Five Questions: Lera Lynn
With her airy, butter-smooth voice and easy, country-tinged songs, singer/songwriter Lera Lynn wouldn’t have been out of place amidst the ladies of the canyon (Laurel Canyon, that is) in the ’70s. Pretty much everything about her could sidle right up alongside the artists of that era — the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, CSN, Judy Collins, et al — without missing a beat. That’s because Lynn and her artistry strike the perfect balance between sophisticated and sweet, contemporary and comfortable. Her new set, The Avenues, deals with the ongoing aftermath of growing up with an alcoholic father, as well as the trials and tribulations of a crazy little thing called love. As Lynn, herself, noted, “There’s a lot of love and death happening here. But what else do you write about?”
Kelly McCartney: Your music defies an easy categorization. Why do you think people are so dead-set on trying to fit artists into neat little genre boxes?
Lera Lynn: Genre is used for marketing, plain and simple. How can you be advertised if you can’t be described in just a few words, and who do they target the ads to? How do they know which radio stations to target? It’s just business and I get it, you gotta tell folks something to get them to listen or come to shows. It’s a seemingly necessary evil.
Because you seem to straddle a few different musical worlds, which artists do you look to, both historic and contemporary, for inspiration and influence?
Patsy Cline’s controlled, compelling, and strong vocal delivery will always be a paradigm for me. Joni Mitchell’s lyrics inspired and shaped me as a young writer. Feist has been a big contemporary inspiration for quality meeting accessibility and, lately, I’ve been really getting into the production simplicity of a cohort of hers, Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas). A.A. Bondy has been a big inspiration for years for me, as well; I love his guitar playing and lyrics. I love his delivery. It’s never put-on. J.J. Cale will forever be at the top of my list, along with Ray Charles, too. New artist Amy Blaschke inspires me to keep my writing fresh yet familiar.
The Avenues was produced by Joshua Grange, who also happens to be your main man. Was it easier or harder to go where you needed to go with him at the helm?
I decided to work with Josh after hours of musical conversation/listening parties while on a month-long tour with him and k.d. lang. We work together better than I’ve ever worked with anyone. He understands my creative visions and shares most, if not all, of my production sensibilities. The record we made together was a great experience, top to bottom! It far surpassed my expectations.
Some of the songs here dig into growing up with an alcoholic father, like so many of us have had to do. In what ways do those lasting impacts affect how you move through the world, as an artist and a person?
I think the single most important thing I learned from those experiences is how to forgive, and that makes life so much easier. Those experiences have given me a different perspective on expectation and disappointment, which has certainly helped me cope with the ups and downs of a musical career. I’m grateful for my childhood. It makes every new crisis seem a little milder, and trauma enriches character when swallowed properly. I think it’s important for any artist to know well the extremes of the spectrum.
You’ve opened shows for some of the best — not just singers — but performers out there, namely k.d. lang and Joan Osborne. How do you psych yourself up for that?
Oh, you know. You just gotta use those denial skills. I can never think about who might be in the audience or listening side stage or I’ll completely drop the ball. You gotta have tunnel vision in those moments, just get up there and do what you do as well as you can. I learned so much about singing watching k.d. every night for a month. She’s just an incredible, powerhouse singer with taste, and so inspiring!