INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE LYNCH
INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE LYNCH
(Guitar player and Award-Winning Female Vocalist)
by Sandi Millar
Enjoy this interview with Claire Lynch from the Claire Lynch Band! Thanks for reading.
SANDI: How did you come to love and get started playing music?
CLAIRE: My family was musical. Both Mom and Dad sang. They performed duets at church and sang in a quartet with their friends. When we were small, my mom taught my two sisters and me to sing trio harmony. We did that for fun and entertainment around the house, around the dinner table, and at social gatherings. In the 60s my big sister latched onto the folk movement and got a guitar. I thought that was the bomb.
SANDI: What age did you get started playing the guitar?
CLAIRE: I was twelve. I’d steal my big sister’s guitar off her bed when she wasn’t around. She would show me chords. We were already singing up a storm around the house, so using the guitar for accompaniment came naturally.
SANDI: What other instruments do you play?
CLAIRE: I took some piano when I was small. So I’ve always messed around on that. I’m learning the accordion. I play the ukulele, mandolin, octave mandolin – but none of them well.
SANDI: Who were your musical heroes?
CLAIRE: For writing, it was probably Nanci Griffith. For singing… I was mesmerized by Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. Bluegrass singing – Ricky Skaggs. Show tunes – Barbra Streisand. Lots and lots of influences. It depends on which decade of my life you’re talking about.
SANDI: Have you played with other bands?
CLAIRE: I sang in Patti Loveless’ band for televised stuff. I sang background vocals for Dolly Parton during the release and promotion of her two bluegrass albums around the turn of the century. Front Porch String Band was the first band I joined. From there it changed to Claire Lynch & the Front Porch String Band… then Claire Lynch Band in 2005.
SANDI: How long have you been with the band?
CLAIRE: My ex-husband Larry Lynch and I took over the Front Porch String Band in the 1970s. In 2005 after my divorce from Larry, I established the Claire Lynch Band for national touring. From around 2000-2005, I played regionally as the Claire Lynch Band with some great guys from Ala/Tennessee.
SANDI: When I first got into bluegrass music, your album Moonlighter was one of the first bluegrass CDs I owned. Pee and Fern, Alabama State of Mind, and Thibodaux were some of my favorites. Off that album what is your favorite song and why?
CLAIRE: Moonlighter – because it spoke my heart and because David Grier, Jerry Douglas, and Bela Fleck just killed it on that cut.
SANDI: How many albums do you currently have available and where can people get your music?
CLAIRE: I have 11 albums. Not all of them are up on my website, but almost all. www.ClaireLynch.com. They can also be found on iTunes. My Rounder stuff can be found at Rounder.com. My Compass stuff can be found at www.CompassRecords.com.
SANDI: I see you had some monster players on your recent album including Jerry Douglas, Alison Brown, Bela Fleck, David Grier, and Stuart Duncan, What was it like working with them?
CLAIRE: They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like any other. But their success and hard work have afforded them an amazing skill – both social and musical.
SANDI: Are you a full-time musician?
CLAIRE: Yes. I’ve toured full time for 10 years. I’m not touring constantly these days, but still, I’m a full-time musician. In other words, I don’t have a job in an office or a factory.
SANDI: What is the one thing or series of events that led you to play bluegrass?
CLAIRE: Running into my old high school buddies who had formed a bluegrass band at age 19.
SANDI: If you could do anything but music what would you have done (or) if you have a job what do you do?
CLAIRE: I’ve had a lot of jobs… mostly admin in offices. I love working in an office and it’s one of the reasons I’ve had the success that I’ve had. I like taking care of business.
SANDI: If you could play any stage that you haven’t played yet, What stage? Why?
CLAIRE: Stoughton Opera House in Stoughton WI. I’ve finally gotten to play most of the ones on my bucket list — and more.
SANDI: What instruments, picks, strings, pickups, etc do you use? Go in-depth about your instrument and where it came from etc.
CLAIRE: Instruments: I’m a long-time endorser of Gallagher Guitars. I have two. One that J.W. himself made years ago and then a newer one that Don Gallagher (his son) made. They’re both sweet… but the older one has been through the MILL – maybe I’ll tell the story on that one someday… so it just sounds more mellow. The newer one is coming along – but doesn’t have as rich a tone.
I also play a Martin HD 28E Retro series guitar sometimes.
And I’ve recently acquired a Preston Thompson 00-MA-LS Custom small-body guitar they made especially for me. I use it for songwriter gigs. I have the specs on that one if you’re interested.
Picks: Blue Chip all the way! I use a left-beveled 40 for rhythm (left-beveled because I hold the pick wrong) and I use and JD Crowe thumb pick for fingerpicking.
I’ve recently put K&K Trinity Onboard Pure Mini 3 Sensor Guitar Pickup/Mic w/Internal Preamp on three of my guitars.
