Proud Times Magazine

Genuinely Logan Lynn

Genuinely Logan Lynn

Genuinely Logan Lynn
January 01
16:24 2015

Genuinely Logan Lynn

by Jeremy Price-Ballew and Dean Ellerbusch

I’ll admit, I was new to the artist Logan Lynn. I had only heard a few of his songs before I was doing research and e-mailing interview questions. I began learning new things about him throughout the process and soon found out he is not like most artists. He is also a champion in the never ending fight for equality.

Logan is willing to ask himself those hard questions and look at important topics that we should all be aware of. His efforts to build up the LGBTQ community are astounding. Logan founded the Q Center’s Qblog. As stated on the website, Qblog serves as a resource and online platform “…to broaden the positive perception of LGBTQ people.” Logan has even donated an entire year of earnings from his album I Killed Tomorrow Yesterday to benefit the Q Center in Portland, Oregon.

What started as a simple music interview turned into something inspiring—an open and honest conversation that hits on several important topics that are too often pushed under the rug and affect more than just our own community. For example, we delve into mental health issues—a topic that is riddled with stigmatism.

2LoganLynn_Spiral_HighResJeremy: You are one of the headliners at this year’s Stargayzer festival. What do you look forward to most about playing that festival?

Yes! We are just a little over a month away now. I love Austin’s music scene, but my band boys and I have never actually performed there—so that will be fun. I’m really excited to be sharing the stage with Austra, Xiu Xiu, Mykki Blanco, Big Freedia, Trust, Cazwell, and my friends CHRISTEENE, Magic Mouth, Night Cadet, and Carletta Sue Kay! There are 100 bands playing over the course of 3 days and we are playing on the final day of the festival—so I’m excited to really immerse myself in the local scene for a week and watch tons of queers be awesome.

What was it like going from a small time DJ to gaining national mainstream success?

Well, it’s been a 15 year process from there to here, so it has felt very organic. But I’ve been really lucky to have some major milestones along the way. If you had told me my life would be like this when I was a 14 year old gay kid being tortured by my church and community in rural Nebraska, I would have never believed you. In the years since the whole Logo/MTV relationship was formed I have gotten used to the idea that so many people know who I am, but it’s still sometimes hard to wrap my head around. It’s pretty special to have been able to consistently release music and videos and play shows this whole time and still have an audience. That particular bit of amazing is not lost on me.

Dean: What is the best way to describe your music?

Well, I used to always say it was “techno for crybabies” or that I was “putting the ‘disco’ back into ‘discomfort’”—which was very true in the early days of my making records. But as I’ve grown and changed, so have my songs. I suppose I am a singer/songwriter, though that evokes all kinds of images and experiences which have absolutely nothing [to do] with what I do. You know, record labels and reviewers have been trying to figure this out for as long as I can remember. It can be hard to categorize. My lyrics are often confessional, but my genre tends to change depending on my mood or where I’m at an any given time. Sometimes I make dance music, sometimes it’s pop, other times it’s a cappella or acoustic. The sound of this new album we have been working on is much more in line with that Miley Cyrus cover we released last year than my previous work. The only thing I am married to in my process is absolute truth. Everything else just shakes out however it shakes out.

While your music is built on techno beats, it leaves me feeling somewhat melancholy. What mood(s) does your music illicit for you? 

Yes. With my songs historically, particularly in the olden days when I was still a teenager, the heavier the electronics, the heavier the subject matter. Drum machines and remixes were my protective layer back then, and I’ve sort of been in a process of stripping myself of those comforts over the years. At this point, I make myself much more vulnerable in my songs and on stage. There’s less distraction for me to hide behind. I try to present my human experience honestly in all of its parts. So if I’m experiencing love or heartache or joy or violence or peace, my hope is that the mood of the music matches that experience. I don’t actually listen to my own records very much. But when I do, they tend to take me right back to where I was when I first wrote them and was living them out. It can be quite brutal, but there’s something comforting about knowing oneself in this way—and moving through the fear of allowing others to know you so intimately, too.

In what ways has your parents’ religious lifestyle impacted you—both as a gay man and as a musician?

