Fans of HBO’s “True Detective” know Lera Lynn. Kinda.
Fans will discover just how much they really do know about Lynn when she performs at the Massry Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 2.
Lynn played the sulking singer in the dive bar frequented by Colin Farrell’s and Vince Vaughn’s characters. Her music, such as the single “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For,” set the tone of a gut-wrenchingly somber television experience.She earned the opportunity to write and appear on the show after producer T Bone Burnett heard her cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” To separate herself from legions of musicians who preceded her, she said she tweaked the tune by playing it with a melancholic minor key. It was just the sound Burnett wanted to capture for the show’s second season.
Nearly four years later, people aware of her acting career, and less so of her musical career, still see her as the brooding bar singer from the show.
“Following the show, a lot of people expected that the girl — that character — I was playing was me,” said Lynn. “It’s interesting to try to bridge the gap between a character who people perceive to be as me, and me.”
Lynn’s Americana sound is defined by her sultry voice and a succinct narrative. Lynn’s 2016 release, “Resistor” drew comparisons to Gillian Welch, Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Margo Timmins and Norah Jones. It was an album she started writing while on set. To offset the gloom from the show, she said she poured a glass of wine and popped in a Pink Floyd CD. The result was the upbeat track “Shape Shifter.”
“‘Resistor’ was a challenge,” said Lynn. “Because, I am a happy person, and I like to have fun! I like to dance, and I like to headbang, and I like to play a really loud electric guitar! I want those things to come through in my music, too.”
“Resistor” was that bridge for Lynn and the fans who found her through the television series. There was a touch of the melancholy with a splash of the whimsy, such as the surf-noir track “Drive.” The play of her fuzzy guitar helps draw some fun from the surf rock genre local fans would recognize by Troy natives, and now Nashville residents, The Los Straitjackets.
Lynn has already caught a big wave in 2018. She was named guest judge for the ongoing American Songwriter’s 2018 Lyric Contest alongside Charlie Worsham and Peter Bradley Adams.
Two years removed from “Resistor,” Lynn said she has two albums worth of song material. A few of them she plans to play before audiences. Currently, she’s on a brief tour that will take her into New York City followed by Northampton, Mass; Albany and Vienna, Va. She hopes to have a new album out by this summer.
Lynn’s writing process has changed over the years. Despite her gift for prose, she hates the process. Whereas her younger-self would sit down, write and be happy; she said she continuously works on each draft to strengthen her weaknesses. It’s a “squirmy” act she said she enjoys once it is done.
“As you progress in songwriting… you learn to revise,” said Lynn, “and revise, and revise. Try to strengthen and outdo yourself. Learn to identify the weaknesses… I’m trying to hone, always.” Later this winter she will headline a show at Celtic Connections and perform overseas in a television tribute to one her favorites, Tom Petty. Petty, too, is said to have struggled through the writing of his songs. But, the finished work, Lynn said, “no one did that better.”
“I think my whole life I’ve been searching for a way to write something that is succinct and poetic,” said Lynn. “Something that is commercial and artful. Something that people can understand on the first listen, but also has layers beneath for people to dig into.”
This article was originally published by The Spot 518 and is the property of Spotlight Newspapers in Albany, N.Y., and appears as a special to NYS Music. TheSpot518 and NYS Music work in partnership to provide readers with in-depth coverage on the local music scene in the Capital District and New York state, respectively. For more, visit TheSpot518.com.