Another Cup of
Coffee with Super
Fan Randi Lynn

Another Cup Of Coffee is a monthly feature in which I talk to a different person from the Memphis music community. The idea is to, over time, see how all the pieces fit to make something really special. In 2011, I talked to artists past and present, producers, music business experts, sound guys, festival entrepreneurs, and everything in between.

But I wanted to kick off 2012 with one of the most important members of any music community: the fan.

If you’ve ever gone to a quiet Sunday show at the Hi-Tone, or the Blue Monkey on a Tuesday, or spent any time “out” in Memphis, you’ve seen Randi Lynn. When I met her in 2005, I went out to shows several nights a week. I saw her literally everywhere I went. At that time, I assumed that going to concerts was somehow her job. Turns out she’s just that passionate about the music she loves.

This interview won’t plug anyone’s record or event (though Randi does make really good cakes). It’s just an artist talking to a fan about the different ways we share, and love, music. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as I did.

Another Cup of Coffee with Randi Lynn!

Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?

I’ve lived in Memphis since I was four years old. With one exception: for a time, my soul journeyed to Austin.

How would you compare the two cities, musically?

I don’t necessarily prefer the music in Austin, but I prefer the music scene there. I don’t think there’s more talent, but there are more venues, better-behaved crowds. There’s a larger singles scene in Austin, I think, and those are typically the people who go out to shows.

Did you go to college at Memphis?

I went to both UT’s. Tennessee and Texas. I graduated with a degree from Memphis, eventually. So I consider myself a Memphis fan. But I’ll hook ‘em horns. If I have to.

Do you have to? Ever?

Oh yeah.

What’s your degree in?

Music business. Around that time, the Folk Alliance came to Memphis, and I worked there. Cindy Cogbill and I moved the boxes in together. The focus for me was always “how are we helping artists?” I felt that if an artist was putting their money into something, they should be getting something in return. I think that about pretty much everything.

I’ve called you a superfan. What would you call yourself?

I’m not a music fan. I’m a music lover. And as we all know, there’s a thin line between love and hate.

Why not “fan”? Does it have a negative connotation to you?

No, it doesn’t have a bad connotation. To me, it’s like the difference between people eating and the people who love to eat.

Wait, let’s unpack this. You said there’s a thin line between love and hate. Are there artists that you hate now that you used to love, and vice versa?

No, that rarely happens. I think I have an issue with the word “fan” because there are fans who don’t act like fans.

What does that look like?

I’m talking about the fans who say they want to go see an artist, then show up at the show, and not listen to a single song, talk to their friends, and get rowdy all night. That’s not being a fan. I like to think that people mean well, but they don’t know that that’s not being a good fan. I don’t think we teach children at a young age how to appreciate music or actively participate in music.

Actively participate? Air guitar?

Well, I have no problem with people dancing along, singing along, cheering the band. It’s the people who go to concerts as a time to socialize–that’s frustrating.

Ideally, there’s an exchange between the artist and the audience.

Yeah, it goes both ways. Because a lot of musicians will get onstage and start “musical masturbation.” They only please themselves and then act confused when everyone didn’t love them.

You mean like a 20-minute guitar solo?

Similar. Privately, music can be therapeutic and personal–I believe in all that. But when you’re in front of an audience, you should play to your audience. Performers are still there to perform. And it’s the audience’s role to be polite and receptive.

But music is a social activity. Where do you draw the line?

It should be a social thing. Back in the day, dancing was the conversation. It was a social activity, it was a conversation between two people, and that’s how the audience interacted with the music. And, in turn, bands played songs people could dance to.

That’s really interesting. The issue of audience respect comes up a lot. I just played a show in New York where there was a ruckus in the crowd. Two folks were talking loudly and the rest of the crowd told them to be quiet or leave. This happens a lot. For me, it’s wonderful when the crowd is quiet and respectful, but I don’t feel entitled to it. I feel it’s something I have to earn. I don’t get upset when people are socializing. I’m kind of surprised when they aren’t, honestly.

Yeah, you shouldn’t demand silence during their performance. People can react in different ways. And I’ve certainly been known to carry on a conversation or two at a show. It’s just about being polite to the musician and the crowd around you.

