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It is Emily Alyn Lind's birthday. And aside from speaking with me on the phone, talking her new musical side hustle and the (very real) stresses of teenagerdom, the star of the upcoming Gossip Girl reboot is spending it with her family, having a quarantine birthday party fit for Blair or Serena.
Alyn Lind's immediate relatives—sisters Natalie and Alyvia, also actresses, mother Barbara Alyn Woodson of One Tree Hill fame, and father John Lind, a producer and assistant director—have transformed a floor of their home into an Emily-themed fair. "There's games and painting, and they put a picnic out," she says. The Alyn Linds made T-shirts with Emily's face on them, and everyone—"including my dad and my dog"—is wearing them. "They have photos of me printed all over the house and balloons that said 'older but not wiser,'" she laughs.
But she doesn't seem to mind taking a quick break from the festivities. Alyn Lind is excited to talk about her relatively recent foray into the music world—the culmination of a decade and a half spent teaching herself guitar and songwriting in her spare time, for almost as long as she's been acting. (Since she was five. She's been acting since she was five.)
Alyn Lind released her first single last year, but her musical career has picked up as her acting responsibilities waned. So far this month, she's released two singles—"Spotless Mind" and "Armacost"—and her album "Here and Elsewhere" is set to debut in the last week of May.
Below, she opens up about working with her producers over Zoom, what her mom taught her about acting, and what fans can expect from HBO Max's newer (edgier?) Gossip Girl.
How long has this album been in the works?
I wasn't planning on releasing anything. I have been focusing on my work and acting a lot lately; it's been taking up a lot of my time. I was writing still, but I couldn't go in the studio for hours on end. But then when this all happened, at first I needed sort of a coping mechanism in a way because I think it's really important for everyone, for mental health reasons, for just humanity in general to have a reason or you know, a goal.
So like, literally a month ago, and I said, "You know what? I'm going to get recording stuff. I'm going to get everything under the sun that I need that I have no idea about and I'm going to learn everything from scratch. I'm going to watch everything on YouTube and I'm going to record it myself and then work with my producers [tizhimself and KoOoLkOjAk] over Zoom or whatnot."
Why'd you choose to release it right now?
At first I was like, "This is a weird time to release music." I didn't think it would be respectful, in a way. I don't know, it's weird to have time to publicize anything that's about yourself in general. It's not about you.
But then I realized all the other musicians releasing music is what has been getting me through. And it's so exciting for me to see new music out there and you know people... I mean art is what's getting everyone through this, right? Netflix and binge-watching shows and documentaries and new music and old music and things like that, it's what's been getting us all through. So I think that if I can do it justice and bring whatever it is—maybe people will hate it, that's fine. But if I have the ability to release music right now that I feel that people will relate to or feel less alone, I think I should.
Which artists have been helping you get through it all?
I wanted to be John Prine and Bob Dylan when I was a little girl. I wanted to be a folk singer. I wanted that, that was my goal. And so John Prine was one of his biggest influences, and I realized that I knew a lot about him musically, but then as soon as he passed away couple of weeks ago, I really went into his life story. But other than that, I think that Bright Eyes is really great and they just released their first music after 10 years or something, "Persona Non Grata."
Has music always helped you get through hard times?
I really think that artists got me through my childhood—not that I had a terrible childhood or anything, but I have had a lot of anxiety and I think a lot of kids have it, especially in this generation with all the... You're kind of set up to want to—or to have to—be a certain person, and with social media and all of that stuff, it's really hard to be unique or to be yourself I find.
So I found an escape in music, and it was always so important to me. And I also got an escape in movies, and just art in general, because I felt like I wasn't alone. I knew that people were out there that were like me, even if I wasn't able to reach them just yet.
Is that something you're hoping to do with your acting too, when you're in Gossip Girl?
I think that especially with this continuation of Gossip Girl, it's going to be a little different than the original... It's going to touch on really relevant subjects that are important, and it's going to be pretty real and have parallels with what's going on right now in society and the issues that we're facing. And it's going to be open. It's going to have every type of person; it's going to de-stigmatize race and hopefully mental health and a lot of different things. So I'm really excited.
Have you seen the original Gossip Girl?
I watched a couple of years ago. It was great. I loved it. It's definitely a classic I think, and it's just such a fun show to watch. I definitely found myself binge-watching it and getting a bit obsessed. So I was excited when this project came around because I was already a fan of the creators.
Has your mom given you any advice about starring in a teen drama?
My mom gives me a lot of my advice, honestly. I mean, she is an actress, but the cool thing about my mom is that, she's always been a mom first, honestly. And so I think that my mom has always let me be who I am. Like I said, I've never had lessons, but if anything I've gotten acting lessons from my mom. She just basically taught me early on to just feel it, go with it. Don't put too much energy into making it a certain way, because that's when you fuck it up.
Can fans look forward to some good Gossip Girl fashion? The costumes were such a big part of the original.
Oh yeah. I'm very excited about that. I think you should definitely look forward to some. What's Gossip Girl without fashion, right?
Without the headbands, I mean, that's half the show.
[Laughs.] Honestly though, I think headbands are kind of cute. For example, Phoebe Bridgers fucking rocks the headband, I must admit... But I don't think there will be a lot of headbands.
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