Lynn Verlayne: “Honesty can mean the difference between failure and success”
Belgian talent exploring the world and continuing to break new ground far from home more than deserves our editorial attention. Meet Lynn Verlayne, a producer and songwriter who has come a long way – both literally and figuratively. Based in Brooklyn, New York, this American-Flemish artist has been working on musical projects as well as her own songs for more than ten years. We meet her during the recent MIDEM trade show in Cannes.
Living in The Big Apple clearly inspires this versatile all-rounder. Writing is in her blood. The young songwriter and producer comes from a real literary family called Verleyen. Uncle Karel was a teacher who inadvertently became a writer. Father Frans was the late chief editor of the Belgian weekly magazine Knack, who also published a dozen books, and grandfather Cyriel Verleyen, lastly, wrote several children's stories.
Two generations later, the Verlayne talent is – for the time being – most apparent musically. And yet, when we ask her, it becomes clear her love for the written word is strong.
Lynn: Interesting you should ask. I have always wanted to write a book. After I had worked on blogs for the magazines Menzo and Weekend Knack, I was approached by a Belgian publisher who asked me to write a book, a sort of Sex and the City story from the perspective of a Belgian girl. At the time, I had neither the time nor the passion to say yes, but I do see myself writing a book somewhere in the future.
In the meantime there are plenty of passions left to discover apart from music, such as music videos.
Lynn: I direct them, as I will do for Raven (a Belgian rising star whose career Lynn is developing vigorously, Ed.). I’m a part of practically every video clip we make. In my New York studio (Lynn Verlayne Studio, Ed.), we are currently working on several acts from all over the world. Our studio focuses on the management and development of artists. We build acts from the ground up. Some have been on major label deals before they were dropped because some things weren’t working out. Some were really just starting with songwriting. We basically build a project up from scratch. We write the tracks together with the artists and produce them. Artists have access to a huge team that deals with everything from social media management to branding, production, video clips and promotion.
(c) Lynn Verlayne studio
Our highlights so far this year? Parson James, one of our artists working with the studio, broke into the charts with a song he did with Kygo. That was a pleasant discovery. Another artist was recently picked up by Disney Radio. There are always cool things happening. I’m also super excited about our upcoming talent. We are working on an album with Raven, a magnificent Belgian artist. She’s worked with Jimmy Greco here in New York, who has produced for Jennifer Lopez and Santana. She’s now doing vocals for Yannic Fonderie in Belgium. I worked with him myself back in the day. I really believe in Raven. We’ll be releasing a single and we’ll be shooting a video for it soon, after which we’ll be promoting it in the States.
The timing seems particularly favourable, as the Lynn Verlayne Studio is currently in full expansion.
Lynn: Our company is growing strongly. We were able to add some great songwriters and producers to our roster, such as Tracklacers and Phil Bentley. Tracklacers worked on Pink albums and Phil Bentley is no stranger to DJ Tiësto. We have writers who’ve worked with famous artists such as Christina Aguilera, Pink, Armin van Buuren, Moby, etc. One of them was even in the band The Click Five. They’ve all been helping us with our acts. So exciting!
In the studio (c) Lynn Verlayne studio
Apart from assisting her artists, Lynn also finds time to work on her own music.
Lynn: As a songwriter, I draw inspiration from a sense of innocence and a childlike aspect of my personality. In essence, that’s who I am. I think an artist is most successful when he is just being himself. Too often artists try to be something they’re not. I did too early in my career. When I started in a rock band, I tried to be like Amy Lee or Tory Amos. However, when I started to write cheerful, childlike, innocent songs, I had more success than with any other material.
My own music has been somewhat on the back burner for the last two years. I’ve just been too busy producing, managing, writing and expanding the studio. We currently have fifteen acts on our roster. I’m also working on a new album, but I’m taking it slow. It has to be right. I actually like working behind the scenes. I love producing, songwriting, working with artists. I just feel at home here.
Lynn’s work as a producer appears to have no influence on the way she writes her own songs.
Lynn: That’s right. Producing has given me appreciation for simplicity. I like simple productions. For me, songwriting is a very organic process. I always write on piano or guitar and my artists are supposed to do the same. If we fill a beautiful song with soundscaping that really soothes the artist's soul, then the song will shine. A song that’s strong on its own requires little production and soundscaping. I believe in the power of the song versus the power of production.
