Lynn Miles: From Ottawa to L.A.
By Jan Vanderhorst
Trying to make a living in the music business can be a tricky endeavour. It's not enough just having talent and ambition. To be an artist, you need to possess a clear view of what makes you different from all the others, plus a vision of where you want to take your craft. The only problem with being a music artist is you have to deal with the music business.
So what is preferable for the artist? Remain at arms length from the sometimes seamy "business" side of your art, which you already know exists, or get even closer to see how tawdry it really is, knowing this exposure could influence your artistry? It's a chance singer-songwriter Lynn Miles took a few years ago when she moved to Hollywood. For someone who cut her musical teeth in the relatively small town atmosphere of Ottawa Ontario, Canada's capital city, the move definitely reinforced her perception of the music business.
"I've always known that it's evil", she says, "but the evil is much more prevalent when you're in a town where there's actually offices for those companies. It frightens me, because I'm starting to think that art in the 20th Century is more about style than content. I don't know if I'm speaking just for music either. Authors now get marketed because of their personalities rather than what they're saying in their books. It's (seems) we're drawn to personalities rather that what they're producing."
But is this a 20th Century phenomenon? Is this the product of modern media?
"I had a discussion with a friend of mine in L.A. (who said) 'well maybe that's the way it's always been'. Even when they did the movie about Mozart, he was this huge character. He was extreme, and artists are extreme. But it frightens me to think people are more drawn to a visual image of a person singing than what they're singing about."
For an artist who strives for a sense of meaning and insight, counteracting this can be a daunting task. Lynn believes she's up to the challenge. "A really good friend of mine who I respect very much, who's a wonderful singer-songwriter, says that I have the gift of discernment. I like the idea of taking something and really peeling off every layer, exposing it and getting to the heart of it. I like to take some little thing and just peel away at it. But that's sort of my writing style I think. Whether I'm being reactionary or not I don't know, but it makes me want to write things that are profound and say something and mean something and touch people. Because I don't think that a lot of the stuff that exists these days is doing that. Maybe people don't want that, (but) when I play shows people will come up and say 'You made me cry with that song, thank you'. I always thought that's what we want from artists, but lately I don't know if that's true. The people who come and see me, I think they expect it of me. So I will keep doing that, because that's what I think my reason for doing it is, to express myself and see if anybody else shares how I'm feeling, (and) feels the same things that I feel. If we can feel those things together, then we'll feel like we're not alone.
"The music industry I don't care about, it confuses me and upsets me a little bit." While Lynn is pessimistic about the music business, she's very enthusiastic about the creative environment she found in Hollywood when she recorded her new CD "Night In A Strange Town".
Produced by old friend John Cody and acclaimed producer Larry Klein, the recording features some of the best L.A. session musicians, including Dean Parks and David Piltch.
"I had (John) who wasn't totally experienced (in the studio) who had a lot of things to say and knew me really really well, and (Larry) who didn't know me very well, but was very experienced musically and in the studio. So I felt the bases were covered. I thought it would be intimidating (working with the session musicians), but they were the nicest people in the world. They were so accommodating and so kind. They'd play something and then look at me and say 'Did you like that or should I do it again?'. And I'm thinking 'Sure! Whatever'. (So) it was a really good experience."
What is also important for Lynn in recording an album is the studio being used. "Every studio has it's own sound and it's own vibe. You can go into a place and know there's no possible way you could record an album there. It doesn't feel right, it's too sterile or there's no personality in the room. There's a studio my ex-publisher has (where) Jackson Browne recorded all his demos and all these wonderful things have been recorded there, and you go into this room and it's really a dump. But it feels so good to stand in this room and to play the piano that those people have played and to feel some beautiful music was made in this place. That's important."
When you're fighting the good fight of substance over style in the 20th Century, you take every advantage of every weapon at your disposal.
To find out more about Lynn Miles, her record company web address is: www.rounder.com. Their e-mail address is email@example.com.
Jan Vanderhorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org