To play in Nashua

An NPR Tiny Desk Concert winner, Gaelynn Lea does more than ‘linger in the sun’

NH Weekend Editor
November 15. 2017 12:58PM

As 2016 winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, Duluth, Minn., singer and violinist Gaelynn Lea performs at NPR Music’s Bob Boilen’s desk. 

NASHUA — Gaelynn Lea’s video submission was picked from thousands of others last year in NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest, so named because the winning unsigned artist gets to perform on air at a small desk in the NPR’s offices in Washington, D.C.

Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, Gaelynn Lea is a classically trained instrumentalist and singer who plays the violin in an unusual upright position, rather than horizontally on the shoulder and tucked under the chin.

She often has used a loop pedal for layering, while mixing a poetic lyricism with Celtic and American fiddle traditions in songs including the original “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun,” her audition song for the NPR contest.

“The haunting violin strains and melody of Gaelynn Lea’s song ... stood out as our judges viewed the roughly 6,100 video submissions,” NPR said in unveiling last year’s winner.

The Minnesota musician will visit New Hampshire for an 8 p.m. show Friday at the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar, 35 Railroad Square, before doing scheduled performances next year across the country, plus a handful in the United Kingdom.

“I had never toured before I won the Tiny Desk Contest so a lot has changed,” she said of the past year. “Now that we do it for a living, my husband (Paul) and I are working as a team, which is a new and fun experience. We left our jobs and set out together on this new adventure. We sold our house and have a small studio apartment in Duluth, Minn., to return to when we’re in town.”

On her latest song, “Bound by a Thread,” she teams up with musicians Al Church, Dave Mehling, Martin Dosh, Andrew Foreman and Alan Sparhawk.

The song is a preview of an album she hopes to release next year. This past July, she established a GoFundMe page for the project. In the past four months, $22,846 of a $35,000 goal has been pledged as of Wednesday, according to the site.

Since appearing at NPR, “life has been a busy but delightful whirlwind,” Gaelynn Lea said on her GoFundMe page. “This fall my husband Paul and I ... started touring full-time in our 2002 Ford Econoline. I have performed (more than) 150 shows since October 2016.”

“I’ve played in a wide variety of venues, from coffee shops to the House of Blues (and) from elementary schools to the Kennedy Center,” said Gaeylnn Lea, who uses her voice to advocate for people for disabilities.

She told NH Weekend that she’s been to 39 states thus far on her travels.

“Highlights have been playing in the Pigface 25th Anniversary Show at House of Blues Chicago — the band is so nice!; playing in SXSW with my guitarist Al Church (In Austin, Texas); seeing the entire state of California; and playing in the Green Man Festival in Wales this past summer with my keyboardist, Dave Mehling,” she said.

For tickets to Gaelyn Lea’s Nashua show, call 578-0200 or visit Cost is $12-$15.

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