Bluegrass chanteuse Claire Lynch is at the top of her game. She owns a trio of trophies as bluegrass music’s top female vocalist, has received two Grammy nominations, and is a recipient of the prestigious United States Artists Walker Fellowship.
Last year, Lynch won Song of the Year for “Dear Sister,” the Civil War-era epistle she composed with North Carolina resident Louisa Branscomb, and Recorded Event of the Year for her contribution to the Special Consensus CD, “Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver.”
So it came as a shock to her fans when Lynch announced recently that she will leave the road at the end of 2016.
Success exacts a price, and Lynch has been running hard. She’s logged some 200 days on the road this year, traveling to bluegrass festivals and club dates like the one that brings her and her distinguished band to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro Sunday to sing selections from her “Holiday” CD and other recordings.
In a phone call from Toronto, where she was spending time with her husband, a Canadian citizen, Lynch spoke about her career, her decision to retire her band, and her future.
Q: Why did you decide to step away from touring the Claire Lynch Band?
A: Mainly, because I need some time to catch up. I can’t seem to keep up with the workload. And I married this man who would like to see me more. And I’d like to see him more. 2016 promises to be a very busy year. I need to stop the world and let me get off for a few months.
Q: You’re a very creative and productive artist. What kinds of projects will you pursue that aren’t possible with your current touring schedule?
A: I have a number of prospects I want to pursue besides running my own band. It would include some arts and education and some more writing and collaborations with other people. And whatever special projects come up. I’ve been asked to do some teaching at music camps this year, and have postponed it until 2016. I have a special website I want to create and launch – all those kinds of things you can’t do when you’re on the road.
Q: Is your husband free to travel with you?
A: A little bit. We’re both still citizens of separate countries, so we can’t just come and go as we please.
Q: Your career has been a long, steady climb from small festivals and clubs near your home in Huntsville, Ala., in the 1970s to the top tier of bluegrass acts. What gives you greatest satisfaction?
A: Since the release of “Dear Sister” I started getting a lot more recognition. People say, “Oh, I’ve heard of you.” That’s really nice. I guess that’s really what we’re trying to do – get people out there to hear our music.
Q: Even before “Dear Sister” you contributed to recordings by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, who praise you as among the finest vocalists working today.
A: Beautiful. Wonderful words from those ladies. And unexpected, really. It’s been wonderful for the resume. I think what’s happening is that the band is just so good. It’s gratifying to see the audience so entertained. That’s gratification for me.
Q: How is bluegrass different now from when you started in the 1970s?
A: It seems that back then we were just part of a folk movement. It was somewhat novel for a lot of people. Now, there are bluegrass artists who are acting more like other artists in not just preserving the tradition, but creating and evolving. They’re creating their own brand rather than just the bluegrass brand. I think there’s more artistry now.
Q: I understand you are working on another album for Compass Records.
A: Yes, I am. (My husband) has educated me to the music scene in Ontario and beyond. There are a lot of artists I’ve heard of for many years, but didn’t know they were Canadian. I’ve been researching the songwriting community up here, and thought it would make a nice collection and a nice story for the press to come up with tunes that were written by Canadians.
Who: Claire Lynch Band
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: The ArtsCenter, Carrboro
Cost: $22; $25 day of show