The Martin has a built-in Fishman system, the F1 Aura+. It was designed especially for the Retro series and has digital images of the old Martin museum guitars recorded on different high-end mics. Pretty cool.
SANDI: Favorite hobbies besides music?
CLAIRE: Hanging out with my husband from Toronto. Every moment is a new experience. We read together, discuss politics, jam on songwriting ideas, drink & pick together, and work on making our two homes liveable (Toronto and Nashville). There’s a whole lifetime of entertainment there. We’ve been known to take bike rides. I honestly don’t have time for a real hobby. We do like to cook – and try new recipes.
SANDI: Any mentoring workshops, instructional camps, etc that you give, and/or do you teach private or group lessons?
CLAIRE: I don’t have any private or group lessons, personally. But this year I’m doing:
(Songwriting – all levels)
SANDI: Do you have any causes that you support?
CLAIRE: FLOW For Love of Water – an organization to clean up the Great Lakes
SANDI: The song “Dear Sister” that you co-wrote with Louisa Branscomb, tell us the inspiration behind that song.
CLAIRE: Easy. Louisa had great, great uncles who fought in the Civil War and wrote letters home to their sister in Union Springs, Alabama. The sister saved the letters and put them in a box and stashed them away. 100 years later, some of Louisa’s cousins were cleaning up their ancestors’ homeplace and getting ready to sell it when they found the letters. They were so pleased to have them that they compiled them into a book titled “Dear Sister: Civil War Letters to a Sister in Alabama”.
During the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War (150 years) a few years back, Louisa brought the book and song idea to me. We wrote it over 3 or 4 sessions together. It ended up being the title cut of my first Compass Records CD, “Dear Sister”, and won Song of the Year with IBMA in 2014.
SANDI: How long have you been writing songs?
CLAIRE: Professionally since age 19.
SANDI: Favorite song you have written?
CLAIRE: Maybe Dear Sister or Hills of Alabam’. But I like Wednesday’s Child, too.
SANDI: Do you belong to any great songwriting organizations?
CLAIRE: No. I’ve been asked to speak at some chapters of NSAI. It’s a great organization. I think IBMA has a wonderful songwriter track and I’ve been involved with that almost every year since its inception.
SANDI: Who is your favorite songwriter?
CLAIRE: Probably Paul Simon
SANDI: Favorite all-time songs(s)?
CLAIRE: I love “Sand and Water” by Beth Nielsen Chapman and I love “Barbed Wire Boys” by Susan Werner
SANDI: Favorite thing about being on the road?
CLAIRE: Freedom from responsibilities of home.
SANDI: Least favorite thing about being on the road?
CLAIRE: No sleep, too much fast food and protein bars, a different bed, and a bath every night.
SANDI: Have you ever or do you belong to any music associations? Could you tell us about them?
CLAIRE: IBMA (www.ibma.org) I almost joined NARAS (the folks who produce the GRAMMY Awards) but I’ve never been able to afford their dues.
SANDI: What is your favorite thing about being a musician?
CLAIRE: Livin’ the dream, baby! Following the creative passion.
SANDI: What is your least favorite thing about being a musician?
CLAIRE: The pressure of having to perform, keep your health perfect, and knowing that the show must go on no matter how you feel. No sick leave for us.
SANDI: What are your plans as a musician?
CLAIRE: Continue to listen to my muse or inspiration and create whether the process is effortless or grinding.
SANDI: Any great road trip stories you can tell us about?
CLAIRE: Last week my topper on my van just flew off and we were talking, no loud music in the van. None of us saw it or heard it leave. When we got to the next town and stopped for coffee, we looked at the van from inside the shop and saw that it was gone. Solid gone!
SANDI: I see you also recorded and did a video on another song I love, “Black Flowers” by Lynn Miles. Tell us about making the video and the meaning behind that song for you.
CLAIRE: Well I think the song is about corporate greed and how people with money and power take advantage of the common man instead of supporting him like one of their own. This is a known fact. Remember the song, “Sixteen Tons”? This is from a woman’s perspective.
The video was a compilation of submissions from my fans who sent graphics to me after hearing the song and being inspired. We had a wonderful videographer/editor who put them together in a beautiful succession along with the recording. They call that type of video “crowdsourced”. A new tool resulting from social media.
SANDI: Claire thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I am sure our readers and your fans will love finding out more about you. One last thing before you go. This is a new thing I am adding to the interviews for fun, Stream of Consciousness words. I am gonna give you 5 random words, just answer the first thing that pops into your head.
CLAIRE: Arab Republic
CLAIRE: and Rocket Center, Huntsville AL
For more information on Claire Lynch visit:
Special thanks to Claire Lynch for taking the time to do this interview. Hope to see you down the road!
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