Americanagrams: Lera Lynn
When singer-songwriter Lera Lynn asked fans to help fund a new full-length album, she had no idea that one of them would help inspire a new EP as well.
Lynn, who was born in Houston, raised in Athens, Georgia, and now based in Nashville, launched a PledgeMusic campaign in January, offering incentives such as signed CDs, T-shirts, original artwork, vinyl box sets and house concerts for fans who donated money toward the completion of the 14-track LP The Avenues. Among the incentive options was a personalized recording of any song. One pledger requested the Bruce Springsteen classic “Fire.” What began as a recording to send to a fan quickly grew into the five-song Lying in the Sun, which Lynn released Wednesday through her website.
Lynn sat down with us backstage at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville last week before her Americana Music Fest set to talk about The Avenues, which is now set for a January release, Lying in the Sun and why she recently walked into a Chipotle wearing a wedding dress.
How did it feel when you realized you got enough donations to finish The Avenues earlier this year?
It felt great. It gave me a lot of validity in what I’m doing. I thought it was a good test: You know, if there’s demand for what I’m doing then I’ll succeed with this fundraiser, and if there’s not, it’s going to be a very sad day…but I’ll go back to college, like everyone else that fails at their first career attempt, right? (Laughs)
Did you know all the rewards for pledgers would be so much work?
Oh my God. Yeah, not only is it a lot of work, it’s really expensive. We went beyond our goal. And I thought, “Awesome, I’m going to buy a new amp.” Because I desperately need an amp. But there was no money left over. In fact, in the end, after I manufactured everything, paid for all the shipping materials and the cost of shipping, I actually went in the hole. But it still enabled me to make the record and the packaging is really beautiful. I went all out for that. I wanted to be sure to provide the pledgers with a really nice piece of tangible art. The whole experience was great. Yeah, it was a lot of work, but it was really beneficial to my relationship with my fans. PledgeMusic pushes you to communicate biweekly, at least. I never really had any kind of structure like that pushing me to communicate with fans. I feel like I’ve personally connected with so many people who are touched by my music. Friendships have blossomed as a result. So I’m very pleased with the whole process.
It sounds like the packaging design of The Avenues was pretty important to you. Why?
I’m pretty Type A. (Laughs)
I’m very detail oriented. Charlie Wagers, the graphic designer, bless his heart, he was so patient with me. I was like, “No, more of this color. Less of that color. Move this over. We’re gonna put this picture in instead.” He must have been like, “Oh my God, this bitch is crazy!” But he was awesome and had great ideas. With music being so digital now, the people who do go the distance to buy a tangible piece of music, I think it should be something really great. It should be fun to look at, spectacular. It should be frameable! That was the target.
I recently saw a photo on Facebook of you at Chipotle in a wedding dress. Can you explain?
We shot a music video and took a break in the middle of the day to go get food. You know, they didn’t even react, though. They were just like, “Welcome to Chipotle, would you like to start with guacamole?”
It looked like a pretty big production for the video. Did you have a lot of extras?
It was a huge production, yeah. I think at one point there were about 80 people on the set. It was a lot of work, like marathon music video taping. But it was awesome. I couldn’t believe how many people turned out in costume. The premise is that it’s at a costume party, so that was the call we put out: show up in a costume; be willing to get into the pool. And people came out of the woodwork with great-looking costumes. I was standing there in awe the whole time.
The liner notes in The Avenues include a thank you to Sheryl Crow. Can you tell me about your connection to her?
We mixed The Avenues in her home studio in Nashville. Yeah, she and I are becoming friends. She was a really big influence on me when I was in my teens, during the height of her career. I saw her in concert, playing guitar, and just thought she was amazing. So it’s been great to spend some time with her. I was just out in L.A. with her and her band, just seeing how everything works behind the scenes. On that level, it’s really great for someone like me who’s struggling to make ends meet, to see someone actually making it happen. It helps me realize, “Okay, this is real. This is how it works, it’s right there. Just reach a little further.”
What are you most proud of with The Avenues?
You know, I think it’s just a great album – all the songs go together really well and it sounds amazing. Joshua Grange, who recorded, produced and mixed the album, was such a blessing to work with. He’s multitalented, just through the roof. He has great production ideas and we worked really well together. We tracked 14 songs in five days. Josh hired Sebastian Steinberg on bass, Quinn on drums and Jebin Bruni on keys. Then I had my old faithful guitar player Ben Lewis come and record some stuff too. But mostly it was just the five of us tracking everything live and I think it really captured a special vibe. I hope.
How did your pledge recording of Fire turn into Lying In The Sun?
Josh was going out of town and set me up with his Pro Tools system with some mics, nice pre-amps and stuff like that. I had very limited experience with Pro Tools, but I just started recording Fire, which was originally just gonna be guitar and vocals. Then I recorded drums. And bass. And other guitars. And backing vocals. I ended up making a whole production. So that was the seed for this EP. Then I just kept going, wrote some new songs in that process and recorded those as well. When Josh got back from tour, I had him help me finish the mixes and make sure that shit wasn’t going to blow up. (Laughs) We also had Fred Eltringham (Sheryl Crow’s drummer) come in and play drums on a couple tracks, on top of my scrawny drums. And there’s a co-write on there by Josh and me that I’m really excited about.
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