JAY MOHR, GLASYS, AND A STEINWAY PIANO
A CONVERSATION WITH LOGAN LYNN
In a fast-paced world so focused on efficiency and thin margins of success, it can be easy to brush aside the negative side effects of the modern-day lifestyle. Oftentimes we don’t have the time or energy to do anything more than make ends meet and spend a few precious moments with those who are important to us, even in industries like music that are often associated with a more leisurely lifestyle. Gone are the days where artistry is synonymous with leading the conversations on the issues that we as a society have been pushing out of our minds.
After years of struggles which include childhood trauma, depression, suicide attempts, and drug abuse, Logan Lynn finds himself in a position to do just that: to talk about those problems that most people don’t have the time or energy to care about. When I spoke to Logan, he was in the middle of a short tour with alternative rockers Portugal. The Man in support of the mental health initiative Keep Oregon Well. Logan is brimming with positivity about his chance to participate in the conversation:
“[The tour’s] been really great! You know, [Portugal. The Man] are such great guys to bring me along for the ride and create space in these shows to talk about mental health and reach their fans about stuff that matters, while we’re reaching them with music.”
While supporting a rock band at the height of their popularity in their ‘home state’ (Portugal. The Man formed in Alaska but have been based in Oregon in recent years) might be pushing the solo singer out of his comfort zone, Lynn has been taking everything in his stride:
“There’s something special that I’m not used to, obviously, about rounding that corner on stage and seeing 8000 people! I’ve played big shows before, but it’s not always at that level. They brought me back out onstage last night during their set to, like, throw beachballs at the crowd. It’s been really fun! I’m invited into their party and so I’m just trying to show up as myself.” “They invited me as myself and I’m there specifically to raise awareness about mental health and it’s been really cool you know.” “They created a really special environment for these local shows and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
Of course, despite all the fun and energy, the main focus for both artists has been to reach out to those in the community whose struggles have gone unheard. Logan emphasized this in our discussion, criticizing the lack of medical support available for mental health conditions and elaborating on the role that music can play in connecting with those who aren’t getting supported otherwise.
“Yeah, well, it’s stupid right? Everybody’s convinced the world that your brain’s not part of your body! We’re trying to change that since there’s not a single day where every single person that’s alive doesn’t have mental health. Some days it’ll be good, some days it’ll be bad, but you’re always going to have it and so you’ve got to take care of it just like you would any other part of your body. I think what you said around the music industry in particular [as being a powerful means of connecting with others] is really poignant. When I think of how I learned my ABC’s or the books of the bible even, that was all done through song and I still retain that information. I think there’s something in the music industry where singers and songwriters and artists or bands are expected to make songs, turn pain into something pretty, sing about struggle but don’t you dare talk about it and don’t you dare exhibit symptoms of that! All of that feels incongruent with my real experience of the world and so I think what I’m trying to do, whether it’s with my music or advocacy or whatever I’m doing, is really connect those dots. I am a musician, sometimes I’m singing about my problems, but I’m also allowed to talk about my problems and find solutions with all of you. It’s not just wallowing in the war stories of my trauma, it’s also about connecting people to the idea that ‘Yo, I’m successful! I’m a suicide survivor and I’m also successful!’ I have found a path for myself that accommodates my mental health struggles and there’s something inspirational in that I think. I find inspiration in other people when I see them stand up and say ‘me too! I’m counted as one of you’ and I get strength from that, so I hope we’re doing that for other people too.”
Logan’s position as a victim of the very conditions he’s speaking out for gives him the chance to really empathise with the people he’s hoping to reach, especially since he spent years feeling isolated and disconnected himself. A lot of Lynn’s inspiration comes from the influence his own musical heroes had on him during his darkest times and his desire to pass that positivity on to other people himself.
“I experienced trauma at around age seven, I was really struggling for 16 years after that and I think the people that would’ve reached me are the bands and artists I was listening to. I wasn’t paying attention to the adults in my life, I certainly couldn’t be reached by teachers or church or doctors, but I think had Tiffany, or Paula Abdul or New Kids On the Block or some of those you know pop stars that I was really tuned into as a child allowed for space at their shows to feel normal as a person who feels sad or to even see them struggling or coming out with their own lived experience, all of that would have really mattered so I’m trying to recreate that in the world!”
Having experienced how influential that kind of exposure to the importance of emotional health can be when you’re young, Lynn is quick to emphasise that “if we taught young people emotional intelligence and self care and that depression is real and trauma is real, all of that, if we taught that on the same level as we teach American history, or English or Spanish, like really teach it, then that’s how you make change.”