Well, thankfully they are not religious anymore and haven’t been for years. As a kid, though, it impacted me in a variety of ways—mostly negative. Some churches are LGBTQ-affirming, but the Church of Christ (which I grew up in) is not one of those churches. I experienced abuse at the hands of Christians which has left a mark which will last a lifetime. As an adult, I have done a lot of work on myself around this experience, and I continue to—but it’s still with me. It’s part of my makeup. As a musician, not being allowed to listen to secular music and being raised in an a cappella congregation was a particular type of training. My early influences were hymns… and Amy Grant. (Laughs)

Jeremy: What advice do you have for youth or anyone being negatively affected or abused by a religious group or people within a religious group?

2LoganLynn_Band_HighResI think it’s really important to make sure that LGBTQ people of any age or circumstance understand that there are queer and trans-affirming churches and spiritual practices available to them—should they feel moved to continue down that path. The big lie from the anti-gay fundamentalist community is that LGBTQ folks are automatically at odds with God for being who they were born to be. But just because the church you grew up in says you are going to hell, doesn’t mean you actually are—or that hell even exists for that matter. For me, as a non-believer, this is not something I struggle with anymore. But for some, this is much more painful and long-lasting. My advice for anyone being abused by a church or theology would be to survive long enough to escape. There is a big world out there full of love and opportunity. To not internalize other people’s bullshit is key, but impossible when you are young and it’s all you know. That’s why it’s so important for us to fight these teachings as a community, and for LGBTQ people to be as out and visible as possible—so young people know there is life on the other side.

Your career has seen many changes, including splitting with a major record label and taking a hiatus to focus on LGBTQ advocacy—at one point donating 100% of profits from the first year of your self-released album I Killed Tomorrow Yesterday. What motivates you as an artist and activist to continue on and try new things?

I get bored with the status quo in the music industry really easily, so I am constantly looking for inspiration and have never been particularly good at playing the game. It has made it difficult at times for labels or managers or publicists to know what to do with me, but I suppose it has made for some really colorful press moments throughout the years.  If too many people start taking advantage of or wanting something from me, and my humanity starts to get lost in this whole “Logan Lynn” brand bullshit, it makes me want to burn it down and start over—which I have done a couple of times. I’m very sensitive and tend to only be able to do what I believe in. The people who have found success in working with me have always understood this. It’s the folks who don’t that I tend to cut loose. I don’t give a shit if you are EMI or Caroline Records or some fancy producer The Dandy Warhols have lined up for me. If you don’t see me—if you don’t have any interest in working with me as I am and placing value on my authentic experience—I’m going to show you the door. It hasn’t been the easiest road by any means, but I sleep well at night knowing I cannot be bought and sold like some kind of fame-hungry pet. Money and success mean very little to me when compared to love and being able to live with myself and the decisions I make.

As an Out & Proud activist, what are some of the causes in the community that are important but not necessarily on the forefront of everyday discussion?

Trans rights are hugely important, as is employment non-discrimination for LGBTQ people and issues of poverty, racism and mental health which still plague our communities. We have a lot of work to do before true equity and equality is a reality for us—and same-sex marriage isn’t going to fix any of that.

What do you think community members and leaders can do to help create change and unify in the cause to gain true equality?

Sometimes in the queer movement we tend to work inside a bubble of our own issues instead of looking up and taking a holistic approach. To fight homophobia without taking into consideration all of the systemic issues which continue to feed it doesn’t get us anywhere. Until we value and honor the struggles of all people, these battles will continue to cycle. The best thing to do is to identify the organizations doing this work in your own backyard. Donate money. Volunteer. Tell your story to the people in your life. Real change takes time—and it takes all of us working together. Figure out what you are passionate about and then run with it. Chances are pretty good there are other people in your community who are equally passionate about the same things. The most important thing we can do is be out—out about our sexual orientation, out about our mental health struggles. The more people realize that we are just like them—that everyone faces these battles every day of their lives—the faster change will come.

In 2013, you headlined a tour to benefit LGBTQ Mental Health Services & Suicide Prevention. Do you feel that mental health in the LGBTQ community is overlooked and under-treated?

