Lera Lynn strikes out on her own and emerges with a career-defining album

The Nashville singer and songwriter performs at Ace of Cups on Friday in support of 2020 release ‘On My Own’

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Lera Lynn

When Lera Lynn started to work on the songs that would become 2020 album On My Own, she had reached a point where she was beginning to question her direction in life.

“I was sort of stepping back and going, ‘Where did time go? Is this what I want to be doing?’” said Lynn, who visits Ace of Cups for a concert on Friday, Oct. 8. “I’ve dedicated my life to traveling and performing and making records, and while it’s incredibly rewarding, you always wonder what it’s like on the other side, and if you’re missing out on something. I think this record was me processing what I had envisioned for myself and how that was or wasn’t reflected in my reality at the time.”

Lynn wrote a bulk of the album in 2019 and then recorded solo in the bedroom of her Nashville home, keeping the sessions a secret from all but a few trusted people, in part because she harbored some fear that she wouldn’t actually complete the album on her own. When she finally did, she cried hysterically for 20 minutes, tracing the outburst both to a sense of relief and to an understanding that the songs “would be leaving my world soon,” she said. “And they're going to be passed into other people’s hands and ears and lives.”

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Before that could happen, though, the pandemic hit, bringing the touring music industry to a halt and forcing Lynn to release On My Own, which had been recorded amid a self-quarantine, of sorts, into a world where people were now also isolated, meaning that many listeners experienced the album while living in conditions similar to those that birthed it.

The last 18 months have been a time of immense change for Lynn. Along with the October 2020 release of her album, the singer and songwriter also gave birth to a son and purchased a new home. “At the very least I had nowhere near the amount of FOMO I might have had if the world had continued on with its typical momentum when I was home with a baby,” said Lynn, who also completed the majority of a new album during the COVID-driven concert shutdown. “I think the experience has influenced a lot of us … and has forced us to take a look at a lot of things we’re sometimes too busy to see. I’ve come out on the other side as a different person.”

As a result, Lynn said her relationship to some of the songs off of On My Own has shifted. Such is the case with “What I’m Looking For,” which the musician described as having been written by “a different version of me,” forcing her to find new ways to relate to it in preparation for playing it live on this tour. “The hope when you write a song is there’s something universally applicable in there,” she said, “so surely there’s a glimmer of that in it that I can dig up.”

Other songs continue to cut to the bone, such as “Make You OK,” a patient bruiser Lynn wrote countless times about her late alcoholic father before finally landing on this version, which she said arrived seemingly fully formed from the atmosphere, pouring onto the page in her notebook in a single 30-minute rush. 

“I was just lucky to be there to catch it,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve heard other songwriters talk about how sometimes it’s like they had nothing to do with the creation, where they just happen to be a conduit. In that moment, I felt like someone else had told my story, and I was moved by it almost in the way you might be as the audience. But I also felt like, ‘OK, I finally said something that has been floating around in my head for my entire life and had just never found the words.’”

Lynn started writing poetry and short stories as a child, first picking up the guitar at age 11 as a tool for songwriting, modeling herself after the artists she grew up listening to, including Sheryl Crow and Jewel, along with Joni Mitchell, who was introduced to the musician by her mother. Gradually, though, these influences began to recede as Lynn started to find her own voice as a musician, which she described as an ongoing process.

“There was a song on my first record called ‘Bobby, Baby,’ and for me that was a moment where I was starting to find my own voice, though to be honest I’m still looking for it,” Lynn said. “Someone the other day was asking my son, ‘Leo, who’s Mama?’ hoping he would point at me. But before he could, I was answering for him: ‘You know, she’s still trying to figure that out, but once she does I’ll let you know.’”