However, Logan’s 2018 isn’t just about spreading awareness and support for mental health issues. Having released several singles throughout the year, alongside a few exciting video features, he’s gearing up to launch his ninth studio album My Movie Star on October 12th of this year (which you can already pre-order), after which he’ll be heading out on a more extensive tour in support of the album. Whereas a lot of his focus in previous albums has also been towards mental health, Logan’s been inspired by his collaboration with actor and comedian Jay Mohr to cover a different emotional and sonic space on his new record:
“My last record in 2016 was all about mental health, all about my recovery and my journey from sickness to wellness and this new album is an album about love, right? They’re love songs, these are songs about navigating the world as a public person, they’re about my inner life, the inner lives of the people I love and how that’s perceived by the outside world and so it’s very different. I think this album is more conceptual, it’s not about mental health. This one is topically much more about love and just life, and Hollywood, and my experience of being around movie stars and folks that are famous: just getting to see what that means in real life versus the projection that they all carry around. It was also an opportunity for me to change my sound a bit. [I’ve been] known for doing this rambunctious dance music for years and years, then I morphed into more of an indie or college rock sound over the last couple albums and then this is just me with a grand piano. It really strips down and is intimate and quiet.”
This intimacy was strongly encouraged by Jay Mohr, who helped produce the record and pushed Logan towards taking a different approach this time around. “The process of making it was really intimate in that Jay had me live stream the writing sessions on social media, so people really got to see my process and I was terrified of that in a lot of ways! I trusted Jay and I think he knew that in doing that there would be something freeing around my process and he was right, it really made me feel free. I felt exposed at first, but that exposure turned into comfort. I played in Seattle for a big awards show last year and it was the first time I played one of those songs in front of an audience. There were 5000 people there or something. I didn’t have in ear monitors or any vocal effects, it was just me and my piano player and it was magic right? I actually had a lived moment of “Oh shit, this is what I’m supposed to be doing!” and so I feel like everything’s been kind of working out since that moment. I felt brave enough and inspired enough to really go forward into this new direction.”
Though he’s excited to share his new sound with his fans, Logan wanted to make sure there was a sense of familiarity as well. “I felt at first, like that was gonna be a really big transition, and wanted to give people the opportunity to hear the songs the old way as well, so I reached out to bands I know to do remixes and then that turned into just a re-imagining project with remixes or covers or hybrids thereof. I asked every musical hero that I’ve carried around with me over the years, a lot of my influences as well as some of my favourite bands and people that have mattered to me over the years, to take a listen to the songs and, if they were so inspired, to cover the songs or remix them and a lot of people did it! Enough where we had a really hard time narrowing it down, but I got to work with some of my heroes like Tiffany, I got to work with the Dandy Warhols, Jarryd James, and Ryan Lewis, and just folks that I absolutely am inspired by or at different points of my career have been really monumental and inspirational. Side B on the record, there’s 20 songs, and the last ten are these remixes, so there’s really something for everyone on the record. That second side has everything from hip hop to country.”
Yet it’s that collaboration and relationship with Jay Mohr itself that best exemplifies the positivity and love that has underlined Logan’s career the last several years. While he has long been a prominent advocate for those who feel like they’re not included, whether it be because of sexuality, mental illness or any other reason, his story with Jay makes the hope and positivity that Lynn wants to share with the world that much more tangible and believable. “He and I love each other. We met a few years back and instantly connected, I was like “Oh my god you’re my person! Where’ve you been my whole life?” and I know he has the same feeling. We’re just sort of inseparable, we see each other all the time. He had taken the time a few years back and really, really listened to my entire catalogue, from the 1990s up until 2017, and he came back to me with all this thoughtful feedback and ideas. It was the first time I felt that anyone had really listened to and heard what I was trying to do. A lot of people have listened to my music, obviously, and a lot of people have an appreciation for it, but he got something out of there that I don’t always get reflected back from listeners, and certainly not from producers. He just got it! He really got it and saw and heard different moments throughout the years where I had been quiet, where I’d really allowed myself to be seen and heard in the music without a lot of bells and whistles, without a lot of stuff to hide behind and he felt that those were the times when it really worked. For whatever reason, I trusted this guy. I think because I love him and we’re so close, it felt safe to go there and he was sort of my guide into that new way of being with my songs and it really worked! I think that that trust and our relationship and our working together back and forth for that year really was what I needed to build a new sort of confidence. I’m a confident guy and I know that I have a place in the world, but this is so different. It’s completely not what I’ve been doing before. It felt right but it also felt so new that I think I needed somebody there really pushing me, saying there’s a difference between comfort and safety, ‘you’re safe, you’re uncomfortable but you’re not unsafe’ and that was really important! I grew up watching his movies, I grew up on Saturday Night Live, I loved Jerry Maguire and the Ghost Whisperer, I was like kind of a fan and so there was something inspirational about that, having somebody just pluck me out of nowhere and say, ‘I believe in your and let’s do this!’ That was really magical and is not a common experience, at least for me! I don’t know that everyone has that experience where some random movie star is just like ‘Hey, I wanna support your career wholeheartedly and let’s do this!’ that isn’t a common story that I hear, so that was really special. I’ve been really lucky in my life and my career to have people believe in me every now and then and give my career a boost.”
While not all of us can have such a magical Hollywood story happen in our own lives, Logan has made it his mission to connect his fans with a sense of hope, optimism and reassurance that they too can find something beautiful life, no matter the hardship they’ve had to face along the way. One can only imagine where Logan’s story will take him next.