Hear Queer Q & A with Carry Illinois

Carry Illinois are finding new faces and beautiful places on their third tour in the US. At the heart of the band is Lizzy Lehman, who finds healing and catharsis in sharing her lyrics with new audiences and old friends in each city she encounters. Lehman shared some thoughts about touring and songwriting with us ahead of Carry Illinois’ summer tour.

This is the third run you’ve had on tour with this band. What’s the experience of touring like?
A whirlwind, a lot of driving. Meeting new people, and making new friends, and also getting to see old friends. A lot of fun getting to meet new musicians and bands. It’s tiring, but it’s fun.

How has your experience of touring changed over time?

The flow of each day makes a little more sense, and just the logistics of unpacking and packing back up has become easier. Knowing how to go through each day and get to where we need to go. That becomes easier, I suppose. The flow of tour becomes easier. There’s still hiccups along the way, taking the wrong road and wrong directions, any sort of small miscommunications. In general, I think what changed most was preparedness for tour, knowing how to get everything set up with shows and communicate with bookers.

Piece of advice for someone who’s never toured before?

Definitely have the details worked out ahead of time. Make sure you know when load in is, and soundcheck and everything. Make sure that you’ve got transportation all lined up beforehand. Don’t do it last minute, because it can be hard to find a tour vehicle. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to be flexible.

What’s something you thoroughly enjoy about being on the road?

Getting to know my bandmates much better, and having a much better bond with each of them, getting to know them more on a personal level. Just getting to meet new people, new fans, new bands. Just like making new friends and getting to make long lasting friendships with. Getting to experience new cities and experience cities I’ve been to before in a much different way through music. Getting to look out the window and watch the landscape change, that’s one of my favorite things. It gives you a lot of time to think.

What do you least look forward to about starting a run of shows?

Being away from home for an extended period of time, being away from my wife and my friends. Also just the really long haul stretches are not the best, when we have to be in the car for 7 or 8 hours. Maybe just like the unpredictability of food. Trying to maintain some sort of healthy meal plan is definitely a really hard thing while you’re on tour. You definitely have to sacrifice, but depending on who you’re touring with. We try to make sure we get some good stuff in our bodies. That’s important for everybody in the band.

Where’s the most beautiful or interesting place you’ve seen while on tour?

The last tour was west coast. It’s got to be a tie between Portland and San Francisco. The Pacific Northwest and Northern California are definitely my two favorite places. The two most beautiful places.

Runaway expresses a lot of discomfort with the act of occupying your body. Why did you want to write a song addressing that feeling?

I’ve always had a difficult time living in my own skin, and I’ve always had a sort of negative relationship with my body, and with body image. I feel like one of the only ways to start to heal that and move toward self love was to be honest with how I do feel about it before I can learn to take the path toward self love. I also know that a lot of people deal with the same exact issues and it’s something that without a doubt many people can connect to and hopefully by listening to the song, they can identify and connect with me and the song and have the ability to work towards self love for themselves. I wrote the song because it’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life and I’ve never really totally processed it, and I thought this would be a good way to begin and process, and in addition to therapy. Hopefully there are people to connect with and it’s a pretty universal idea. Hopefully it helps people think about how they feel about themselves and how they can reframe their thinking towards a more positive outlook, and embracing the fact that difference is good, and that it’s okay to be imperfect.

How has identity shaped/influenced your music?

The songs themselves are not necessarily about being gay, it’s just about being who I am. I would say more than ever, I’ve just been really inspired to let people know who I am. Especially because there’s been so much homophobia lately and racism and marginalizing of anybody whose different and doesn’t fit he norm. That’s why being proud and out publicly has been really important to me. Just to show that I am absolutely okay with who I am and I’m proud of who I am. One of the songs on the album is about my relationship with my wife, and I think the fact that I’ve decided to be open about my sexuality, it’s been easier to write about my relationship with my wife. It has informed my writing lately and made me able to be more honest about my personal and intimate life.

A lot of your lyrics and music are very inward and personal. What’s it like to take that music and play it for people you’ve never met in cities you’ve never been to?

It feels really cathartic, almost like therapy in a way. It feels like I’m being my most honest self, that I’m not hiding anymore. It also feels like I’m being a real person. Being real about the struggles that I’ve gone through and still go through, whether it’s body image or a continuing conversation around my mental health. It’s just been kind of liberating to sing about the real issues that i’ve had to take on and that I’ve had to work through.