Hey folks. It’s Shannon Brown from NYC country band, Trailer Radio, keeping you abreast of the country music scene in New York City! Last week I was in a club hearing some live, non-country music, when I was suddenly whipped back in time to the days when I was an actor. The band’s lead singer is a Broadway performer, and his friends in the room who were clearly actors as well. I know this because when they entered the room they looked to the stage and gave the singer the “jazz hands” sign – palms forward, hands shaking, Bob Fosse-style. To the theater crowd this translates as “Haaaaaay….we’re here! Ta-da!!”
These actors were all very trim, young, fabulous, and probably fresh off the train from some dumpy Midwestern town. The girls wore sparkly clothes. The boys were highly schooled in the art of using hair gel. The band was loud, but the fine hairs inside their 20-something ears would still bounce back after a night on the town.
I jammed plugs into my old ears, took a swig of my martini, and thought about my years in theater with a chuckle. Was I not once trim and fabulous and greeted friends with jazz hands? Yes, I did! And it proved to be…exhausting. Thankfully, NYC allows you to reinvent yourself time and time again. I’ve reinvented myself at least 4 times now. We’re now on Shannon 4.0.1.
I know another lady who is a master of reinvention. She’s an actor, a writer, a stand-up comic, and a country singer who can don one of many personas at the drop of a straw hat. Her name is Linda Hill, known on the NYC country scene as Lindy Loo, and she curates a monthly country variety show, Lindy Loo’s Country Cuzins, at NYC’s famed Rodeo Bar. So I thought I’d give Miss Linda a holler and see what she could tell me about her life, her art, and all her reinventions.
Shannon Brown: Linda, you’re a singer, an actress, a writer and a stand-up comic. Which of these do you identify with the most and why?
Linda Hill: Oh man, I went to a medium for my birthday to see which one of these paths I should focus on. And the spirits say to follow all of them!
But comedy is where I put most of my focus. In order to feel comfortable singing I have to create comedic characters – like Angel Drake (the boozy blues singer) and Lindy Loo (the feisty hillbilly girl, ala Minnie Pearl). And there was my first hillbilly character Aunt Nellie. When I was living in California, I found a huge gray wig in a thrift store. I put it on my head and Aunt Nellie’s Hillbilly Hayride was born!
Left: Lindy Loo and the Lucky Fellers performing at Rodeo Bar in NYC. Next show is Tuesday Dec. 18, 2012. Right: Lindy Loo’s Aunt Nellie, tragically lost when her plane disappeared somewhere over Tulsa…
SB: How’d you get started with these characters?
LH: Back in the days when I was doing stand up and we had to do an exercise called “mock –n-roll” where you put on persona and perform a song. It was during this time I met Nora Dunn (before she was on Saturday Night Live) and we created a girl group called The Dynelles. Our rule was once we put on our costumes as The Dynelles, we couldn’t break character all night long. If you broke character you had to buy breakfast for everyone else after the show.
SB: So how’d you get started doing Lindy Loo in NYC?
LH: When I moved to New York I got into the downtown performance scene and theaters were you could do monologues, like the Public Theater’s, No Shame Series. Sadly, I’d loaned my wig to a drag queen in San Francisco…but I found a straw hat in a New York thrift store and Lindy Loo, Aunt Nellie’s niece, came on the scene.
I started performing as a show hostess in clubs, and passing the tip jar for bands. Before long I started singing a capella in between the bands’ sets. Then I started singing a couple tunes with the bands, and eventually started producing my own variety show called Lindy Loo’s Country Cuzins. My band is called Lindy Loo and the Lucky Fellers.
SB: I think you’ve started writing your own songs now, is that right?
LH: Yes, most of our music is original material now. When I write the tunes I sing into a digital recorder, play it for one of the musicians, work on the arrangements with the band and get it charted. I do a lot of collaborating with Homeboy Steve. We have a great way of communicating because we can be honest with each other. I’ve also written a couple of songs with Arty Hill. Marti Brom has recorded our song “Mascara Tears” and Li’l Mo & the Monicats recorded ”Waiting and Wanting”.
SB: Are you ever tempted to drop the Lindy Loo persona and perform as Linda Hill?
LH: I think I’m getting close to trying it. Arty Hill was at our performance last month and he said it’s time to drop the comedy so the audience will pay more attention to the songs. I think I finally have the confidence to take myself seriously as a singer.
SB: Tell me about your background – where you grew up – how you got to NYC.
LH: I grew up in Burlingame, Kansas, a coal mining town. I have three brothers, and I’m the youngest. My mother called me “the change of life” baby. My youngest brother is 18 years older than me.
SB: Do you miss Kansas?
LH: No, I’m grateful for what Kansas gave me, but I don’t think it’s me anymore. I miss sunrise and sunsets, but none of my family is there anymore, and for retirement, I’m thinking about Nashville. I’m more of a big city person…definitely. I’ve been in NY since 1988 so even San Francisco is too slow for me.
SB: Tell me about your best show ever.
LH: The best ever was when Miss Minnie Pearl brought me to Nashville Now as her personal discovery. THAT was a magical night. I’ve been really lucky to have some unbelievable stage experiences. I can’t pick just one. Every time is an opportunity to connect with an audience. Even doing stand-up comedy, I’m lucky to not have died too many deaths. Sometimes the audience is so receptive, and when they come along with you completely that’s the best.
SB: Ok, tell me about your worst show ever.
LH: Oh my God, I can definitely pick the worst one! I’d gotten a gig in Reno, I was opening a show at a Mexican restaurant, and there was a table of drunk guys who were out of control. They started yelling at me, “Show us your tits”. The president of the drunken assholes ordered a flaming drink, and I thought I saw an opportunity to get control. From the stage I said, “Drink your drink while it’s flaming or you’re a wuss”. He hesitated, but finally he did it. And his whole face went up in flames! His friends start slapping his face, and they took him to the bathroom… but instead of getting control, the audience turned on me and I still had to do 10 minutes or I wouldn’t get paid for the night. The drunk guy’s face was covered with blisters and he was flipping me off from the audience. I finished the act and ran to my motel so freaked out.
SB: Haha! That’s probably the worst show story I’ve ever heard! So what projects are in your future?
LH: I’m reworking my one-woman-show, Big City Hick, right now. We’ll be performing that in NYC and San Francisco in the spring of 2013. I hope to record an album of my own country music in the next year. One thing’s for certain, being in New York City has made me embrace my country roots. No matter what project I’m working on I’ve gotta invite every part of me to the table, and a big part of me is country.
By Shannon Brown
West Virginia native, Shannon Brown, was deported from WV to NYC on account of her snarky attitude and propensity toward impatience. She is now the front woman for NYC country band Trailer Radio whose mission is to bring authentic twang to Yankee ears. She can’t resist shoe shopping, taking snapshots of crazy NYC happenings, scratching mini-dachshunds, taste-testing martinis around the city, and anything that has to do with bacon.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” ~ Maya Angelou
“Woman is the Wonder of the World.” ~ Billy Joe Shaver