Lincoln Durham: One-Eyed Jacks Are Wild BC Artist Profile: Lincoln Durham
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If you haven’t experienced Lincoln Durham before, well, I think Lincoln himself put it best, “Welcome to the fucking congregation.”
I’ve been creeping in the shadows with the wretched, and I’ve got to get away ~ “Creeper”
It seems simple enough but with that one lyric, sung by a self professed “Southern-Gothic Psycho- Blues Revival-Punk One-Man-Band who does not play well with others”, Lincoln has plugged into the pain and gypsy dreams of his generation. His music, driven by his bitterness, insecurities and pain, stem from an intense shame of hypocrisy and hatred of intolerance. They make up only a slice of a bigger picture, but all together is tapping into larger faith and vision. Lincoln Durham seems to be on a search and destroy mission to tear down relationships and find a deeper meaning and truth lying in them. He tears away at their surface, digging deep to pull out what’s superficial and unimportant to expose what’s truly in someones soul; even if it is completely ugly.
Walking up to Gold Sounds in Brooklyn, I see Lincoln and his wife and tour manager Alissa pulling up in their tour van. I can tell they are tired, but they welcome me with a solid hand shake and a genuine smile. I’d met them both a couple months prior in California and am amazed and humbled that they have remembered me. I’m introduced immediately to Lincoln’s brother, Johnny. They are all open and sweet and maybe just a little nervous since the sound man for tonight is no where to be found.
Before I came to the show, I’d spent the day before diving into his lyrics and binge listening to all his albums on repeat. The images of cutting are visceral and something that he keeps coming back to. His songs go to places that are uncomfortable emotionally and places that most people will shy away from entering unless they have emotionally already been there. His well runs deep so to break the ice the first thing I ask him is ~
BC: Do you ever worry that you’re going to wake up, loose all your demons and start writing Neil Diamond songs?
YES, yes I do. There are certain times when things get really bad, like man maybe I need some help. Maybe I need to seek some professional help. I worry that if I do, does that take away my muse, which is rage and anger and bitterness. So yeah it’s kind of a balance of living with the craziness in my head so that I can write, but not so much that it eats me up, I guess. It’s kinda a balance. But yeah, I do worry sometime that if I get real zen, you know, will I still be writing what I write or will I be writing love songs…
BC: I’m glad you chose the one eyed jack, for your photo, and the jack of spades in particular because he has a sword because I was listening to your lyrics and it seems like there are reoccurring themes in rage and razors and knives are some of them. Why is that?
Not to be so “see through” or transparent with things, it’s just edgy. It’s tearing and destroying in a very brutal way. A lot of my stuff is mental demons and things, so it’s also people hurt themselves with them, there’s just something with them in the realm of the angst and things that I write about that comes in the form of razors and blades and stabbing and tearing things apart … I’m not an advocate of hurting other people, just myself. (he laughs).
BC: There are many other ways to hurt yourself and this seem like the worst way to do it.
I hate to say it, cause it’s really distasteful to say it … but there is a romantic element to it as well. That form of attention grabbing. With the songs in general, they are meant to be like a sharp blade. I’m not very good with the “lulling you to sleep” kind of a song. Whether it’s something that I’m singing about that I’m passionate about, a lot of my underling tones is a hatred, or an intolerance for intolerance. I hate people that are intolerant. I hate judgmental attitudes and the songs are supposed to be a sharp spear or weapon in favor of whatever I’m singing about.
BC: I noticed your songs aren’t necessarily stories, but more of these blunt cuts, what attracts you to that moment?
It’s generally just the way, it’s kinda my therapy, I’ll get real bent out of shape about something, real mad about something or very emotional or very depressed and it’s my therapy. Some people use drinking or drugs or whatever to cope with situations… it’s talking to my therapist, those pointed ones, those very cutting ones… People will get on social media and bicker and post their opinions and that’s kinda what I do except I do it in music. so when I’m mad at the world or hurt, i put it into a song. but the angry ones it’s a pointed message and it comes out blunt and with a purpose.
