Performing Folk and Bluegrass music since the age of 13, Lynn has been in the South Dakota and national scene for almost half of her life. Her past album, Fall is a Good time to Die, was named as one of the top country albums of the year by The Telegraph, just to name one of her many accolades. Lynn is hitting the road in April for her Sparse tour, which is to celebrate her collaborative album release with Andrew Reinartz. The duo will also be joined by members of the JAS Quintet. 605 chatted with Lynn to see who inspires her, what the new album is all about, and why she loves living in Spearfish.
People know me from… The White Wall Sessions. I can walk into a gas station in almost any town in the whole state or southwest Minnesota, and if someone stops me, the chances are it’s because they saw me on the White Wall Sessions.
A lot of my influences are… dead, as it happens. I love Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, Marty Robinson, Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline. I suppose I’m not immune to the influences of modern musicians like Cyrille Aimée and Sylvan Esso, but I think less of it gets incorporated into what I play.
My musical genre is… generally folk and Americana, but this new project is a fusion of folk and jazz. Some of it is straight jazz. It’s nice to give the banjo a break and dive into something new.
I started getting into music when… my grandparents started taking me along to old-time country jamborees in northeastern South Dakota. The first style of music I heard at those gatherings is ironically what I’m doing now. There was a punk rock band somewhere in the middle, but I came right back to where I started.
Right now a musician who inspires me is… My duo partner in The Nesters, Eliza Blue. She is somehow managing to record and release a solo album, and record and play shows with me, all with two toddlers. More importantly, she’s demonstrating that having a family does not mean you have to stop pursuing your passions. You might have to play a few shows with a baby on your back, and that’s okay.
An event I’m excited for is… JazzFest 2018. I’ve never played on the main stage of JazzFest before, and that’s happening this summer. I’ve always enjoyed being in the audience or on the side stage, but there’s something about standing in the same spot that Taj Mahal will pick his guitar from later on in the day.
The album Sparse was inspired by… years of playing jazz with friends. Andrew and I have talked about making this album for literally five years. It pulls together our favorite standards and originals that showcase our strengths. We’ve really enjoyed working up some tunes that are just voice and upright bass, and I think that’s kind of where the title came from.
One song from the album and what it’s about is… Doris Passing is about the eerie connection we have with one another when something major is happening. Like when you’re thinking about a loved one when you’re far away from them at the very moment something major happens to them – good or bad.
A South Dakota venue I love is… The Historic AME Allen Chapel in Yankton. While the incredible music and events series they’re hosting is fairly new, the building itself has an incredible history. The acoustics and the intimacy of the space are perfect for what I do as a solo artist. It feels like a private house show in a wonderful way.
My go-to spot in Spearfish is… Lookout Mountain. It’s always a great hike and easy to get to right from town. At the top, you can see well into the hills and what seems like a hundred miles out onto the prairie. You could say it’s where my two worlds meet.
What I admire about Spearfish is… a true sense of community. It supports itself: new businesses, artists, restaurants, fundraisers, outdoor events. If you plan an event that is cool, people will come. If you make something that is cool, people will buy it. If you want to go on a mountain bike ride at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, there’s probably a group you could join.
One of my favorite things about South Dakota is… the landscape. Some people are bored by the nothingness that is the I-90 corridor, but I love it. And then farmland, also love. And naturally, the Black Hills are my favorite.
When I travel around the state, one of my favorite stops is… the Dignity [sculpture]. She seriously rocks. I’ve started packing lunches so I can get out of the car and hang out in front of her for a few minutes.
I’ve grown as a musician by… collaborating. I’ve learned that things can get stagnant if I’m not learning from someone else. I’ve been really fortunate to meet so many talented people in this area who have something to teach me through playing music together.
If I wasn’t playing music, I would be… farming. I’m a really ambitious gardener, but I’m not quite a small scale farm yet. My summer travel schedule doesn’t allow for that. But there is always one part of me that is wishing I lived on more acreage, grew more food, and had real livestock like the farm I grew up on. My small herd of chickens doesn’t count.
A local musician I’m currently listening to or watching is… Elaine Romero-Douglas. It seems I never get to hear live music locally because I’m also playing. Sometimes this keeps me from seeing someone live for years, even though I’ve come to know them a bit as a person. Elaine is an incredible vocalist. Her voice is incredibly emotive, yet restrained and intimate.
One habit I have is… making lists. List of things to do during the day, lists of things I want to make or plant. My day usually starts by making a list. Being self employed, I think it gives me a sense of direction for my day, and a sense of accomplishment as I check things off.
My guilty pleasure is… Leones’ Creamery. Every. Single. Weekend. Their shortened winter hours are a godsend, because it means I can only make it in once or twice during the weekend for their Brown Sugar Cinnamon in a waffle cone. Come May, my pants get tight.
For more information, visit jamilynnmusic.com.
The Pheasant Restaurant & Lounge
Icon Event Hall + lounge
Admission: $12 advance, $15 door
The Boiler Room