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INTERVIEW: Nashville Singer-Songwriter Lyman Ellerman

How have you been?

I’ve been mostly good. Very busy keeping up with progress of upcoming release.

Can you talk to us more about your single “The Addict”?

Sure. It’s not the song of the summer so to speak. It’s serious. Addiction is lurking around corners everywhere these days, and only seems to be increasing. It’s robbing individuals of their identities, and families of their loved ones left and right.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Yes. In early 2015, I learned that my son had been using heroin while in college. By the time I found out, he had checked into an outpatient methadone clinic in Louisville where he was living. Unfortunately, his life had spiraled out of control. I drove up in the middle of the night and convinced him to come home with me where he continued his outpatient treatment in Nashville. He did pretty good for about a year. He had gotten off the methadone treatment and was living”clean” for some time before he relapsed which happened on a few different occasions. He had made a statement to me during one of our discussions about his well being. He asked me to try to accept him the way he was and that he just didn’t feel like he could be happy on his own. I explained to him how hard it was for me to accept him using drugs and that I always loved him and would be willing to help him search out other safer alternatives. But, I realized then obviously that his thinking wasn’t clear and that he couldn’t see that. It was that conversation that inspired the idea of “The Addict”. We had completed the song in late June 2017, and he was able to hear it and give me his approval to release it. His words were, “Wow Pops! That’s pretty intense. I think it could help somebody. You should definitely get it out there.” He was clean again right in that area of time. However, about three months later he had started using again unbeknownst to our family. He overdosed mid morning on October, 9th, 2017. Paramedics were able to get his heart going, but he suffered three more cardiac arrests before he made it to the hospital. He never regained consciousness. He died at 11:18 am October 11th. He was an awesome, outgoing, intelligent, funny, and acutely witty young man. Unfortunately, people…., especially young people, sometimes get involved in things that are stronger than they are and don’t realize the challenge of breaking free until it’s too late. These folks need our love and support. They need hugs and reassurance on an almost constant basis. They made a mistake. A very serious mistake. One that’s hard for those of us that never made it to fully understand. “You want to help me, but I don’t think you can. You see the shell, but you can’t see the man.”

The single comes off your new album I Wish I Was A Train – what’s the story behind the title?

The title obviously is the title to a song on the record of the same name. I had written the song several years ago and recorded a demo of it in Nashville. The title just popped in my head as I was driving on one of those long trips where there’s several hours behind the wheel. I wrote the chorus right off. We all go through lots in life. Sometimes the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes the other way around. I just felt like sometimes we need to have thick skin to endure those rough spots. And wouldn’t it be great if we were all, at will, like a big ‘ol train where everything just kind of bounces off. We just have to take all our experiences and turn them into personal strengths.

How was the recording and writing process?

We always start out rather low-key recording. Pleasantries, the whole bit. Then as we progress, the intensity starts to build. When you’re “on to something”, it’s hard not to get serious about it. You want everything to be just so. But we always remain focused. As far as writing, I had a few songs (3-5) that were already written. As we’re recording and making progress, I usually start finding inspiration to crank out whatever else is needed to round out project.

What’s it like to work with Jason Morgan and how did that relationship develop?

Jason is a force to be reckoned with. He’s one of the most gifted guitarists I’ve ever heard and definitely the best I’ve ever worked with. We’re both pretty headstrong. Our big difference is that he’s a perfectinist with the talent and skill to back it up. I’m first and foremost a songwriter/lyricist. And even though I write melody along with lyric, he brings it full circle during production. We bounce endless ideas off of each other to the point where it almost becomes exhausting. But, that’s the beauty of it…., we stick it out for the good of the song/project. Our relationship developed over years of both live performance and recording, recording, recording! In the beginning it was mostly a professional level. Eventually, we began to get closer and have become good friends.

How much did he get to influence the album?

A lot! We share responsibilities of production. He covers a large portion of guitar work. He also is the main guitarist when we are out touring. His opinion creatively/musically speaking is more important to me than anyone else. He’s one of very few people that I’ll allow to change my way of thinking when it comes to altering one of my songs. That’s pretty strong influence!!

What role does Nashville play in your music?

I enjoy living in the Nashville area. I can’t say I’m completely proud of what the music “industry” has become and what it promotes. There are some of the most talented individuals in the world all over town. In terms of content of my songs, I’d say that Nashville has played no roll at all. But one roll Nashville has played, and continues to do so, is the attention to detail production-wise. I learned a lot of invaluable imformation when I had my publishing deals when it came time to hit the studio for demo sessions. It’s hard to put into words and can be hard to understand unless you’re there firsthand to experience it. To see what real music professionalism is all about.. There is a right way to make records! There’s a right way to make the best of your talent. I could go on and on about the number of musicians that can play their instruments well, but still just don’t get how to bring it all together for the good of the song. It seems like sometimes everybody just wants to “show their stuff”. In reality, nobody cares…, if every time you plug in, that’s all you do! The session players in Nashville KNOW how to do it. They know when to play, where to play, and what not to play. That’s what we bring to work when it’s time to work on a project. Let the song have a life! It’s about the song, not the player.

What aspects of your life did you get to explore on this record?

I’d say about 80% of everything I write is in the first person and from my own real life personal experiences. In the past 13 years or so I’ve lost my mother, my brother, a cousin, a couple of good friends, my best friend of 30 years, and most recently my only son!! I try hard to keep a positive attitude. I like to comsider myself a survivor in a world full of uncertainty and certainly injustice. If you listen closely, you can probably piece together large portions of my story. It’s so easy in a big world to be insignificant. I try to write songs of significance. Songs that touch on life’s challenges that we all face.

What made you want to touch on these themes?

If you hear a crash in the kitchen in the middle of the night thats startles you awake, you’re probably going to go inspect! This has been a similar event for me with this project. You can’t ignore the impact that some events leave on your being. I take it all to heart in a very deep way. The songs are just a way for me to express and work through them. It’s the way I survive. I had no choice.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, we’ve gone through auditions, and have now begun rehearsals. Jason and I in the meantime have been going out just the two of us in support of the record preliminarily. We’re looking to hit the road sometime in fall shortly after the release.

What else is happening next in Lyman Ellerman’s world?

It doesn’t stop! Jason and I have worked on a “Southern Rock” record for about 5 or 6 years. We basically have it completed and waiting to release. It’s what we like to think of as an authentic Southern Rock record. That’s where some of my very strong musical roots come from. A couple songs on that project I co-wrote with the late Larry Steele who was stage manager for 38 Special and who consequently co-wrote some of their biggest hits. Also as an added bonus we had the great Leslie Hawkins (one of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd Honkettes) come stay for a few days and do some background vocals on a couple tracks. What a treat that was! Man, she just killed it!

I’ve always got songs coming and going. I’ve wanted to do a stripped-back acoustic songwriter record for a while. I’ve got some of those songs lying around. And we’ve already got a working list of 9 new songs to start on soon. We may look at starting to just release some singles along the way of even newer material. Our goal and hope is that when we’ve got the right folks on board we can go out and play shows that incorporate all of my/our music without barrier genre-wise. But for right now, I should probably keep my attention on the task at hand. That would be this release, “I Wish I Was A Train”.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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