When Gaelynn Lea won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, her two decades as a hardworking and talented musician finally crystallized in a beautiful moment of national recognition. It was also just the beginning of a grand adventure. With the wind of her award at their backs, Gaelynn and her husband Paul sold their house in Northern Minnesota, quit their jobs, bought a van, and hit the road.
Since then, Gaelynn has played over 250 shows in 42 states and seven countries, adding nearly 100,000 miles to their Ford Econoline’s odometer. The singer-songwriter and violinist has performed everywhere from coffee shops, bars, schools and festivals; she’s graced the stage of renowned venues like Nashville’s Music City Roots, The Kennedy Center, House of Blues and even BBC World News. This summer she was featured at arts festivals in Iceland and Switzerland, as well as Winnipeg Folk Fest in July and Travelers' Rest Fest (curated by The Decemberists) in August.
Yet somehow between this perpetual blitz of performances, Gaelynn also recorded her third full-length album set for release in September. Until this point Gaelynn Lea has presented most of her songs using only a few tools: a violin, a voice, and a looping pedal. But for her latest, Gaelynn Lea enlisted the help of some musical friends to bring her new album to life. Several of Minnesota’s heavy-hitters—including Al Church, Dave Mehling, Marty Dosh, Andrew Foreman and Alan Sparhawk—lent their creative influence and musicality to this recording. The result is a powerfully emotive effort of confidence and purpose which captures the poignancy and presence of Gaelynn Lea’s crafted repertoire.
Her forthcoming album, Learning How To Stay, is an 11-song collection that runs the gamut sonically from pensive and luscious to aggressive and intentioned, from folk to decidedly pop, and even includes a couple of traditional fiddle tunes. Undoubtedly the connecting thread of this album is Gaelynn Lea herself. With her singular voice and deeply-affecting violin, she guides the listener through a journey that explores the contrasting nature of existence: dark and light, birth and death, anger and forgiveness, sorrow and joy. Learning How to Stay encourages the listener to stay present for it all.
In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn Lea loves to do speaking engagements about disability awareness, inclusion in the arts, and leading an enriching life. Gaelynn has a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones Disease) and she is a strong voice in the disability community. Gaelynn Lea believes society must prioritize accessibility so people with disabilities can participate in their communities and use their gifts without barriers or discrimination.
Gaelynn Lea Music
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Gaelynn Lea’s tracks