Lennon Bone. Photo by Anna Selle
Lennon Bone is a songwriter, musician, producer and engineer who has toured the U.S. and Europe as drummer for the band Ha Ha Tonka as well as performing at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and SXSW, to name a few. Needless to say, Bone's a multifaceted artist. His newest single, "Cut the Line" is a heartwrenching tribute to his late mother that is also a great gem of a pop song. We're honored to share an interview with Lennon Bone about this song as well as his other endeavors and forthcoming EP. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
My name is Lennon. I live in Kansas City, KS. I record and produce bands and songwriters out of Element Recording in KC MO, and I'm the owner of a commercial music company called Sound and Patterns Music that I run from Element and my home office. I round out my time as a freelance drummer for various studio projects, bands, etc.
Talk about your new single "Cut the Line" which was inspired by the death of your mother. How did creating this song help you through the grieving process?
Well, I think writing it just felt necessary. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but necessary like a good cry is necessary when you're dealing with something that hits you so hard that it throws you backward. Now, this is going to sound like it's straight out of the Bon Iver playbook, but that was never the intention. After mom passed, I needed some time to just get away and be by myself. A guy by the name JT Murrell was kind enough to offer me a place that he and his family stays out in Wisconsin for a few days. I packed up some recording gear and just went and hung out. Did some hiking. A bunch of writing. A lot of thinking. It's the probably the only time I've been able to really be alone with my thoughts and fairly isolated from people I know. Cut The Line was the first one I wrote. There were quite a few more, so I'm planning to finish those for an EP release sometime late spring/early summer.
I've been so thankful for the kind words from people about the tune, and how it's touched some who have dealt with similar issues. Not to mention 90.9 The Bridge adding it to their main rotation. I've been pretty floored by the reception, really.
You are a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. I wonder if you can speak to any challenges you face as a composer in light of your collaborative and behind-the-scenes work. Do you find switching creative gears easy?
I mean, yeah... I find switching gears pretty easy. But each thing gets it's own space. I've learned to block off certain days that are really only for certain things, which allows me to keep my focus over that time. But the nice thing is that if I start to get bored or stuck on something, I usually have another project that allows me to take myself out of a scenario and get a fresh perspective. Then when I go back, I'm able to be more focused and have a better sense of what's happening.
The problem with things like composition and mixing is that you can so easily get caught in the most minute details and lose sight of what the big picture is. When I'm doing something like playing drums for somebody, I'm acting on impulses and seeing things from a much bigger picture. Mostly because I don't have time to sit down and nitpick things... I just have to be ready to act fast. Doing production with bands and songwriters is the same way. I like to move quick and use more broad stroke moves. I don't want the artist to get bogged down with details that don't matter... so in those roles I get to think bigger picture more often. I think being able to have parts of my brain that do both the small picture and big picture things keeps me balanced.
Can you point to one time in your life where you knew you wanted to be a songwriter and producer? Who or what inspired you early on to create music?
Probably the first memory I have of wanting to be a musician was being in about 6th grade and seeing my dad play bass at BB Kings Club in Memphis, TN. I immediately fell in love with the blues, and wanted to be the drummer right away. It was like he (the drummer) got to just hang back and make everything feel good while the guitar player did all the real work. I think that analogy still fits my personality very well. I've always loved trying to make someone else look better. Playing a supporting role as either a player or a producer is so much fun because I get to just look for ways to make what's there work. I get to bridge the gaps and see someone get excited because an idea that they had just became way cooler to them because of an idea that I had. Collaboration is the most beautiful thing in that way.
Since then I'd say that there have been little tells all throughout my life that have pointed me in one direction or another. The trick is trusting your gut and being willing to put some eggs in the basket, do the work, and learn the craft in order to try and make it financially feasible. I mean, I do all of this because I love it, but love alone doesn't pay the bills or feed my kids. Because of my love for what I do and the need to provide for me and my family, I'm constantly feeling like I'm needing to continue to learn, and then something I learn will sometimes point me in a new direction. So I either go after that thing, or I don't. But if I do, I'm always willing to really invest time into it so that I can REALLY see how it's going to play out.
I just feel so lucky to do what I do for a living, and feel like I owe it to myself to try and make myself as good as I can at whatever it is I'm working on.
What else can your fans expect from you in 2017?
Well, I'm currently producing 2 EP's with the hope of 2 full lengths to start recording soon. I don't want to say who those are yet. I like to give the artists a chance to make announcements as it all comes around... but you can follow me on my website for more info on those as they happen.
I'll be releasing my solo EP in the late Spring or early Summer.
I'm working on a project with another Kansas City drummer, Brendan Culp. He used to play in Making Movies. We've been writing a bunch of really weird instrumental music, and just having a blast. We should be releasing our first track, along with an official project announcement very soon. We're not sure where the project is headed, we're just trying to create something completely for fun.
I also got the great privilege to play on Claire Adams (Bass for Katy Guillen and The Girls / Claire and the Crowded Stage) latest project. I'll be doing some shows with her coming up, and she's been singing on some of my stuff as well.
Not to mention continuing to do composition for commercial projects and what not. If you're reading this and do video work, please contact me directly! I'd love to chat about what you do and how I could serve you!
What excites you the most about the Kansas City-area music scene?
There's so much potential in this area, and we're seeing more growth with things like Boulevardia, the new Record Bar location, Middle of the Map Fest, Midcoast Takeover, etc. etc. I think a local scene grows when it brings in national attention, so these are things that are helping that happen. I've always said how much I dislike the term "local" when it's paired with events and music. Mostly because I think people that don't know how good our local scene is immediately think that because someone is "local", they're not as talented as someone that's "national". I've experienced this with being in a touring band for 10 years. However, these events, as well as awesome radio opportunities like 90.9 The Bridge are putting our best "local" talent directly alongside "national" talent in a way that people don't necessarily know which is which. It just let's them see something and either like it or not without the preconceived notions. That's what allows artists and bands to really create a following in their hometown, while also having the music lovers learn to TRUST our scene and what's out there.
Lennon Bone. Photo by Anna Selle