Stephen Lynch Explains Why Music Came First
By Cherie Yurco
In 2012 Stephen Lynch launched his fifth album, Lion, and a tour that’s brought him across the US and all around the UK, where he wound up 2013. Lion is acoustic guitar, catchy duets, and hilariously clever, but sometimes slightly off-color, lyrics. Here he explains how his zany music and humor took shape.
Q How did you begin to combine the music and comedy?
Like any teenage suburban male of my generation I grew up listening to Weird Al and Monty Python. I did a lot of musical theater when I was a kid and I’ve always been a fan of the combination of music and comedy. When I saw Spinal Tap it was the first time I’d seen comedy combined with real rock and roll, which I thought was a real revelation. That’s when I decided to give it a shot myself. I picked up one of the guitars my dad had. I was probably 15 or 16. It was trial and error. I listen back to it now and I think it’s awful. Thank God I continued to improve because I thought I was genius back then. Like anything else, you learn through hours and hours of practice. I mean practicing on the stage. Once you get in front of people that’s when the work begins.
Q Do you recall your first
It was a cabaret basement theater in midtown Manhattan called the West Bank Café. A friend of mine ran the place and was putting together a night of music and he called me up and said, “I remember you used to write these songs that were funny …” I just sort of got up there and didn’t know what to say or where to look. I was just like a deer in the headlights. It was so frightening. I sang the songs and they got great responses, but I didn’t open my mouth between songs. I was just sort of moving from one to another. It took a while for me to sort of break out of that.
Q You’ve mentioned a couple comic influences; who are some of your influences on the music side?
I like people who write good songs—Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. Those are people I grew up listening to. I still listen to that type of singer-songwriter—people like Patty Griffin and Ryan Adams, stuff that really inspires me.
Q Do you have any advice for musicians who might want to add comedy to their shows?
Just try it. Everyone can be funny when they are hanging out with friends. But if you try it where you perform, at a local coffee shop or wherever your band plays, and people who don’t know you are laughing, you’ve got something.