BC: You said at your last gig that I was at “I’ve heard this is a place of sin and it’s time to get clean”, is that what you’re trying to do?
Yeah, I guess so.. .That one was probably for the song “Sinner” which is funny cause my stuff is kinda actually full of gospel. It comes across to some people as religious, but […] I’m not a religious person, so it can be at times religious and sometimes mockingly religious, a little bit of both sometimes, because I don’t know what’s right or wrong in my opinion. I probably did that for sinner. “Sinner” is a good example of it. There was a lot of stuff being spread around me when I was young, trying to destroy my career, people saying things that I never did and so essentially that was my song to say “I didn’t do this stuff but also I’m not perfect. Fuck you, I’m going to carry this mantel, I’ll be a sinner, cause I am. I didn’t do the stuff you’ve said I’ve done, but I’ve done stuff.” I write pretty heavy pretty intense because for me that’s what’s worth writing about.
BC: You have to connect with them on a personal level.
Yeah, like Alissa doing the tour management, her being a woman, and women being in the position of power are up against a wall a the time. They are up against misogynistic assholes, and that’s the kind of stuff that provokes me to write. That’s the reason that I wrote “Annie” and two other songs.
BC: You said you’re not religious, and there are a couple of times when you refer to dying and knowing that there is nothing out there. Is that what you believe?
Currently, yeah. I grew up very religious and I don’t profess to know what’s going on in the world. I get real confused. I try to do a lot of thinking a lot of prodding in my own mind to figure out what I believe and the honest truth is I just don’t know, but currently I just don’t think there is much out there.
And then I see things […] and that kinda screws all that up. I’m at a point in life where I can admit to not knowing. Cause I think if you passionately believe in something, I think it’s always a little bit… it’s hard to say that you know for a fact about anything and no matter how adamant we are about something, we don’t technically know for sure and that’s where I’m at now. I’m just not willing to throw my eggs into any basket, cause I just don’t know. And obviously no one does, cause we have so many conflicting views of the world and so many religions and so many that are not now, that it’s obvious that it’s not an easy answer or easy question to answer. I have a hard time putting the pieces of the puzzle together, but I’m still open (laughs) if someone can give me a compelling reason one way or the other.
Whatever conclusion you come to is yours to have. People shouldn’t tell you if you are right or wrong. But I think you should try to come up with your own conclusion and I think so many people, no matter what it is, if it’s atheist or religious in anyway, I think a lot of people just kinda go with what they are told. Whatever conclusion you come to, should be again nonjudgmental, non-intolerant it should be yours. It should be what you think, not what someone else has told you.
Before the show Lincoln chills in the van, aka “the green room”. He’s writing out his set list for the night and getting ready to change wardrobe. From a black hoodie to a black leather jacket, this is how Clark Kent becomes Superman. This is tour life. This is the reality. I can see Lincoln getting his game face on. He’s getting ready to shut down all his insecurities and just rock.
His set is raw and powerful. Lincoln powers through the set, dedicating “Annie” to the powerful women in the room and we couldn’t love him more for it.
After spending the day with Lincoln and his team, my dime store assessment of the man and the artist is this: Lincoln’s fire is fueled by being a fierce warrior placed in a nurturing role. Lincoln’s songs are slices, not stories, of sharp, teeth curling raw emotion that are the product of being in this role. Like the color black, this role suits him and he wears it all the time. His fight is real and his music lives in an emotional place that most people prefer to turn away from and pretend isn’t there. But in the land of the chosen emotionally blind, this one eyed jack is the wild card. He will always be vigilant, ready to fight the fight, and no matter how many times you knock him down, he’s just going to keep coming to fight for what he believes in and to protect what he loves. They don’t come more fierce and wild then that.
Cortney Armitage is a photographer and writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Born into the world of indie rock ‘n’ roll, she travels back and forth from Los Angeles capturing artists in and out of their natural habitat. Contact her at: www.CortneyArmitage.com