When did you work at Folk Alliance?

I’m not great with years, but I want to say around 2005-2007.

Okay, the reason I ask is that I met you in 2005, and at that time, it seemed like every time I went out, you were there. It seemed like going to shows was your job. I suspected there were three of you. You were everywhere.

I think i just had a lot of energy back then. And a lot of tolerance, that’s for sure.

Tolerance for…?

Tolerance for the whole music scene, I guess you could say. I stayed busy.

I’d see you at the Blue Monkey every Tuesday. Rusty Lemmon.

Yeah, I had a bit of a weekly schedule.

Who else would you go see?

This Is Goodbye. Quite a few of those. Lord T & Eloise, for sure. They had a show about once every few months. I designed some of their early costumes, which was really fun. Plenty of Free Sol shows.

Have you followed Free Sol since? They’re doing well.

I think I’ll always be a Free Sol fan. They’re amazing people, great artists. They have an enormous amount of patience. They’ve been signed for a long time. It’s been at least five years. That’s an important lesson for artists: just because you’re signed doesn’t mean the next day you’ve got it made.

Yeah, I’ve learned that lesson through some friends in the past. Getting signed isn’t the thing. Getting signed into the right situation is the thing.

I think of Todd Snider. A long time ago, he got signed, and the label told him, “we’re going to take care of you, it’ll be great! But you can’t play any shows while we’re getting you set up.” And he said, “Okay, but in the meantime, what about food? And rent?” And since the label wasn’t taking care of it, he asked if he could just join another band in the meantime, which they let him do. There are ways around it.

Beyond “superfan,” what other terms might stick? “Scenester”? Hipster? Are any of these accurate?

Isn’t “hipster” kind of a new term? Were there hipsters back in the day?

Sure. Ginsberg says “hipster” in Howl. Seinfeld calls Kramer a “hipster doofus.” But I think it’s an evolving term.

I wouldn’t have called myself any of those things. I wasn’t a scenester or hipster. I was a friend.

Band-Aid? Groupie? Do you bristle at those?

I don’t have any problem with those terms necessarily. The problem I have–this keeps me up at night, no lie–I want to ask Heart if they had groupies. Did they have psycho male groupies?

Oh, sure. I know guys who are kind of Amy LaVere groupies. They wouldn’t call themselves that, but they are.

I was just about to say that!

Have any songs been written about you? That you know of?

No! I would like to think that no songs have been written about me. With the exception of one that I helped inspire. I have some friends–non-Memphians–who play a songwriter game. They take a word or phrase and everybody has to write a song around it. I was talking to one of them, and I said, “you should come visit me.” And he said, “I would come visit you anywhere but Memphis.” And so they all wrote a bunch of songs called “Anywhere But Memphis.”

Why didn’t he want to visit you in Memphis?

That’s another issue. Memphis isn’t too receptive to out-of-town musicians. It can also be quite scary. If you’ve never been to Memphis, and you stroll in at 9PM, and the first place you see is the Hi-Tone, or the P&H, or the cheapest hotel is the Motel 6 off Union…

Wait–a grown man was scared of the Hi-Tone? Really?

It’s scary if you’ve never been!

Calling BS. For a grown man and a touring musician? Really? What debutante balls are these guys used to playing?

I have no idea! I can’t speak for anyone. I really don’t know. But–and I guess this is a different issue–I have friends from out-of-town who sell out venues at home, then come to Memphis and play to two people, and one of them’s the bartender.

But every touring artist has played those shows. That’s just what happens when you’re playing a city for the first time.

It happens. But the outside perception is of Memphis as a music town, so sometimes people are caught off-guard by that.

That’s something I love about Memphis crowds, though. They’re not easily impressed, but if they like you, they’re much more vocal, and more active, than some other cities. Folks will holler at you across Kroger to say they liked your set last week.

That’s true. It’s a big small town, for sure.

Who else are you listening to right now?

Rachael Yamagata. Ray LaMontagne. Over the Rhine. I have a lot of friends who told me to listen to them, so I didn’t want to.

