Kaylin Lee Clinton has a brand new record, so we talked about it

Kaylin Lee Clinton is releasing her debut album Painted Road, and I can’t wait to hear it. I’ve known Kaylin since she played Sticky a few years back, and more recently she sang an acapella cover of M83’s Midnight City for my FringeNYC play Radio Mara Mara, and I’m a huge fan of her sound.

She’ll be playing at Rockwood Stage 2, 196 Allen Street, NYC, to celebrate the release, on September 3rd at 7 pm, and record releases digitally on iTunes on September 5.


I wanted to know more about what makes Kaylin tick musically, and she was gracious enough to answer my questions.

This is your first album. How did you know that making an album was the next step for your artistically?

I made this music because I had a gut feeling that it was what I was supposed to do, and I had learned very personally that life can be too short to ignore intuition.  Artistically, I’ve gone in reverse order, in a way.  Though now I sing regularly in NYC and got to sing in France and Israel, when I started creating this music, it took all my courage to even tell anyone that I sang.  The fact that I had these melodies and lyrics in my head, and could hear them with full orchestrations of instruments I didn’t know how to play, seemed wacky enough that I should really just keep it to myself!  Even as I worked with producer Steve Wallace and turned these songs into realities, they still felt like precious children I wasn’t ready to let out of the house: their shirts were stained; someone might bully them.

Though I waited to release them as a full album, I feel like now I’m seasoned enough to be a strong mama.  Plus there are some new songs taking shape in my brain, so I need to make some creative space!

How many pieces do you have playing with you on the album? Your live shows always sounds so tight, how did you put your band together?

The instrumentation on the album was created by Steve Wallace, playing guitar, keys, and the rest with COMPUTER!  Gasp!  He is incredibly gifted.  We had a communication learning curve because at first, I would play the air-everything to suggest orchestrations I was hearing.  I had to learn to sing all the melodies and counter melodies if I had to have something specific.  I also learned that letting go of some control can be just as rewarding, musically!

For the album release, I have a full band playing- Mitch Marcus on keys, Jordan Scannella on bass, Jeff Litman on guitar, Kenji Tajima on drums, and Joe Brent on mandolin and violin!  Three of the players are new to me (and so talented), but I’ve often played these tunes with just Jeff on guitar and Kenji on drums, and the two of them make me so happy.  When Kenji’s playing drums, you can tell it’s with all his heart.  He taps into this place of zen and just smiles, and it’s contagious!  And Jeff really gets the music, and sings harmonies with me, which sound so good.  Actually, both Jeff and Kenji unabashedly reach into their falsettos for one tune… it’s hard not to giggle, ’cause they sound so cute! What’s most important to me is when a musician has a response to the feeling of the music. If they add something new, even better.

I know you’re an actor as well. Does it feel different to be on stage as an actor v. as a singer and musician?

Totally.  As an actor, you get the chance to merge with someone else’s work- to take someone else’s writing, and let it come alive so deeply within yourself that you need every word of it to live out the character’s truth.  But no matter how much you bring it home, you are serving as part of a larger puzzle, one which the audience may or may not see as whole.

With music, the affect of mood is more automatic.  Music has its own language that the audience doesn’t need to decipher, but the meaning will still evince itself in the feeling it gives.  This weekend I sang at the beach, and all these little toddlers were doing the best, full-body dancing ever.  No thought, just feeling.

How much does an audience affect your performance?

For acting, not so much- because usually the performance is such that your character is existing in their own world, and the only goals are in within that world. With music though, audience means a lot.  There’s no imposed fourth-wall.  Though I love playing just to play- jamming, improvising, and I always play just for that no matter where I am, having an audience and knowing that they’re listening is the best.

I know that you’ve had some really difficult times in your life. How do those difficulties inform your music, which is very life-affirming?

I would say that when you spend a long time feeling unbelievably sad, any glimmer of ‘happy’ can feel as life quenching as water.  You have to be grateful for what you have, and for what you’ve lost.  There’s a lyric in “Painted Road,” the title song for the album, that I attempt to live by: “And I’m reaching out, giving all I have to give, it’s the only way to live in all this negative space.”

Your music has a very sincere quality. When I was coming of age in the 90’s, alot of art, and liking art, was about irony. Do you think things are swinging back in the other direction, toward sincerity?

Oh Alanis and her questionable definition of “ironic!”

Don’t let the sugar coatings of my songs fool you: you’re swallowing some pain with these pills.   But they are nevertheless healing, or have been for me at least.   And my wish to share that is what’s most sincere.  I think that submerging yourself in irony signifies a fear of risk.  I struggle with that, too, but ultimately I aspire to the opposite. My song Western-PA is all about calling my own bluff.  In my song, You-Who, I say, “You can bleed all over my floor, but don’t hide your heart anymore.”  Oh man, be messy if it means some truth!

Kaylin Album release flyer

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