Queer Artist Interview: Logan Lynn on Moody Dance Pop, Tori Amos & God

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"Ain’t that America?" Logan Lynn’s electro-fueled music merges God, country, queer love and gloomy artsy-ness! Put that in your firecrackers, folks!

What’s more American than being raised by super-religious Midwestern parents, home-schooled, pumped full of Amy Grant tunes, then coming out at 14, becoming a musician and moving to the crunchy West Coast to make your own kind of music (and lots of arty videos and collage-y visuals)? Yep, out musician Logan Lynn’s life sounds like a queer-tinged John Cougar Mellencamp song, and he’ll be the first to tell you (see below) how his tightly wound Christian upbringing influences his artfully electronic tinged mope-pop sound. As it’s been put, Lynn’s music puts the “disco” back into discomfort.

These days, the Portland-based redheaded songsmith is seeing his video, “Burning Your Glory,” cruise nicely along on Logo’s weekly Click List Top Ten, and he’s playing gigs all around the Northwest, as his forthcoming album, From Pillar to Post, is slated for a fall 2007 release. Give his new single “Feed Me to the Wolves” a listen if ya wanna.

You can watch and hear his videos and tunes on LoganLynnMusic.com (or via MySpace), but since he was in NYC last week for a show and some Pride fun, I chatted him up. After the jump, you can hear about his musical ethos, frisky fans, his Tori Amos devotion and how redheads do get more action.

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So… You live in Portland?
Yes, but I’m originally from the Midwest; kind of everywhere you wouldn’t necessarily want to be from, I’m from. My dad did a “Strong Family” seminar funnily enough, and we traveled around doing that.

He led it?
Yeah, it was sort of like a touring Promise Keeper experience, so we lived in like Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Michigan and Tennessee, did the whole rounds. I moved to Portland in ’96 and never really went back to the Midwest after that. I prefer to stay coastal.

I hear Portland’s pretty great. I hear there’s great food… And a cool queer community.
It’s a real sleepy town, but in a good way. There’s a lot going on. The music scene is kind of tight-knit. It’s a good jumping off place, I think. There’s no shortage of venues to play, and the kind of music I make, it lends itself to a little bit of depression along the edges. And with Portland, with the sun depravation, you get a little of that. [Laughs.]

So the climate lends itself well to depression?
People are into the cry-baby stuff! [Laughs.] And I do like how cheap the city is. Part of me is really into the, er… cheap.

I can understand that. Your song, “Burning Your Glory” has been on Logo’s Click List and getting play. It’s nice—very melodic and still and introspective, but with an electronic vibe, too. Is that song written about someone specific? ,br />Yeah, that was written about my previous relationship. It’s actually on older song that Carlos Cortes, my recent bandmate, took and remixed it, and re-recorded it.


Watch Logan Lynn’s "Burning Your Glory." Like, now…

Has the person you wrote it about ever responded?
I tend to send CD’s out when they happen. It’s sort of the whole process for me, to release my anger or hurt or whatever, to make it into a product so I’m not feeling it anymore. And then after I sing it a few times, it becomes more like a story about someone else, almost. It’s kind of therapeutic in that way. And I think part of the process is that it gets heard by the person who it’s about. That’s the final part.

Your videos seem like collages of art and music. How do those come together?
I did five videos this past year from my previous record, all with five local Portland filmmakers. And I just let them all run with it, and it actually turned out pretty well. That’s also something I like about Portland; there’s a lot of like-minded people, and people involved in the visual arts too. There’s a lot of starving artists who are just jobless and bored. [Laughs.] They’re like, “I’ll make a video; I have nothing else going on.”

And how does your upbringing in a strict religious household influence your music?
Probably 100% of everything I do comes from that. I was home-schooled, so when I was finally able to listen to pop music—anything besides Amy Grant, which is essentially what I grew up on—I sort of felt like I was at home then. I’ve since been able to patch things up with my family. And I figured out that forgiveness is kind of selfish; you do it for yourself. And they’ve been able to get something out of the music too, I think, whereas before I don’t they were ever able to hear me. It’s sort of a weird scene, with that church. It’s a stifling experience, and I came out when I was 14, which wasn’t the most popular thing to do in 1990-whatever in Kansas. Since then it’s been great. I think moving west has been good for that, too. But it’s nice to be able to revisit those issues musically…

Your album is coming out this fall. It’s called From Pillar to Post. What’s the origin of that title?
My grandmother used to say that all the time. It’s basically somebody who runs amok in every aspect of their life, from one catastrophe to another. That’s sort of been my situation from time to time. Like, burn one bridge and go on to another. Not so much now, but a lot of my feelings before have been a lot about running amok. This new record is more about my present, and getting the new band has been good.