Can you explain that? 

I would just tease them. “Really? Are they really that good?” But yeah, I’m a fan. But I like listening to someone that I know.

This is something that I worry about as an artist–the friend vs fan thing. I struggle with that. If someone says hello at the store and I have earbuds in and don’t hear them, do they think I’m a jerk now? And they don’t like my music anymore? It’s hard to be yourself when you’re worried about the way someone relates to you, instead of your music.

That’s exactly why I will never meet Amy Grant. Since I was a little girl, she made me fall in love with music. She’s by no means the greatest artist, but she was my first love. And I refuse to go to Amy Grant shows to this day. I just won’t let that image, that first love, be tarnished.

Have you ever stopped being a fan of an artist because of a personal issue with them?

There are definitely artists that I think are really talented, but I know something bad about them, and it turns me off. But keep in mind: I don’t mean “rude at the grocery store.” I mean horrible, hurtful behavior. Down and dirty stuff.

I hear you. I guess have a hard time understanding it.

If it’s any consolation, there’s really only one or two of those that I can think of. It’s rare.

What’s your favorite bar in Memphis? Most frequented bar?

(Thinking for a long time…)

How do you not have an answer to this? You’re out all the time!

You know what? My friend Craig works at Bosco’s. I’ll say Bosco’s.

You have one meal left in Memphis. Where do you go?

Right now, I’m really craving Tsunami.

Memphis is…?


Someone’s making a Memphis music playlist. You get to add one song to the mix. What’s your pick?

Chris Milam, of course! “Never In Love.” I love that one.

[Note: I promise I didn’t pay her very much to say that.]

Thanks! Who are some other favorite Memphis artists? Then? Now?

There are a ton. There are a few artists in town that, unfortunately, aren’t writing new songs, but are making a wonderful living singing cover songs. But they’re really good at it. I will forever be a Kevin Page fan. I’ll trek down to Alfred’s to dance to some pop music. He’s an earlier singer/songwriter from Memphis. When Memphis music first started coming back around, I’d say.

“When Memphis music started coming back around.” When would that be?

I think that we have our little revivals, cycles. For him, it was like the early 1990’s.

Has their been another revival since?

Yeah. I think the music commission pushing hard in the last several years, Folk Alliance arriving, Free Sol getting some national attention…

Lucero, Amy LaVere, Magic Kids

Right, right.

Do you think talent’s on an upswing? Or just recognition?

No, I think talent here is constant. I don’t even think the artists from the 50’s or 60’s were necessarily more talented than they are now. I think, today, it has to do with luck and opportunity more than talent and hard work. As talented as the Stax artists were, I look at how hard they worked. Talented artists today seem to rely more on that talent and think they don’t have to work hard.

But I can see it from their perspective. It could be exhausting. It’d be hard to get motivated to work hard and create every day when there’s nothing tangible coming in return. There’s no instant gratification.

Sometimes I prefer that, though, to be honest. I love the moment when I finish a song, and I’m proud of it, but I haven’t played it for anyone yet. And just for a minute, it’s mine.

Is that musical masturbation?

Ha, maybe. Thanks very much, Randi. This was fun.

Thank you!

[Note: To read all the past Another Cups of Coffee, click here. To visit my blog, click here. And to listen to our Another Cup Memphis playlist, click the links below:

The Another Cup playlist so far:

1. “Loose Diamond,” Jack-O & the Tennesssee Tearjerkers (Jeremy Stanfill’s pick)

2. “Happy” by Snowglobe (Cindy Cogbill’s pick)

3. “My Shadow,” by Jay Reatard (Cameron Mann’s pick)

4. “As Long,” by Reigning Sound (Will Odom’s pick)

5. To Be Determined Song off Andy Grooms’ solo record (Cory Branan’s pick)

6. “Even If It Takes a Lifetime,” Susan Marshall (Jeff Powell’s pick)

7. “You Mean Everything To Me,” Sweet Pearl (Cities Aviv’s pick)

8. “On Your Own,“ Star & Micey (Jody Stephens’ pick)

9. “Never In Love,” Chris Milam (Randi Lynn’s pick)

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