Lin McEwan's music has appeared previously on The Mental Nomad Podcast, and she's a shoo-in for the Maryland episode of Pod Across America. Additionally, a couple of her videos have appeared in the Mental Nomad blog: "Feel" and "Now I Know" so far.
Coming up with a title to describe her took several moments' thought. "Singer" is too bland. "Rock singer" isn't specific enough. "Goddess" would probably require a couple more albums under her belt. "Aspiring rock goddess," though, seemed to fit the bill, encompassing her powerful smoky voice -- deep in the sense of a Nina Simone, a Judy Henske, a Grace Slick -- and her skill at getting emotions across in her music videos. One imagines she's totally killer in a live setting.
She's working a second album, to be produced by former Living Colour founding member and bassist Muzz Skillings. She was gracious enough to do an e-mail interview with me over the holidays.
You list Baltimore as your hometown on Facebook, you're in an NYC network there, and you went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Have these various locations had any affect on your creative process, the mood of your music? What place do you call home? Certainly, although I'm not sure that I could put into words the way it has affected me. And much as I love New York, Baltimore will always be home.
Who are some of the major influences on your music? Too many to name. But here's a few: Etta James, Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Mavis Staples, Lauryn Hill, Portishead, Alicia Keys, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Holiday, Queen.
What was the first album you bought, and what was the first concert you attended? Strange as this may sound, I got my mom to order me a bunch of Motown albums on tape when I was little. Off one of those infomercial-style ads they used to have.
I was OBSESSED with Motown. I think my first real concert was Phish at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
What's your favorite magazine? Entertainment Weekly. I think I've had a subscription since I was 13 or something, and I'm addicted to their Web site.
You've done at least a couple of music videos, and you're quite good at expressing emotions through your body language and facial expressions. Did you take some acting training along the way, too? Well, thanks. I was a Theatre and English major in college, and although I had a playwriting concentration, I did take a few acting classes to understand the process.
If you could put together a fantasy music festival with any six acts -- whether alive or dead in the real world -- who would you pick for the lineup? Queen (with Freddie Mercury), the Beatles, Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash. I feel generic, but that's who I'd want to see. :)
Who's your favorite musical artist, and what's your favorite album of all time? Who can answer that?! Who has only one of each. Utterly impossible. I would need one per genre at least. ;)
Have you seen any great gigs by other people lately? Cold War Kids at Webster Hall.
What's the last good book you read? I'm reading three very good ones right now: Franklin and Winston by John Meacham (about FDR and Churchill), Possession by A.S. Byatt (challenging, but soooo good), and Eric Clapton's autobiography.
What's your favorite film? Again, utterly impossible. I own over 300.
Do you prefer recording in the studio or playing in concert? In concert. Hands down.
What news story has alarmed you most in recent months? Hard to pick isn't it. Let's see ... the fact that consenting adults aren't allowed to marry who they want, pretty much anything about Gitmo ... oh so many ... but I remain an optimist, and I think things are looking up.
If you were a superhero, what would be your identity and powers? What musician or celebrity would be your nemesis, and why? I would want to be a female Wolverine. Able to heal and live on. There's far too much I want to do, see, and learn to get it done in one lifetime.
Nemesis: Paris Hilton. No explanation necessary.
(Ye Olde Podcaster approves this message.)
Are there any charities you regularly support? Several. Mostly anti-genocide, pro-choice, and human rights campaigns.
What music have you found and been impressed by lately? A lot of indy artists online.
What do you do to get rid of stress? Take dance classes. Boil myself in ridiculously hot baths. Watch movies while eating monstrous portions of guacamole. Visit my sister in the Caribbean. Or just head home to Baltimore and let my mom baby me. ;)
What inspires your work? What doesn't?
If you could have a meal with any four people from history, who would be they be, and what would you serve? Come on. Is it possible to answer this without sounding completely generic and disingenuous?
Off the top of my head, Elizabeth I, Thomas Hardy, George Sand and Jesus (because, to paraphrase H.G. Wells, whether you are religious, agnostic, whatever ... you can't argue with the fact that no one has had a greater impact on history).
Chocolate or vanilla? Both.
Your cover of Noam Weinstein's "I Could Lie to You" (featured in episode 105) impressed me a lot, as did your cover of Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (see episode 114). Which, if either, is more intimidating: To sing a song written by a friend or to sing a song written by an older, iconic artist? Probably the latter because you have more people's expectations to exceed.
(And if you wanted to talk about your approach on "I Could Lie to You," feel free -- the two versions feel different to me in a way I can't quite articulate.) I actually recorded "I Could Lie to You" with the guy who had recently broken my heart, so make of that what you will.
(Ye Olde Podcaster did a dry spit-take when he got to this answer, meaning that if he'd been drinking anything, he'd have needed to clean off his monitor. That puts spending three days at a convention helping sell books for Ye Olde Podcaster's ex-girlfriend immediately after the breakup solidly in the minor leagues of pain.)
So, about that "Feel" video -- the word "steamy" was invented for it. (Anyone who says otherwise hates America.) How many takes did you have to do to, urm, avoid having it tagged Adult on YouTube? Wasn't so much about the takes as it was about the editing. There was a lot of footage incinerated after the final cut. ;)
What can we expect on the album that's coming in 2009? Does Muzz Skillings pick up the bass at some point, or did he strictly stick to producing? Well, we're just about to start recording. Be expecting an album of almost all of my own material (along with co-writer Mike Pettry) and deeper grooves. Not sure if Muzz will be playing or not.
What's the most adventurous food you've ever eaten? I'm far too much of a wimp to have a good answer for that. ;)
Finally: Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert? Jon Stewart. The man's sexy.
Lin McEwan's music may be purchased from her Web site, at Amazon or through iTunes. You can also find her at MySpace and on Facebook.
Lin McEwan - Lin McEwan
Lin McEwan - Now I Know EP