Absolutely—and not just in the LGBTQ community, but in our society as a whole. Mental health is something that affects us all, no matter who we are. The stigmas attached to those struggles are still alive and well, and we know that LGBTQ communities are disproportionately impacted by addiction, violence… the list goes on and on. As a person who is living in longterm recovery from drugs and alcohol (7 years this March), I have a personal investment. I have lost countless friends to drugs and suicide and my heart will never mend from those breaks. I figure, I have this platform, so I may as well use it to try and get people thinking and talking about this stuff. In the end, mental health is no different than your physical health. We have to change the perception. It has to hit home for people that they are not broken, that this is just a part of life. These struggles are all of ours, and until we all collectively give a shit, nothing will change.

Where do we start? What, as a community or individuals, would you encourage people to take part in to help those who are affected by mental health problems?

Reducing stigma is huge. That happens by people being able to put a face with an experience. There is so much shame associated with mental health struggles. The thing people don’t seem to get, which is reinforced by the mountains of stigma, is that we are all dealing with issues of mental health every day of our lives—from the moment we are born until the moment we move on to the next adventure. No one can escape this. Depression is normal. Pretending the brain is not just another part of the body which needs taking care of, and continuing to “other” people who are experiencing this universal struggle has deadly consequences. I battle these issues, but I also welcome them as part of my human experience. If we all decided to do this, the world [would change].

I know from personal experiences (prior jobs) and hearing stories from others that managing a job while trying to deal with mental health issues can often cause several problems—including unfair treatment and even loss of a job when a person is suffering and must take time off to deal with it.

What can companies and co-workers do to gain understanding and help make it easier on those affected?

Yes. Depending on where you work, this can be tricky. There are federal disability laws which prohibit discrimination around physical and mental disabilities, but we all know that anti-discrimination laws are often good on paper, but there is little or no accountability and enforcement once they are enacted. Compassion is key. If someone is experiencing addiction issues, we have a tendency to dehumanize, shame, and put these people in prison instead of getting them into comprehensive care. If someone is going through depression or other mental health struggles, being kind is a great first step. If you are under the impression that this only happens to other people, you are wrong. We don’t punish people when they get breast cancer or break their leg, so why would we punish them for struggling with their mental health? As a society, a great deal of education is needed around this stuff… and the more people stand up and tell their stories of struggle and survival, the more likely this is to actually happen.

LoganLynn_Spook_HighResDean: You have also raised funds and awareness for Out & Proud organizations in Portland, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. What motivates your philanthropy?

I grew up a gay kid in the rural farmlands of the Midwest in a community that had absolutely no LGBTQ services or supports. I believe deeply in the importance of queer and trans organizations and will always fight for their existence so that other people do not have to go through what I went through coming into myself.

Jeremy: I’m from a small rural farm town myself. As you have mentioned, many small towns in America are without any Out & Proud organizations to offer services and support. How do we reach those kids in rural areas that have no centers or resources to turn to when dealing with coming to terms with sexual identity or orientation?

This is where media and the internet come into play, I think. We live in a time where LGBTQ people are portrayed in a positive light on TV and in movies. We see our community’s leaders in the paper and in magazines. Ultimately, there are pockets of the country where there just are no resources still. Visibility can be the difference between life and death for people living in those places. It’s still not safe to be out everywhere. So, in some ways, we have to be out for them. We build community with people online and in the press so they have something to keep their spirits up—to feel a part of something bigger. Sadly, this is why most of us leave our rural communities and go coastal. I think this is changing more and more with government-supported initiatives, but we still have a long way to go before it’s safe for queer and trans people to be themselves wherever they go.

Dean: You moved around a lot through adolescence. What is it about Portland that has helped your decision to call this city your home?

I sure did. Portland embraced me almost immediately when I moved here in 1996 and it just still does. It has given me the space to be myself here—to fuck up and fix it. And the scene we built so long ago has grown alongside all of us. I don’t know that I will live here forever, but it is definitely home.

Jeremy: You founded QBlog and also write several other editorial columns. What was it that caused you to change gears and start writing editorials?

