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“Being able to see the good in people, even if they are doing bad things.” | An Interview with Lera Lynn

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Lera Lynn is a rising Americana star on the move.

Residing throughout the greater South for most of her life, Lynn has somehow managed to concoct a sound that is hard to classify. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, with a hyper-textured, auburn tone that feels more like a West Coast version of Americana. As though you could surf, sleep on the beach or drown to it.

Lynn was kind enough to take few moments to chat about opening for the Punch Brothers, covering TV on the Radio, and, perhaps most importantly, lunch. KDHX welcomes her to St. Louis for a Discovery Series show on Monday, November 17 at The Stage in Grand Center.

Kevin Korinek: What are you having for lunch right now?

Lera Lynn: Scrambled eggs and kale (laughing).

That sounds super healthy.

You’ve got to make up for the road, you know?

Right. It’s all just cigarettes and beer on the road, probably.

No, come on, this is 2014.

Oh that’s right. Is smoking not cool anymore?

No, I don’t think so (laughing).

Good thing I quit. So tell me about Lera Lynn.

Well, I was born in Texas, and then my family moved to Athens, Georgia, where I went to school. I played violin for a while in school. I kind of wish I would’ve stuck with it. But then I kind of started teaching myself how to play guitar and performing in Athens, before moving to Nashville.

Is it really competetive being a musician in the music capital of the world?

There’re a lot of people here playing music, or playing sessions, or writing, or touring, but I wouldn’t say that it’s competitive. I mean, if I were a session player, I would say it’s competitive (laughs), but I’ve spent most of my time as a musician elsewhere. It’s interesting — I’ll come home to Nashville to not play (laughs).

I’ve seen a couple videos with you playing some cool gear, a Martin 0-15, Martin D-18, a few Kays. Are you a gearhead when it comes to guitars?

No, I wouldn’t really say I’m a gearhead. I don’t have a collection of rare guitars on the wall or anything. I usually just write my songs with an acoustic because it’s a simpler way to write.

Ever shop at Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville?

Oh yeah, I love that place.

You’ve shared the stage with some big names. Anyone particular that stands out for you?

I got to open for the Punch Brothers a few times, that was actually the first time I’d seen them live. I had been a fan for a while. We played, but then afterwards, I stood out into the audience and listened to their set and levitated, you know? It was just amazing music. Wow, I will never achieve that, that level of skill and virtuosity; there’s few people in the world that ever will. It’s really an amazing thing to see.

Yeah it is.

I also got to tour with k.d. lang for months and she’s quite a performer. I’ve never heard a vocalist so relaxed and so controlled. I really learned a lot from her. It sounds like she’s on valium when she hits the stage, you know but she’s not. She’s just working really hard. She’s just really really relaxed and in control, and that’s the key to being the best singer you can be. It’s a really hard thing to do.

You’ve had a lot of success with covering artists. Do you enjoy playing those?

I do, absolutely. When people hear those covers side by side and compare you to it, and you know, they’re already familiar with the particular version of the song, and once they hear you do it, it makes your identity and style that much more clear. Does that make sense?

Absolutely. Is your cover of Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” your most popular?

I don’t know, people seem to always request “Wolf Like Me” [by TV on the Radio] and “Ring of Fire” [by Johnny Cash] the most.

I’m a huge TVOTR fan. That was a great cover, mostly because I think, it was just so unexpected. I bet it’s fun to think about off-the-wall covers that would work well with your style.

Yeah, it is really fun, I enjoy the challenge of it.

You write about the loss of your father. How has that loss fueled your perceptions and your music?

It was very hard for me, but I think it’s made me a better person. That’s probably been one of the biggest lessons that has helped me get through regular challenges of life, relationships. And they make me more of a forgiving and understanding person, and I think that’s an important characteristic to have as a songwriter, being able to see the good in people, even if they are doing bad things. It makes me a little bit more empathetic, and obviously that’s (laughs) an important thing for a songwriter.

If Lera Lynn were nominated to be included in the Country Music Hall of Fame or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which would you prefer?

Definitely Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville is pretty impressive though.

I don’t think my music really fits in with country. It doesn’t really fit in with rock ‘n’ roll either, honestly. But if I had to pick I would say Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Any record labels on the horizon?

I don’t know. I’ve come this far [without them].

You almost don’t need them anymore.

Yeah, a record label is essentially a bank. If you can make it through the hardest part without their funding, you might just not need them. It would be great if I didn’t have to do that.

Are you excited to be playing St. Louis next week?

Absolutely, I love playing St. Louis! We’ll have Josh Grange on pedal steel, who will be coming through with me again. He also mixed and recorded my new record, “The Avenues.”

What’s next for Lera Lynn?

This winter, I think we’re gonna start making another record. We’ve got a lot of extremely exciting things in store that I can’t talk about yet, (laughs) but I wish that I could.

Top secret stuff, huh?

It is. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think next year is gonna be the best yet.

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