The first 12 years of my career were spent writing songs about loss and longing, so in some way I suppose I owe the fact that you are even reading this on The Huffington Post to my own unhappiness. Historically, I have felt most at home in heartbreak, both in art and in life. It's largely what I knew growing up, so everything else felt foreign and wrong as an adult. For years, people being kind to me felt painful. I was terrified of anyone actually knowing me. It's pretty fucked-up -- and I still struggle with this. It's a jagged part of my makeup that I will most likely be working on for the rest of my days.
I first learned about how sad the world can be when I was 7 years old, courtesy of a much older family "friend" who just couldn't keep his hands off me. I won't get into the specifics around the abuse suffered, but it was ongoing and horrible and went undetected for many years. The scars from this experience in my formative days have done just that: they formed me. They changed who I was and how I looked at the world, and they altered my sense of self at its core. All of this was complicated by the fact that I also happened to be a gay man born into a fundamentalist Christian home. It was a perfect storm for me to go completely apeshit, which I did.
I began experimenting with drugs and music around the same time, both before my 11th birthday. By 14 I was a full-blown, cigarette-smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic with headphones and a notebook who fancied himself a singer-songwriter. Those same old scars now rooted me on as I built an impenetrable wall of sadness and sound around myself. They gave me words and melodies to purge the feelings that could not be killed chemically, and I began seriously writing and recording music when I was 17. Those first songs would become my debut record, GLEE, which was released in 2000. At the time of its initial release, nobody knew what I was trying to do. I recall a lot of head scratching and people being really uncomfortable with the lyrical content, mostly, so I decided to take a break and focused solely on partying my brains out for the next five years.
In 2006, prompted by more unfortunate heartbreak of the drugged-out variety, I released a self-titled album, Logan Lynn, a mixture of songs from my debut and new material I had been working on. It was surprisingly well received, particularly by the queer community. I opened for The Presets and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult at Folsom Street Fair for over 400,000 people and caught the attention of MTV's Logo network, which immediately started playing my videos. This was where things started to change for me. Suddenly I had over 100,000 folks in my online networks, had been nominated for some awards, and was getting a ton of press, for both my music and my party-boy lifestyle.
In 2007 I released the Feed Me to the Wolves E.P. and got signed to The Dandy Warhols-owned and operated Beat the World Records, with a distribution deal through Caroline/EMI. My music career was starting to peak, but my addictions had snowballed. I was freebasing 28 grams of cocaine a week and drinking gallons of vodka around the clock to balance it out. By the time I was admitted to rehab (for the fourth and, fingers crossed, final time) four years ago, I had suffered a partial stroke, had been fired by the Weinstein Company from an in-production reality show after over six months of invasive filming, was fired from the job said reality show was about, and lost my band, my friends, my partner, my dog, my house, and my words and had nothing left -- nothing but that record deal and the scars.
So I used them to get myself well. I threw out the record I had been working on before rehab and started from scratch. In 2009 I released From Pillar to Post and did tons of interviews about getting clean as a way of holding myself publicly accountable. It was not the traditional way someone handles their breakout pop-music moment, but I needed to be honest about what was happening with me or I wasn't going to be able to do it. The strange fame and recognition that came with the commercial success of that record and my suddenly being all over the TV freaked me the fuck out, and I no longer had chemicals to make it better. All I had was the truth, so I put it out there -- all of it -- not thinking about what it really meant for everyone to know everything about me. As a relatively shy, private person, afraid of being seen or known, this brand of overexposure didn't set well at the time.
I was feeling pressured by my publicist, label, and collaborators to do more, say more, be more, go more places. I released a single to try to ease some of the professional pressure, but there was no break from the sadness, because now the sadness was fueling a business. I no longer owned myself or my words. I was taken back to that place from years before, feeling owned and ruined and hurt by the world. This was a new kind of heartbreak, however. It was the heartbreak of realizing that the thing that had always made me feel better had now become the very thing that was making me miserable. I did the only thing I knew how to do in that moment: I wrote songs and planned my escape. I was sick of being professionally sad and was just completely done with people relating to me on that level. In June 2010 I announced that I was going on an indefinite hiatus and released two in-progress records, I Killed Tomorrow Yesterday and Blood in the Water, myself, just months apart -- no label, no PR campaign, no radio. I fired everyone around me and set off to explore a regular life, which I am pleased to report I found.
In the 18-plus months since, I have thrown myself into working full-time for LGBT rights at Portland's Q Center. In being around people who truly care about my well-being and about humanity at large, I've realized that those scars from my early days are beautiful if you look at them just right. All of the heartbreak from the years is just part of my story, and my story is just getting started. I am not shaped by the experience of abuse and heartache any more than I am shaped by the experience of surviving them, and I am not driven by sadness any more than I am driven by joy -- I just needed something joyful to write about.
I'm reminded of a quotation by author Rachel Naomi Remen that my mother sent me with regard to this very thing:
Wounding and healing are not opposites. They're part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to find other people, or to even know they're alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of.
Love has made a home in my life and songs these days, shining new light on old wounds, bringing with it new words and melodies. I hope love makes a home in your lives, too. We are all so much more than our scars.
For more, visit LoganLynnMusic.com.