It was by accident, really. I just started blogging on my own site in 2006 and that eventually got the attention of Noah Michelson at Huffington Post and a handful of other local and national media outlets and it just became one of the ways I communicate with the world. I didn’t set out to become a journalist any more than I set out to become an activist. These opportunities just come and I tend to explore them as they arrive. After spending a few years working in queer and mainstream media, it became clear that I was holding a pretty far-reaching megaphone, so I wanted to make sure I was handing that megaphone and access off to others within my community who might not otherwise have the opportunity to put their thoughts and dreams out into the world. Launching QBlog and Queer Voices in particular was an effort to provide a platform to marginalized communities to do just that—and it has really taken off. We went live in 2010 out of Portland’s Q Center, with a relaunch in 2012 and now it’s a machine of LGBTQ storytelling, getting over 14 million hits annually from over 150,000 unique visitors. There’s nothing more satisfying than using my privilege to lift up the voices of others. It makes the unfairness of having said privilege bearable—if that makes sense?

Dean: If you don’t find this too personal, what is your relationship status? Depending on your answer, are you looking for something different? If so, what do you desire?

I am newly single, after ending a 4 year relationship with a man and moving through yet another bout with heartbreak. I’m not really looking in the moment. But when I do, I have only one criteria—and that’s honesty. I don’t care who you are, but you had better be who you say you are. I’m done with social climbers and guys who lead double lives. I just want someone nice who loves me for me and doesn’t want anything from me but that same kind of love in return—something simple. I’m not into open relationships, Grindr or Scruff or hooking up—so if that’s your thing, we’re a bad match.

Jeremy: Recently you confirmed that a new album is due out in 2015.  What is the creative process behind making a new album?Logan Lynn "We Will Overcome"

It’s true! My producer and collaborator Gino Mari and I have been working on an album for the past 6 months and should be releasing the first single sometime this fall as a preview of what’s to come. My creative process always stems from some sort of extreme experience—in this case, the loss of love and the realization that who I thought I was in [a] relationship with isn’t actually that person at all. I write and write and write and sing a cappella melodies into my phone for months. Then Gino and I come together and build songs, which we then get to know as we perform them at shows. Then we lock ourselves in at The Country Club studios in Portland and make it happen. Not being on a label during that process is sometimes difficult, but it does take the pressure off. I don’t have anyone telling me how to do things or when to do them by—which, ultimately, helps the creative process. I feel very free to explore, to fail, to try new things.  That’s at the heart of my collaborative relationship with Gino. He encourages me and kicks my ass. It works.

What does it take to redefine your sound? Is it something that grows out of going through new trials—and how do you change from something familiar to something new?

If you listen to all of my records, each one sounds totally different than the last. This can be alienating for some listeners—exciting for others. It’s a byproduct of my needing to keep myself engaged. If it’s not new and exciting to me, it’s just not going to happen. I want to be a better version of myself with each passing year, and the same goes for my records.

What would you like people to know about the upcoming album and what would you like your listeners to get out of it?

I am in love with these new songs we are making, and Gino and I both feel that they are my best yet. It’s going to be fun for people to finally get to hear what we’ve been up to!My hope is that folks will respond to the more organic feel—they certainly did when we tested the waters with “We Can’t Stop.” In the end, I am making these records to give my experience of struggle and triumph back to the world which gave them to me to begin with. It’s a difficult record to make—almost impossible to get through songs without crying at this point. But I think therein lays what works about it. It’s pure and true—even the ugly parts. If we can authentically bring listeners along for the ride, we will have succeeded. And so far, it’s working.

We would like to thank Logan for his contributions in fighting for equality in the LGBT community and mental health services. We are Proud to feature such a sincere individual who works towards the betterment of all.

Be sure to keep up with Logan Lynn on several popular social media outlets and watch for his new album as it drops in 2015.

 

View the full issue of Proud Times Magazine Issue 10 Featuring Logan Lynn by clicking the image cover below or click the Loud and Proud icon to follow a link to free music provided by Logan Lynn.

Proud Times Issue 10Free Music from Logan Lynn

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