With three solo albums to her credit, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lera Lynn is returning with a new release that more than speaks to the power of collaboration. She's collaborated before on songwriting with T-Bone Burnett and Rosanne Cash, and on her new album, Plays Well With Others, Lynn has taken the collaboration to the nth degree. On Plays Well, Lynn, who had an incredible career-altering moment in HBO's True Detective, teams up with eight different duet partners and seven co-writers on this stunning new collection of duets.
Almost every song on the new album is completely co-written and co-sung. Peter Bradley Adams, John Paul White, Dylan LeBlanc, Andrew Combs, Rodney Crowell, Shovels & Rope, JD McPherson, and Nicole Atkins all make appearances, and worked alongside Lynn to perform and create the songs.
"Songwriting can be such a personal process; in the past I have tended to do it alone," Lynn said of creating the album in a press release. "With this record, I wanted to get outside of my own writing corner."
Lynn recorded Plays Well With Others at John Paul White's studio, Sun Drop Sound, in Florence, Ala. There — with Lynn, White, and the Alabama Shakes' Ben Tanner all serving as co-producers — she tracked nine songs in a series of live takes.
"Most of the people on the record I met while touring and sharing a bill with," Lynn writes to WXPN in an email. "Each of them I find incredibly inspiring and have longed to work with them in some capacity on many occasions. Finally the idea just struck me one day; I should write a bunch of duets with these amazing artists I know. I knew it'd be a challenge, if not for the scheduling alone, as they are all hard-working, but I wanted to write music that was fun and low-pressure, and that pulled me out of my own writing corner a little."
The songs all address matters of the heart, from "love to lust to loss."
Lynn sings two duets with John Paul White, who began his career as one-half of the Civil Wars, on the album. One is the classic country ballad "Almost Persuaded," which they heard from Conway Twitty and others, and "Lose Myself," an original song.
"John and I wrote 'Lose Myself' in Rick Hall's (who passed away earlier this year) office at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals," Lynn explains. "We'd toured together and I told him about this duets record concept and he agreed to write one with me. I think I had the line 'lose myself in you' or 'I don't wanna lose myself in you' when we met up. We discussed some ideas around that lyric; the fear of enmeshment, trying to avoid an unhealthy situation, losing your identity and independence to a relationship. I guess we wrote it in about a hour. John started playing guitar, we started singing together and the whole thing just kind of 'happened' to us. We wrote a second song the next day, too, which had me in tears in the office and still gets me every time."
Pensive and brooding, Lynn and White beautifully wrap their voices around each other with sadness and resignation, trading verses and exchanging lines, and coming together in beguiling harmony.
Plays Well With Others will be released June 22 on Single Lock Records. World Cafe, WMOT and VuHaus will webcast a special album release performance on June 22 from 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville featuring Lera Lynn, John Paul White, Rodney Crowell, Peter Bradley Adams, Nicole Atkins, Andrew Combs and Dylan LeBlanc.