We’ve been fans of Lera Lynn’s intoxicating blend of folk, country, blues and jazz ever since we met her four years ago at MerleFest, where she took top honors in the Chris Austin Songwriting Festival for her tune “Bobby, Baby.” Since then, Lynn has moved to Nashville from Athens, Georgia, and released The Avenues, her sophomore record that cropped up on our Best Albums of 2014 list.
Lynn scored a big break recently when T Bone Burnett asked her to help compose and record the theme song for Season 2 of True Detective, which premiered last night on HBO. We caught up with Lynn and talked about the tune, “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For,” which she co-wrote with Burnett and Rosanne Cash.
Purchase the single on iTunes here.
When were you approached about writing something for True Detective?
It all started around October of last year, actually. It’s been a little while in the works, as those things often are, but my manager had worked with T Bone [Burnett] on the Raising Sand record, the Robert Plant, Alison Krauss record. And they stayed in touch, and she thought that we would hit it off creatively so she shared my music with him.
And when we met for the first time in Nashville, he was actually interested in using a song on an EP that I released last year called Lying In The Sun, and the song is also called “Lying In The Sun.” He thought it would fit well with the show, and we decided we’d try writing some songs together. He flew me to L.A. and we actually wrote several songs in one day. And we just actually kept going along that line.
Had you done much co-writing previously?
I typically write alone. But it was a really fun thing to explore. It was … a very natural collaboration.
Were you intimidated at all, going in there and co-writing blindly with someone of his stature?
Oh my God, of course. I remember he had a couple of ideas and gave me a little bit of direction and I went to my hotel room and worked on some things and then came back the next day, and I just remember sitting in the room alone with him and he said, “Well, alright, let’s hear what you’ve got,” and I was just like, “You know what? I’m really nervous.” I felt like a schoolgirl or something. But that went away quickly. He’s really easygoing, and loved everything, and was thrilled about the ideas, and like I said, it was a very natural collaboration.
Had you been sent the script prior to that, or had you seen episodes or rough cuts?
No, I hadn’t read any of the scripts, and I hadn’t seen any of it. It was all just information that T-Bone had, that he was feeding me little bits and pieces of.
Was he feeding you storylines, or was it more of a vibey thing he was giving off?
It was both.
Had you seen Season 1 (of True Detective)?
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
So you were a fan?
Oh yeah. As soon as I started watching it, I binge watched it. I think I watched a few of the episodes multiple times, too – the writing’s just so good, you know?
Did you go out to T-Bone’s studio in LA?
Yeah. T Bone works very quickly. I think he likes to capture the spontaneity, the freshness of the inspiration you get when you just write a song, and there’s kind of that sweet spot when you’ve just written it and you’re still learning it and you record it at the same time, before you know the song really well. It was really an interesting situation to be in, to have T-Bone on the other side of the board in the control room and I’m just sitting there with the guitar and mic and tracking it live and not really knowing if he’s going to like it. But he just would come in and say “Yeah, sounds great!” [laughs]
When HBO released the trailer that there was a pretty big reaction to the song on Twitter. Were you surprised how much attention it received just from that little trailer spot?
Yeah, I certainly was, yeah. It was an exciting day.
Prior to this, had you ever written a song that was inspired by a movie or a TV show or even a book?
Most of the writing that I’d done up until recently has been from personal experience. Of course, you find tidbits of things in books and other people’s stories and ideas that I think make their way into songs, but no, aside from the occasional co-write, I’d never really written for a purpose other than playing the music myself, from my own identity, if that makes any sense.
I guess you’re anticipating that this’ll become your signature song for a while?
I don’t know that I really have any expectations. I’m sure people will request it and I’m sure that there’ll be other songs too.
Do you have any trepidation about that, being known for one song more than another?
I think in this day and age if you can be known for anything in music, then good for you.