Gaelynn Lea: Duluth Treasure to National Treasure

“I am a violinist turned songwriter from Duluth Minnesota.” — Gaelynn Lea

This afternoon I was on the receiving end of a press release about Gaelynn Lea’s upcoming album release show at Sacred Heart. Rather than re-write it in my own words, I’ve decided to post it as is, with a few comments as preface.

I have a number of special moments or memories that come to mind when I think of Gaelynn. The first time I heard her perform was at the Tweed Museum of Art, the occasion being (if I remember incorrectly you will forgive me) her senior recital. Whatever the occasion was, her violin playing was pretty phenomenal.

Over the years our paths have crossed numerous times through our affiliation with the Duluth music scene. Twice I performed in Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concerts in which she also was also a performer. Her rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All the Tired Horses” at one of these Sacred Heart concerts may have successfully realized Dylan’s vision for the potential of a tune some had considered a throwaway.

Gaelynn has performed a number of times at Beaners and sometimes just hung out there I believe. One of my special memories was the day she got engaged. We were at Beaners and she was showing me her engagement ring, wearing the smile that has melted so many hearts.

She’s known hardship and fought through in such a remarkable way that she is an inspiration to everyone who knows her. Here’s the press announcement regarding her upcoming concert.

PRESS ALERT: Gaelynn Lea’s Duluth Album Release Show

When Gaelynn Lea won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, her two decades as a hardworking and talented Duluth musician finally crystallized in a beautiful moment of national recognition. It was also just the beginning of a grand adventure. With the wind of her award at their backs, Gaelynn and her husband Paul sold their house, quit their jobs, bought a van, and hit the road.

Since then, Gaelynn has played over 425 shows in 42 states and seven countries, adding nearly 100,000 miles to their Ford Econoline’s odometer. The singer-songwriter and violinist has graced the stage of renowned venues like Nashville’s Music City Roots, The Kennedy Center, House of Blues and even BBC World News. This June she was featured at arts festivals in both Iceland and Switzerland, and then went on to play Winnipeg Folk Fest in July, Travelers Rest Festival in August and Halifax Pop Explosion in October. Yet somehow between this perpetual blitz of performances, Gaelynn also managed to release her third full-length album this Fall.

Until this point Gaelynn Lea has presented most of her songs using only a few tools: a violin, a voice, and a looping pedal. But for her latest, Gaelynn Lea enlisted the help of some musical friends to bring her new album to life. “With album credits to the likes of NPR’s Bob Boilen, Low’s Alan Sparhawk, HALEY and DOSH (to name just a few), Gaelynn Lea has assembled a crack team of spirit guides for her step into the world of rock on her surprisingly rhythmic new record.” (Mike Novitski, former host of Duluth Local Show on The Current) Learning How To Stay is an 11-song collection that runs the gamut sonically from pensive and luscious to aggressive and intentioned, from folk to decidedly pop, and even includes a couple of traditional fiddle tunes.

“This album is Gaelynn Lea in the spotlight. Assembling a near perfect backing band that highlights and never overshadows; it’s Gaelynn’s tremendous skill as a songwriter that’s on full display.” (Walt Dizzo, KUWS Music Director) With her singular voice and deeply-affecting violin, she guides the listener through a journey that explores the contrasting nature of existence: dark and light, birth and death, anger and forgiveness, sorrow and joy. Learning How to Stay encourages the listener to stay present for it all.

Gaelynn is returning to the Northland for a hometown show at Sacred Heart Music Center on Saturday, November 17th. For this special album release concert she will be backed by her full band; they will be doing a live performance of Learning How to Stay from start to finish. Doors open at 7pm and music will begin at 7:30pm. Special guests Ingeborg Von Agassiz and Jerree Small will open this all-ages show.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. This venue is wheelchair accessible; please email at least 24 hours in advance if accommodations are required and we will do our best to meet your needs.

In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn also loves to do public speaking engagements about disability awareness, accessibility in the arts, and living an enriching life. She has a congenital disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease. Gaelynn is a strong voice in the disability community; she uses her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change.

Gaelynn Lea (+ Full Band!)

Duluth Album Release Show
Special Guests Ingeborg Von Agassiz and Jerree Small
November 17th, 2018
Show at 7:30pm, Doors at 7:00pm
Venue is Wheelchair Accessible
All Ages Show Tickets: $12 adv / $15 doors Ticket Link: Facebook Event:


Gaelynn Lea Official Website

Social Media

2018 “Lost in the Woods” Music Video
2017 Paste Music Session
2016 NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
Great Big Story’s Funk Plus One
POPSUGAR Interview

Album Reviews:
Strings Magazine: Gaelynn Lea’s Learning How To Stay
Another Album Review
No Depression: Learning How To Stay Album Review
Louder Than War: Gaelynn Lea Releases Brilliant New Album
The Current: First Listen
Duluth News Tribune

Originally published at on October 15, 2018.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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