Singer/songwriter Eliza Lynn returns to Asheville as a headlining performer at MANNA FoodBank's 11th annual Blue Jean Ball (see sidebar for event details). After moving to Nashville from Asheville two years ago, Americana songstress released an album titled Haven, toured the Northeast, sang with folk star Dougie MacLean at a Scottish festival and is working on a multi-disc album of cover songs.
Xpress caught up with Lynn about her travels, recent projects and about maintaining musical connections between two towns.
Mountain Xpress: Has relocating to Nashville helped take your musical career to the next step?
Eliza Lynn: My music career is still very much based in Asheville: I belong to both places, Asheville and Nashville. I came here and recorded my new release, Haven, with some pretty amazing Nashville folks and that was a wonderful experience. I spent most of last year running myself into the ground working on that release, doing my own radio campaign and touring (I actually just got back). I live in Nashville, but I go back and forth a ton. I think [the move] has helped me to see what's possible [musically], but I still feel really grounded in Asheville.
Tell us more about your tour.
The tour was for Haven, which I released in May 2009, at Jack of the Wood. I went up and down the East Coast and then went to Scotland to play at the Perthshire Amber [The Dougie MacLean Festival], for the second time. It's an incredible festival. Dougie MacLean is this amazing folk star. Being able to [perform at his festival has been] one of the highlights of my life. The new project that I'm working on is going to include a few of Dougie MacLean's songs. His songwriting — and who he is — is just so inspiring. [After performing in Scotland] I went on a mini-tour through England.
How were you invited to perform at Perthshire Amber?
It was a whole series of events [that] really feels like this miraculous ride that I was on: I got on this Putumayo [World Music] disc in '07 and then they took me on a press tour, where I was invited to Abbey Road [to record in 2008]. I also got invited to the Belfast Nashville [Songwriters Festival], thanks to the Putumayo people, where I met MacLean, who invited me to Scotland. All these incredible things happened from that course of events.
In the past, dance and choreography has inspired your creative process as a musician. Are you still doing anything with that?
I really wanted to choreograph to some of Dougie's music. So last year, I kidnapped one of the videographers [at Perthshire Amber], and did my choreography and improvisation at the end of the festival. I played the video to our whole team, and I blushed so badly when they were watching. [Dance] is still part of me: those two worlds are still meeting.
What are you working on now?
I am working on this sort of mammoth project: A community-produced CD. I'm allowing members of my community to choose my songs [for a] multi-disc covers album. Other people chose which songs they would like me to sing, [giving feedback about] the tone and sound. It's so different. It's so powerful. The songs people have chosen are stunning and we've recorded 17 songs at this point and are working on more.
It's an incredible gift of a project. None of these songs were in my repertoire, except for, "Pabay Mor" (one of MacLean's songs about a sailor out in the ocean) which I just learned last November. So, they are songs that are from other people's hearts; to be able to add my energy to that has been wonderful and really profound. And, I'm recording with Asheville folks, Will Straughan, who I play with in my band, Jon Stickley, who plays with Shannon Whitworth and does his own thing, Rayna Gellert, who plays fiddle, and she's got an incredible career, and some other folks. It's a pared-down acoustic sound.
What do you have in mind for your performance at the Blue Jean Ball?
I really believe in MANNA FoodBank. They feed so many people, it's really incredible. Some of the cover [songs from the new project] are so about community: We recorded Old Crow Medicine Show's song "We're All in This Together," so I'll probably play that, and then a lot of my songs have a similar feel too, so I'll probably do a mix. I feel honored to be a part of their benefit.
Advanced copies of Lynn's upcoming covers album will be available at her upcoming performance at the Grey Eagle on Sept. 25. Info: elizalynn.com.
Want to go to the Blue Jean Ball?
MANNA FoodBank's 11th annual Blue Jean Ball, held on Saturday, June 5, promises to be a spirited party benefiting MANNA's invaluable dedication to feeding families in need in 16 counties of WNC. The ball will feature culinary delights prepared by twenty area restaurants and caterers including The Lobster Trap, Tomato Jam Café, Luella's BBQ, Tupelo Honey Café, Biltmore Estate and Pomodors (to name a few). Plus, live "explosive jazz" by The Firecracker Jazz Band, folk/rock riffs with Ralph Roddenbery and Bobby Miller and swing/jazz and Latin tunes with the Da Capo Trio. A silent auction will be held throughout the evening. Tickets are $70. All proceeds benefit MANNA's mission: "To involve, educate, and unite people in the work of ending hunger in Western North Carolina." The ball will be held at MANNA's Headquarters, 627 Swannanoa River Road. Reception at 6 p.m., ball from 7 to 11 p.m.
Info: mannafoodbank.org or 299-3663.
Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.