Exclusive Interview With Logan Lynn
Logan Lynn’s musical career has been a roller coaster ride from the very beginning. From his first professional music effort at 17, a mixtape, that ended up causing him to stay off the stage due to stage fright, to climbing back into the spotlight with a little help from The Dandy Warhols, his passion for writing music has made him a favorite of the Logo Network, and now he’s headlining the Accidental Bear Queer Music Tour. He took a moment to answer some questions about what it’s all been about.
– Charley Flynn.
Read our interview and listen to a few of Logan’s songs below:
Speaking of Accidental Bears – do you consider yourself an otter, a cub, a bear or none of the above?
I mean, I’m a tall, hairy guy who likes hairy guys. Does that make me one of those? If so, I’m good with it… So long as it doesn’t limit me somehow.
What advantages do you think you gain from being a musician who is gay?
My “Burning Your Glory” video was one of the first ever shown by Logo when MTV first created the channel, and they went on to air every music video I released from 2008 through 2012 before their weekly video countdown show “NewNowNext” was canceled – 7 videos in all, each time being broadcast into something like 26 million homes. I hosted the show twice, was on commercials for the network constantly for 2 years, my video “Feed Me To The Wolves” was named one of the “Top 10 Videos of the Year” by Logo, and I did countless events and interviews by way of that relationship in the years since. That kind of cultural visibility just simply would not have happened had I not been an OUT musician.
Have you had any specific difficulty in the music industry because you’re gay?
There was never a time that I was in the closet since being in this industry, so it’s hard to say whether what was difficult in those early years was because I was gay or because I was a Portland weirdo making music no one had any reference point for. I think any time a person crosses over from private to public, they set themselves up as an easy target for all kinds of things… But that happens whether you’re gay or not in this business. The thing I’ve found to be difficult at times has been this perception that I am somehow speaking for the entire queer community because I am a queer man. That and the occasional religious zealot sending me death threats…
Have you actually received death threats from religious zealots?
Yes. When Logo was picked up in the Midwest and my videos became available On-Demand via cable providers, all different kinds of folks were introduced to me, including really scary ones. In recent years, I organized a series of inter-community dialogues between Portland’s queer community and members from this conservative evangelical Christian church in town in the hopes that we might be able to come to some better understandings. This ended up getting picked up by the media and became national news, at which time I started getting postcard threats at my office, creepy phone calls, and hundreds of emails telling me I was going to hell, that I was a false prophet, and that “my queer blood will be shed on my own hands”… Charming things like that. Ultimately, while it’s totally scary when it happens, I have been dealing with that kind of shit my whole life, so I have built up a skill set that allows me to still function, still move forward, even in the midst of fear. I’m not scared of dying for what I believe in, and I’m certainly not about to be afraid of some Christian who wants to rob me of my humanity.
Back in 2000 your initial success as a recording artist caused you to develop an anxiety about performing in public – can you talk about that? How did you get past it?
Well, yeah. I released a mixtape in 1998 that instantly fell into the hands of a prominent producer from the 90s Portland indie music scene who brought me into this big world I had never seen before. I was a shy kid from Kansas who had just escaped the Christian cult I was raised in, and I had only moved to Portland eight months before… So even just being coastal for the first time in my life was a culture shock.
We started recording my debut record “GLEE” when I was 17, and I was just 19 when it was released. I was a fucked up teenager, I had just had my heart broken by my first love, I was queer, and I did not have anyone around me telling me to hold back, to keep some things just for myself, so… I didn’t. When that record came out my family was hurt, everyone who heard it thought I was crazy, and everyone suddenly wanted something from me. I felt very exposed at the time. That spotlight on my feelings by way of the songs seemed to amplify this horrible isolation which I had written the record about in the first place, and it totally freaked me out.
I ended up taking a 5 year break in between that record and my self-titled sophomore album because I had crippling stage fright. It wasn’t until 2009 when Courtney Taylor-Taylor from The Dandy Warhols, whom had signed me to his label two years before, conditioned it out of me like a dog. A large part of that conditioning was reframing the whole thing in my head from “I have to be what people expect me to be” to “I just have to be myself”. Being myself is so much easier to do at any given time than trying to figure out who someone else wishes I was and then trying to be that. My shtick is, I don’t have a shtick. In fact, fuck shticks.
Can you describe exactly what is going through your head when you walk out in front of an audience to play, as you did for the 400,000 people who attended in Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco? How do you balance out the expectation of the audience with the fact that you need to be calm and centered to give your best performance?
With any kind of big show like Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco or the CMJ Music Festival in NYC, the thing that always goes through my head first is something along the lines of “Holy shit there are a lot of people out there. I hope I don’t totally fuck this up.” I guess I don’t totally subscribe to that paradigm which says I need to be calm and centered before I take the stage. I used to really believe that I needed to be a certain way up there, but as I’ve grown into myself, both as a person and a performer, I’ve learned that the only thing I really have to be in either role is honest. I have always completely gutted myself on my records, and my take on my live shows these days is no different. The songs are about love and sex and longing and pain and the only thing I’m thinking about on stage is what I’m singing about. My experience has been that audiences connect with me on a visceral level, so long as I let them have my pure, unbridled truth.
Can you describe your creative process?
I am writing melodies and lyrics constantly, and have done this since I was a very young boy. My creative process tends to vary as I work with different producers, but since 2007 it has been hitched to a musical collaborator. I like working with different people for each record. Generally speaking, whoever produces the record also helps me with producing the live show. Gino Mari produced my new record Tramp Stamps and Birthmarks, which was just released in December. He and I have developed my new live show for this summer’s Queer Music Tour together each step of the way over the past few years since my last record and tour. Our process is, we work hard and we keep going until we are both happy with what we’ve created. I currently record and rehearse at The Country Club studios just outside of Portland. It’s where everything good happens. I used to record at The Dandy Warhols Odditorium, but that always felt like I was in someone else’s mansion. This new studio feels like home. I am finally out of my contract with Caroline/EMI and own the rights to all of the music I have ever released for the first time in years, so life is good! It’s a lot easier to be creative when you aren’t fighting Goliath.
Who would you most like to work with? As in, what would be your dream collaborative project?
For years I would have said Styrofoam, but this collaboration is actually happening as we speak, so I guess I will say that I’d love for Simian Mobile Disco to produce my next record (like they recently did with my fellow Portland queer singing lady Beth Ditto), and I look forward to a day when I get to work with my dear friend Ruth Radelet from Chromatics on something. She’s a super talent and we have been friends since we were 15, but we’ve never worked together on a record. Maybe Simian can produce a dance record with me and Ruth; kill two birds. That would make me smile.
What can we expect from you at the Accidental Bear Queer Music Tour?
We performed 2 secret shows in Portland this past weekend that we filmed and are releasing right here on Manhunt Daily, and that is a pretty accurate representation of what my current live show is like. Basically, you can expect to get really sweaty with us. It’s a 4-on-the-floor dance party every moment of our set, and I won’t be satisfied until everyone is soaked.
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