Claire Lynch talks North By South

North By South - Claire LynchOK… first thing. Claire Lynch is not retiring! Let me repeat that. She is not retiring.

When we had a chance to chat with her last week about her new album, North By South, I asked if she was planning on slowing down after this record. She was a bit adamant, saying that everywhere she goes she gets that same question.

The confusion comes from an announcement she made last year about giving up her full-time band, but but with no intention to stop performing. We even ran a clarification to that effect this time last year, but the impression remains that her touring career is coming to an end.

Yes, she does want to spend more time with her new husband, and yes there is some travel between their home in Nashville and the other in Toronto, but all she is dropping is the management and responsibilities of maintaining a professional band.

“The only thing that’s really changing is the configuration I’ll be going out with. What I’m retiring is having the same band. I want to be able to do things with other artists as well.

I’m booking solo shows, duo shows and will be teaching some. Plus I have some things I’d like to do on the Internet. The way for me to balance my business and my life is to set aside the band commitment and the time constraints.

For example, I have a show coming up with Alison Brown and The Indigo Girls in Athens, GA.

It’s kind of exciting, and I think it will help me grow as a musician.”

And now, the music…

North By South projects a new theme for Claire, one that has actually changed her life for the better this past few years. It started as an email communication between her and a fellow musician in Canada who shared his frustration about how rarely American artists and fans consider Canadian music. That email chain continued for some time, leading to a rendezvous, which led to a courtship, and now they are married. Talk about meeting cute!

Ian Gray and Claire Lynch“Ian had felt that we often disregarded their music, and said ‘wouldn’t it be nice to build some kind of bridge?’ When I started thinking about the next project, I figured wouldn’t it be a cool idea to do it with all Canadian songwriters – an attempt to bridge a musical gap.

I had one person who asked if I was trying to suck up to Canadians. But really, no. I just think this music deserves more notice in bluegrass. Outside of Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot, there aren’t many well-known Canadian writers down here.

So I sent emails to a couple people I knew up there, and started digging into writers. Canadian DJs made a lot of great suggestions. I put feelers out and the great songs came rolling in. I would hit one writer up for stuff, and they would suggest others.”

The record feels like a homecoming, with a much grassier sound than has been the norm for her projects of late. There is prominent banjo and dobro on most of the tracks, provided by Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas, plus some tenor banjo from her Claire Lynch Bandmate, Bryan McDowell. Other guests include David Grier on guitar and Kenny Malone on percussion.

“I didn’t have much bluegrass banjo on recent albums because I didn’t have a bluegrass banjo player in the band. Alison and Garry [with Compass] suggested that we get some extra players, so we shot for the top and got the best!”

North By South is scheduled for a September 16 release on Compass Records. They are offering a discounted pre-order price online, or you can purchase it for immediate delivery directly from the artist. Audio samples can be heard on the Compass web site.

A video for one of the songs, Molly May, written by J.P. and Gervais Cormier, has been shot and should be released soon.

Congratulations to Claire for a fine new record, and for finding a career path and a new life partner to follow it with. Or, as she put it, “I think you finally figure out what you want.”


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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.