Despite living in New York, Lynn has never lost track of her Belgian roots.
Lynn: If a talented Belgian artist asks me to work with him, I always get excited. I still work with Belgian producers I’ve met over the years, such as Yannic. My Belgian roots have also given me a certain maturity, a sober and clear approach to the music industry. I love coming to Belgium to reconnect with my past and to work and tour with all these cool musicians such as Bert Gielen and Jo Mahieu.
Working with Bert Gielen (c) Lynn Verlayne studio
One of the artists that has crossed Lynn’s path is Buscemi aka Dirk Swartenbroekx.
Lynn: Dirk and I had some mutual friends. He told me he was making a record and that he was still looking for songwriters and vocals for the tracks. So when I was in Belgium promoting my own album and doing a show, I went over to his studio and laid down the track. He had sent me an instrumental version earlier. I remember writing the top line (the melody and lyrics, Ed.) for it in the car of my manager, Eric Strieleman at the time. It was a spur of the moment thing, but it was great. A pleasant collaboration! I am very pleased with the end result.
Given her busy schedule, Lynn has little time to keep track of the Belgian music scene.
Lynn: I sometimes meet with Belgian artists when they’re in the city. A few years ago, I had coffee with Gabriel Rios. I also met Novastar and Jeroen Swinnen. We even wrote a song together some years ago. When Belgian musicians are in New York, I somehow hear about it and then I get to meet them or meet up with them. I like that, but I couldn’t tell you what’s hot right now in Belgium (laughs). I do think new / indie artists are sometimes struggling over there. Radio stations should definitely step up their support. As for myself, it wasn’t easy to get them to play some of my songs. Boo Boom was picked up by Radio 2, but Peter pan, a single from my debut album, was not played in Belgium. I never understood why exactly. In Italy, the song made it to the top 40 in the radio charts. Even YouTube hits are sometimes ignored. In general, I think there is ample room for improvement, not only in Belgium.
(c) Lynn Verlayne studio
Lynn’s motto is clear: ’Alignment’. I use that word a lot when I’m working with my artists. I believe that writing great songs is about stripping your thoughts and getting back to your true self, to the core of your soul. If you manage to put your heart and soul into your work, you get a beautiful, pure project that resonates with many people. Honesty can mean the difference between failure and success. Assuming the underlying talent and technical skills are there, it’s really just about being yourself, in all your power. Sometimes we have to rebrand an artist completely. I produced a wonderful Americana record for an artist named Sara Syms. She used to sound like Portishead. Something just wasn’t right. During her development, it became clear she had talent and affinity for folk and Americana, so that’s the direction we took, and not without success! She’s been shining ever since and songs have just been pouring out. Personally, I have a soft spot for Americana. The record was well received here in Nashville. It was recorded at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock with engineer Matthew Cullen, who also worked with Ray LaMontagne.
In September 2011, Lynn met Prince Albert of Monaco in connection with the musical goals and challenges of young artists. (Photo Archive A.N.)
Lynn also talks about her decision to move to New York.
Lynn: I needed a new environment with exciting opportunities, an adventure. I also wanted to grow my social network. It was the right choice for me. The energy and possibilities here are great! I would definitely make the same choice today. This place is right for me. Which artists and projects are on my wish list for the coming years? Interesting question. I’d really just like to grow my own roster. As I’ve said, I rather develop an artist from the ground up than to jump on some big project. That’s really the essence of what we do, start from scratch.
My own music is a kind of dreamy pop with a certain childlike aspect, as I’ve said. Working on my album has taught me a lot. Boo Boom I produced myself, unlike Drifter, which was produced by Frank Duchene, Jo Bogaert and Yannic. This was a fun experience, though I think my first album was a little overdone. I am quite critical of my earlier work. You can expect a more organic and cohesive album next!
"To be continued."
Find out more about Lynn and songs like Boo Boom and Unstoppable (with animated video (Motion Graphic Designers)) on her website.
Lynn: To each artist in progress: check out our website and don’t hesitate to ask our advice. www.lynnverlaynestudio.com