Los Angeles-based singer and guitarist Lynda Kay’s voice and songs are tethered to a familiar time that is imbued with emotion and style but connected to a place within us that tugs at the heartstrings of a challenging life.
“Dream My Darling” by Lynda Kay
AFLW: Lynda Kay, your music has a timeless quality in that it seems to be rooted in ‘50s country and roots rock. How does living in L.A. play into your music, image and lyrics?
Lynda Kay: Los Angeles, and in particular Venice Beach, has had such a profound impact on my songwriting, performance style and visual presentation. Next year, I will be celebrating 20 years living in Venice. I love this town! L.A. is a glorious bastion of multiculturalism filled with dreamers and tramps existing in a live movie set with Art Deco elegance, graffitied walls and modern architectural marvels. I also love the “golden age of Hollywood,” the glamour, the costumes, the hairstyles, the makeup, the dancing, the visual landscapes, the storytelling and the attention to detail. I follow the classical Hollywood cinema approach in my entertainment style which focuses on the emotional experience of an individual, the journey to reach their goal, and the lessons they learn along the way. Sometimes, movies from the golden age come down on the right side of history and, sometimes, they get it so wrong it is uncomfortable to watch, but there are always lessons to be learned and art to experience in these films. And using this approach, when I write songs and perform them, I find my inspiration in the moments I’ve lived, whether wonderful or challenging. It is all relevant.
AFLW: A number of your songs relate so naturally to the spirit of the heartbroken in much the same way that country’s top legends Patsy Cline, Wanda Jackson and Kitty Wells did. Why is this a common theme in your writing?
LK: Life is hard. And although I have been lucky in love with my wonderful husband, Jonny Coffin (founder of Coffin Case), I have had plenty of heartache and disappointment in my life. On the outside, I may look like the kind of person whose life is perfect and that I seldom experience pain. I am overall a positive person, but I am no different than everyone else. Heartache and pain has followed me longer than happiness many times in my life, but writing and performing music heals me and reminds me what is real.
Singing, writing and performing is transcendent for me. I always perform with my elaborately coiffed hair, in full costume and outfit, my band to match, as well as decorate my stage and adorn the tables in the room so that each person is transported to an otherworldly place where we can share this memorable moment in time together and remember it that way forever. I may wear costumes and put on a spectacle, but the music is straight from my heart and soul.
AFLW: The two songs “Dream My Darling” and “What Lives and Dies” are beautiful country-tinged ballads with orchestrations that express our theme well: living a full, rich life that includes love, longing and loss. What challenges in your life led you to write these songs?
LK: I wrote “Dream My Darling” with my husband, Jonny. For us, this song is an homage to Roy Orbison and the culmination of many emotional experiences combined: a comforting lullaby, a call for dreaming, an expression of love and beauty, and a song of hope in the face of despair and tragic loneliness. And because these themes are universal, and I have so many dear friends who love this song from all over the world, I have been learning “Dream My Darling” in different languages: French, “Rêve Mon Chéri”; Spanish, “Sueña Mi Amor”; and Italian, “Sognare il Mio Amore.”
“What Lives and Dies” is a very personal song I wrote inspired by the death of my grandmother who passed away suddenly when I was living with her while attending law school. She was a strong, smart, beautiful and humorous woman who put herself through college graduating with a degree in mathematics during the Great Depression by working at the local Woolworth’s while raising her baby sister, because their mother had died young. She was very proud of me, and although I did not become a practicing lawyer, I graduated for her and to have the degree to fall back on; soon after graduation, I promptly turned my attention to the arts and never looked back. I wrote this song to cope with the grief of losing her and all the important people in my life and, in doing so, I came to believe when people’s bodies fail, the goodness of their soul and spirit live on through all living things. I lost someone very dear to me on Dec. 28, 2015, and the video I put together for “What Lives and Dies” is dedicated to him, Lemmy Kilmister (from Motörhead). “Your soul will never die.”
AFLW: L.A. is a town where people are sometimes seen and not heard. Your image and sound flawlessly come together to create an artist without artifice. From the beginning, how conscious was the choice to focus on image and music?
LK: The choice to focus on image and music was absolutely a conscious decision. I originally moved from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles in 1997 to pursue a comedic acting career à la Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball because my lifelong dream was to star in my own variety show. But after three years, and going on about 50 auditions a week, my biggest film role was playing the part of a murdered teacher in a spoof horror film starring John Ritter and Bryan Cranston called “Terror Tract.” But it wasn’t until after an audition for a musical when I sang “Somewhere” from “West Side Story,” and the casting directors were in stunned silence, that I knew I needed to change my creative path and focus only where my best talent lies and what I love most, which is singing. My acting teacher at the time told me I was making the biggest mistake of my life, but I am still here, loving my path and career choice, and I think I’ll stay on this journey for another 20 years.
Song stylist Lynda Kay is known for her powerful voice and elegant vintage style. Her most recent release was the “The Allure of Lynda Kay,” recorded at Capitol Studios with Grammy Award-Winning producer Brad Benedict. Lynda Kay is currently working in the studio with Jonny Coffin (Coffin Case), and together they are writing and recording songs for two new albums: “Lady in Gold” and “Woman in Black,” which will feature a never-before-released duet with the late Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. Lynda Kay is known for her vast repertoire of classic songs from the early 1960s including artists such as Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra. Lynda Kay has written music for films and television programs, and appears on the official “Justified” Series Soundtrack on Sony Music Entertainment. Lynda Kay is also an Official Endorsee of Gretsch Guitars. She is writing an autobiography with her fellow Texas Tech University alum Christopher J. Oglesby called “The Legend of Lynda Kay.” To learn more about her, visit www.lyndakay.com and @lyndakaymusic.