words: Jordan Gorsuch
Mary Lynn reigns from Columbus, Ohio and have come through with a stunning collection of pop-rock tunes filled with emotional empathy. After her previous band dissolved, Mary Lynn started to piece together an album for herself; the result is My Animal, a disarmingly honest collection of songs that feel immensely personal and universal in their scope. Vibrant flickers of piano overlay fuzzed-out guitar leads and durable drumming as Mary Lynn spins ear-worm hooks and melodies with bravado. It is an impressive debut, and I was excited to get to chat with Mary Lynn about the background of My Animal and her motivation for creating music.
The Grey Estates: Would you mind delving a bit into the creative process? It seems to me that you and your bandmate, Joe, are the primary songwriters for Mary Lynn, but how is it trying to transfer your ideas to the rest of the band and make them full rock songs? Also, when/how did this band find its origin?
Usually my songs start with a little spark of a feeling or idea that pops up in my head. Sometimes it comes at really random times, like while I'm driving, and I'll sing a melody into the 'memos' app on my phone until I have time to find an instrument. Once I have some time to work on the song myself(sometimes I'll write a song in one sitting, sometimes it takes months or years for me to really finish it), I'll usually bring it to the band to flesh it out with a few ideas of what I want their parts to be, and we finish it together. With this album, a couple of the songs Joe and I got to write together, which were pretty much awesome accidents. In both cases, he was playing something cool on guitar or piano and I happened to overhear. I had some lyric ideas that matched the vibe and so we put them together. I actually started writing songs before I really had a band, and played my first solo show in 2009. When I was recording my first album and adding tons of instruments and layers, I ended up developing a full band after that.
The album features a lot of self-reflection, some good, mostly leaning toward the negative; although the negative feelings typically seem to find some sort of resolution. Was following a more introspective and personal subject matter important to you? Or, is that just a natural lyrical muse for you?
I've always written for myself as a sort of therapy. Before I even showed any songs to anyone, I was writing & recording demos for years just because it was how I expressed myself and worked through my feelings. I definitely write from my heart, because that's really all I know how to do. It has always been important to me to come off as a real human being, because that's what I am, and I don't think I could be anything else if I did try.
“The Same” especially seems to feature a lot of self-criticism, particularly in regards to another person. I think a lot of people can relate to the feeling of inadequacy when compared to someone idealistic – is it motivating for you to try and share your experiences with people across the world?
With "The Same" I really wanted to express the feeling of loving someone who doesn't love you back. It's a really specific feeling, but sometimes it's hard to admit it when it's happening to you, and so I wanted to be blunt and forward about it. It's motivating for me to try to get that specific feeling into musical form - so that other people experiencing it can click with it and maybe feel like we're in it together. That's something I love about music in general. If I write a song and it helps me out, it's really cool to share it and think it might help someone else, in whatever way they hear it.
Building on that, I found “Funeral” to be very relatable. I believe you’re using burial imagery to illustrate how people in your life can disappear even if they’re still alive. People let you down, and time pulls us apart, so they might as well be dead, right? What particularly inspired you for this song? (I especially love the imagery of someone being stuck in their own world and looking down to see how much you have grown).
I'll spare the specific details in hopes that the listeners can take it in their own way. But I will say it is not necessarily about being let down, but more about how sometimes people become someone else and it leaves you hanging onto who they used to be, wondering if you mean anything to each other afterwards.
“The Break” sounds like it’s suited to be played at an arena; it possesses a massive sound that is different from the rest of the album. How did this track come about? The guitars in particular soar like a classic rock song.
Thanks! I wrote the verses first, which are a little more quiet and delicate, and the chorus came later. The nature of the lyrics is a pretty heavy subject, and as soon as we started playing it full band the music just followed. It's a sad song but the rock and roll keeps it powerful - and I really like that. The guitar solo in the bridge is one of my favorite parts of the record - and every single time I hear it makes my heart turn over itself.
“When you tell me those mean things, oh it really brings me down. I got enough mean things in my head to go around…” was a line that really jumped out to me. “Tough Skin” in general really sounds empowering but it features that moment that stands in contrast with the chorus of “I’ll be alright.” How did that line come about?
I was at a point in my life where I had allowed myself to be really vulnerable to criticism, from others and from my own self, and I realized that I was the one letting it break me down. 'Tough Skin' is about wanting to be stronger emotionally and learning that you're gonna be okay no matter what anybody says, even yourself. Sometimes you have to be the one to remind yourself that everything is going to be okay - and you have to believe it, too.
Ultimately, what is the general message you’d want a listener to leave with after listening to this album?
I hope the album moves people in some way. Whether they connect to the lyrics, or smile or dance, or headbang, or cry. To me, it's about going through something tough and learning that you're strong enough to get through it. It's about being a human being and getting through life by following you heart.