The importance of being earnest

It’s possible that Asheville-based singer/songwriter Eliza Lynn took the lyric “good things come to those who wait, not to those who wait too late, we got to go for all we know” to heart. Not that her sometimes gritty, sometimes sweet songs bear much resemblance to those of Bill Withers (except for the surprising soul with which she performs and the ‘60s and ‘70s grooves pushing their way into her newer material), but she rides that line between monk-like patience and ladder-climbing persistence.

Singing a new song: Singer/songwriter Eliza Lynn proves nice gals can finish first. Photograph By Sandlin Gaither

Apparently, diligent is the new dilatory, and it seems to be paying off.

“I got lucky,” Lynn tells Xpress. Indeed, her recent inclusion on world-music label Putumayo’s Americana collection happened as if by providence. Lynn’s former employer, Band Village, relocated to Nashville, Tenn. There, at an industry event, the indie-promoter company’s founder, Peter Flemming, sold Lynn’s debut, Frisky or Fair, to a Putumayo representative. The result: The Asheville musician’s song, “Sing a New Song,” appeared on the recently released Americana (Putumayo, 2007) disc, and Lynn spent recent weeks touring to promote the CD, performing radio spots and representing both the Asheville music scene and the Putumayo world-music initiative.

But is all that luck? Not really. Lynn is hardly one to rest on her laurels. According to her bio, she fell into song writing as a Warren Wilson College student when it occurred to her that if she was going to find the perfect song, she’d better write it herself.

Her low, bluesy, roots-meets-modern style seems to come from years (if not lifetimes) of digesting influences, styles and experiences. In fact, Lynn has considered herself a songwriter for less than a decade. Previously, she’s studied and performed as a dancer, worked as a personal trainer, traveled to India and South Africa, spent time in a Zen monastery and developed the Asheville YWCA’s Diabetes Wellness Project.

When Lynn went into the studio to record her sophomore effort, The Weary Wake Up (2007), she employed her tenacious work ethic to the project—not just in composing music but in raising funds. Following a model used by local artists such as Valorie Miller and Stephanie’s Id, Lynn pre-sold her CD to raise capital. Pre-sales guaranteed fans an advance release, as well as a chance to partake in the creative process.

“One hundred thirty people pre-ordered,” Lynn notes. Add to that business sponsors Appalachian Realty, Mountain Magnolia Inn, Studio South, Early Girl Eatery, Claying Around, fiber artist Jude Stuecker and Band Village—along with a handful of private donors—and Lynn was able to pull off a sleek project complete with pop production and eye-catching cover art.

Still, Lynn claims she doesn’t have it all figured out. “I feel all the time like a kindergartner in Algebra 2,” she admits. Listing Asheville-made folk artists Christine Kane and Davids LaMotte and Wilcox among her musical heroes, she hopes her successes will inspire other up-and-comers just as those Asheville musicians who “made it” on the national stage have inspired her.

Citing the spiral on her album cover, the singer says, “That’s the circle of support. My whole emphasis is existing within that circle of support so I can bring forth my gifts.”

Though Lynn’s release party for Weary is a chance for her to celebrate with those who contributed to the album (not to mention choreographed dance routines and a banjo suite), it’s likely that the musician is headed for new (read: less grassrootsy) forms of support. With a Putumayo track to her credit, one tour just finished and a new one about to begin, Lynn seems poised for the next big step.

“I feel a real responsibility for this project,” she says, including both Americana and Weary in that sentiment. “I want to get it out to as many people as possible.”

A lesser talent would be kicked back by the phone, waiting for the record companies to ring.

Eliza Lynn’s CD release party happens at The Grey Eagle on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Quick Six opens. 8 p.m. $10. 232-5800. Other CD release parties include Thursday, Sept. 27, at The Back Room in Flat Rock with a screening of Eliza’s Putumayo music video (8 p.m. 697-6828) and on Saturday, Sept 29, at the Mountain Magnolia Inn in Hot Springs (5:30 p.m. No cover. Dinner reservations required. 622-3543).

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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