Interview: Mary Lynn
Newly minted Anyway Records labelmate Mary Lynn will be coming up to New York City this Sunday, Oct. 2nd, to perform at Shea Stadium (event). Her recently released album, My Animal, is both raucous and punchy, and I was happy to dig into it in setting up for our interview. We talk shop, discuss the album and see what’s happening next with her after the release.
st. lenox: I had a great time watching you play at the Anyway 25th. I know you were a little nervous before the show but you looked totally comfortable up there. Did you have fun?
Mary Lynn: Thanks! I usually get a little nervous before shows, but in a good way. We took a short break from playing live in the springtime/early summer to work on finishing up everything with My Animal, and I was extra nervous for this show because it was one of our first performances after spending a few months offstage. And honestly, opening up for The Mountain Goats had all of us freaking out a bit, for obvious reasons. It was such an honor to be part of that show and course, I absolutely had SO much fun. Usually about 30 seconds into any show we play, my nerves turn into pure energy. I try to let that take control.
st. lenox: A lot of the songs focus on relationship angst, yes? A dissatisfaction with how things are going with another person, whether it’s an ongoing or as-of-yet-unrealized relationship. Do you hope the songs get communicated to the person that they’re about? Is it more that writing it helps you to put the difficulties in the past? How does the act of writing fit in with these relationships?
Mary Lynn: Some of the songs are about those types of things, but really they’re about me more than anyone else. Not to say they weren’t influenced by others or my relationships with them, but all of my songs are really just my point of view on my feelings or life situations. I have never really thought of my songs as a way to communicate with any specific person. To be honest, I’m a pretty real person and I’ve usually already talked to said other person about my feelings anyway. The song part of it is just kind of for me. It’s how I express things, work through them and start moving on. It’s also how I put something meaningful into memory… so I can know that it was important enough to become some sort of art.
st. lenox: I was intrigued with the lyrics of “Funeral” – I found it one of the more interesting pieces in the album, but I’m trying to figure out what’s going in the protagonist’s head. I have several interpretations of what’s going on, but can you tell me more about it?
Mary Lynn: Sure! Sparing the personal details – “Funeral” is about realizing someone you care about was actually not at all the person you thought they were, to the extent that it feels like they don’t even exist anymore. You know they still do, because you hear and see bits and pieces of their life, but you feel like they are someone else. It’s a very numbing feeling. You feel like you can’t really be sad about it, because maybe now that person’s who they really are. So you’re happy for them but at the same time you also feel like you lost something. It hurts a little, so you let it go, yet you wonder if you’re still important to each other.
st. lenox: There’s a lot of layering of instruments on the album, which I think creates a nice kind of collage effect. It must’ve taken a lot of work to put everything together? How was the process of creating the album for you?
Mary Lynn: It took years, but it was worth every moment. I went into this album with a real vision in mind. I had written most of the songs on my own, taken them to my band, and we made them into rock songs. We, mostly meaning my friend/bandmate Joe Camerlengo and I, recorded those bare bone tracks – drums, bass, guitar, piano – and then we got to go crazy with the recordings. I’m very much into sounds and noises that have depth. Whether it be nitty-gritty and loud or quiet and in the background – really anything that adds the right texture to song. We spent a lot of time creating those sounds and placing them exactly where they needed to be. I often just have a ‘vibe’ I want the song to have, that I can barely explain, but I’m always going for that. I just want them to evoke a certain feeling for the listeners, and also myself.
st. lenox: I guess another theme that I see is a sort of empowerment theme, in songs like “Tough Skin” and “Plans”, I always find songs that have this aspect to them interesting because they’re like self-fulfilling prophesies. You need to feel strong, and you write the song and through the act of performance it strengthens you. Do you feel the songs make you stronger?
Mary Lynn: Throughout the process of writing the songs that turned into this album, I went through a pretty major change of attitude. Like a lot of others, I struggle with general anxiety and occasional depression. I was going through a really bad phase – a pretty long bad phase – which included some heartbreak and a lot of self-loathing. One day I woke up and just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized that the only one making myself miserable was me. So I decided to try to turn it around and part of that really did mean getting emotionally tougher, and allowing myself to believe that I deserved things like love and happiness. It’s a daily battle, and it takes constant effort, but focusing on your own happiness is important and worth it. When I play those songs live now, I really do go back to the moments I wrote them and it helps remind me of those facts.
st. lenox: The album ends on a pretty somber note – I thought it was a really nice ending though. What was the thought process behind that?
Mary Lynn: Honestly, to me it’s not too somber – though it may sound it – and some sadness definitely surrounds it. The song is about realizing that life keeps going, and even when you don’t know what to do or how to move on, you ultimately will, because that’s your instinct and your ability as a human being. While the song does originally stem from a sad situation – where you’re in a place and the world’s spinning around you and it seems like no one understands what you’re going through or who you are – it ends with you realizing it’s all going to be okay. You’re going to move on, and the world is going to keep spinning.
st. lenox: What’s next for you? Are you going to record another album as Mary Lynn, or off in other directions?
I plan on following the road I’m currently on, one day at a time. I hope that I’ll write more songs, record more albums, and just continue to grow as an artist. I just want to keep going. We’re starting to book tour dates, and I would absolutely love to book more and more. The idea of spreading our music and shows to other cities and places makes my heart light up with all kinds of “YES” alarms. I can’t wait to meet new people. I feel like there’s a potential world full of Mary Lynn fans, and it’s up to me to find them