When you perform, if there’s two of you, what’s it like?
It’s sort of like a DJ experience, with me up there doing my singing bit. The sound is all 100% computer; anything that’s instrumental is sampled in to the computer.

Well, that’s easy. You travel light!
Yeah, it’s nice. Not tons of gear. You want a show? We’re ready to plug in on a whim.

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You’ve played lots of queer events, including Folsom Street in San Francisco … What’s the raciest performance scenario you’ve been in? How far do you go onstage?
Well, I tend to not go very far, but Folsom Street Fair was the most racy. I wasn’t prepared; there were some wild things…

Like what?
Like guys jerking off in front of the stage. Like, during my songs, which is a little distracting. I looked at my band after that, and was like, “Dude, if we can make it through this, we can play anywhere…”

Maybe it was a form of flattery?
Well, yeah… I figure if they’re enjoying the show that much, I’m doing it right.

And you’ll know, if they’re enjoying it.
[Laughs.] Yes. I go for full release at end of my performances.

What music are you listening to now?
I listen to a lot of chick rock. I’m really into The Innocence Mission and Feist, and embarrassingly a little Tori Amos.

There’s no shame in some gay Tori-love.
Yep, I’m into it. I think that’s where my touchy-feely stuff comes in. I like dance music, but I tend to make and not listen to it as much I would listen to a lady with a piano.

How
do you create music? Is it a solitary thing, is it with Carlos? Is it in the shower?

I have a digital vocal recorder that I carry around in my pocket, and I’m just constantly singing into it. I used to carry notebooks but that got hard on my hands… So now I just press play and record and go with it. And then I use my simple old Casio SK-1 bit. I’ve had the same keyboard since I was ten, and I still like it. So I start with that and lay down a simple track and Carlos and I build around that.

Now when you were coming out, as a teenager, was there a song that sort of served as your coming out soundtrack?
I don’t think there really was that. I’m sure I would read into things in music, but I think I’d probably credit Tori Amos as the lady who let me free myself of the religious bondage, and sort of turn that into a musical thing. And for me that was the big deal; it wasn’t that I felt dirty about being gay, it was that I didn’t want to go to fucking hell.

Who does?
[Laughs.] Hell’s a bummer, from what I’ve been told. But once I could figure out that I was already in hell, and I needed to get myself out of it, that was more of a coming out for me. It had more to do with God, than sex.

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Who would you say is the most inspiring gay artist to you?
I like Rufus Wainwright a lot. I think he’s really honest. I listen to a lot of people who have gay stuff around the edges, but I don’t know. I listen to a lot of chicks, so the Indigo Girls, maybe? [Laughs.] Michael Stipe… It’s all about the songs more to me, than who they are in the sack, or whatever.

Now, importantly, do redheads get more play?
On the radio?

No. Sexually.
I think people tend to think of redheads as being hypersexual, which in my case is probably true. But I don’t know that I get more play. But I think people either really like us, or really hate us.

I think some people are extra turned-on by redheads…
Yeah, I guess that’s a good thing. [Laughs.]

Finally, what’s your musical mission? What do you want to do?
I want to be heard. It would be nice to find like-minded people, and just be able to keep doing what I’m doing, and have an audience. That’s the goal, to have an audience that can relate. That makes the impending sense of doom, or the loneliness of being me a little less lonely. I’d like to find other people who are totally bummed out—and who want to dance, at the same time. [Laughs.]

Are you that bummed out?
I go through phases. That’s part of the whole thing, right? Being alive isn’t always totally awesome. But that’s where the music comes in. If I didn’t have music, I’d be just suicidal and crazy. But I’m just crazy and musical…

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Logan Lynn: He likes art, Tori Amos, cloudy Portland–and puppies!