Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Fiddling around with Gaelynn Lea

by Sabrina Hornung | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Music | July 18th, 2018

Gaelynn Lea - photograph by Raul Gomez

We had a chance to chat with Duluth native Gaelynn Lea at Winnipeg Folk Festival. Not only did she tell us how she developed her sound she told us about her experience winning the NPR Tiny Desk Concert and the trials and tribulations of touring life with a disability.

Gaelynn Lea: I’ve been playing violin for 24 years. I started in fifth grade. An orchestra came to my school and I remember really liking it and thinking... next year I need to join up with orchestra. This is awesome. I had a cool teacher who was really creative and helped adapt the way that I play so I play upright like a cello. Because of my disability I’m pretty small and I couldn’t hold it the regular way but that was just the beginning. I played classical all the way through high school and then in college I got into fiddle music--like celtic fiddle and folk. In 2011 I met Alan Sparhawk of Low the band from Duluth.

We formed a project together and he introduced me to the looping pedal. That was a really big shift for me. It allowed me to layer up live with a bunch of different tracks and you’re able to sing on top of it. I do a lot of experimental takes on fiddle tunes and I also sing my own songs. I started writing basically when I met Alan kind of out of the blue.I’ve been performing solo for a few years then in 2016 I won NPR Music Tiny Desk contest and that’s when things really changed. I started touring with my husband. We quit our jobs, bought a van, sold our house and started touring full time. It’s a big change but I figured it would be something I’d regret if I didn’t.

HPR: How did it feel to win the Tiny Desk contest?

GL: It was really surreal. I entered because a few students and friends told me about it. I didn’t expect to win obviously. I recorded it on my phone. They called a month and a half after I submitted it. I thought maybe I was a finalist when they called and I was excited about that. We did five cities with them and it kind of gave us a taste of the idea of touring. You learn later on that public radio is super posh compared to DIY underground stuff. I’m really grateful for that opportunity because it definitely changed a lot of things.

HPR: How is touring life?

GL: Touring is fun but really hard work. We’ve done 42 states and six countries. You basically wake up drive for a few hours, load in, do your show and then leave. It’s not like a vacation, however it’s fun to play every night and it’s cool that Paul and I are doing it together. My husband drives and sets up merch and helps me set up my gear. We’re together a lot and that has its own pitfalls. It’s kind of intense to be around someone that much. We’re barely home but it’s fun to have those experiences together.

The only other thing is with the disability, accessibility does make it a little bit harder. That’s something that can change though. That’s one of the reasons I do public speaking about disabilities as well--not during my shows because I don’t really want to be pigeonholed into only talking about disabilities because music is obviously my primary interest. Especially when I record and play.

I went on tour with another artist at the very beginning for two weeks and she talked to me after and she said, “man, I thought touring was hard but you really have to do a lot more.” A lot of venues aren’t set up for performers with disabilities even if they are set up for customers with disabilities they don’t necessarily about the fact that somebody with a disability might come. We have to lift my chair onstage which I really don’t like. We’d like to send a message that if you want a performer with disabilities to come you can’t expect them to not have the things they need to perform. It’s hard because it limits where you can do stuff in general. There’s a lot of different issues with accessibility that I hope will get better. I want little kids with disabilities to see what I do and to feel like they could do it too and not have a huge rude awakening when they try and feel really frustrated. First and foremost it’s about the music but I think it’s important to use your voice for positive change.

[Editor’s note: Gaelynn Lea sung WFF’s praises on their level of accessibility for performers with disabilities.]

Recently in:

FARGO – The city is requesting help from the public to produce one million sandbags in preparation for the 2019 Spring Flood. There remains a 10 percent chance waters will rise up to 40.3 feet, higher than the flood of 2009. Two…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.com“North Dakota (and Minnesota) nice” is an attitude, a stereotype, and a way of life that has permeated our region, as well as perceptions of the Midwest, since as long as people have been…

Friday, March 22, 6-8 p.m.Red Raven Espresso Parlor, 916 Main Ave, FargoDigital photos from North Dakota’s backroads. Hornung has been exploring the roads less traveled for close to a decade. Carefully documenting and collecting…

“North Dakota Nice,” is a phrase that I see getting tossed around more and more these days. Many are sincere and others display yet another facet of our disposition that’s not nearly as desirable. Yes, we’re professin’…

The Battle Between Extreme Capitalism And Democratic SocialismAfter Vice-President Mike Pence representing racial and extreme capitalism ended his scathing rant about democratic socialism at the Conservative Political Action…

The eighth week of this year’s HPR Cocktail Showdown was another tripleheader for our panel of judges. On this particular week, we found ourselves focused on a trio of downtown dining and entertainment establishments to visit…

In rural Minnesota, outside of Park Rapids, Amy Thielen was attempting to light her wood-fired oven. It is in her brand-new kitchen that she hopes to teach cooking classes out of, which is a far cry from what it was when she and…

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra has had its fair share of guest performances headlining its concerts over the years. They all have impressive resumes, their fair share of awards, and worldwide recognition. However, bringing…

FARGO – Most people know the Trail of Tears that followed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The U.S. government – under the direction of President Andrew Jackson – forcibly removed tens of thousands of Natives from their…

Hidden away in the tiny North Dakota town of Lefor I find Karen Valley, an author and an artist. She is without a doubt the artist’s artist. Her soul is art, talent and words. Meeting her is a true experience in finding a soul so…

To many people unfamiliar with the wide range of the musical genre, the word ‘opera’ conjures up stereotypical images of people in period costumes and large women in Viking garb singing in foreign languages. The truth, however,…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

I’ve got a problem. I need to write a column that is going to be kind of critical of three people I like, and I’m trying to figure out how to do it without making them all angry at me. Their names are Sara, Doug and Marvin.…