is also an actress, She had a role in the short film Fan Mail, as well as the experimental feature Group, and the Miranda July film Getting Stronger Everyday. Brownstein and Fred Armisen have published several video skits as part of a comedy duo called "ThunderAnt." She also starred opposite James Mercer of The Shins in the 2009 independent film Some Days Are Better Than Others.
After their ThunderAnt videos, Brownstein and Armisen developed Portlandia, a sketch comedy show shot on location in Portland, for the Independent Film Channel.