Copious Notes

At 17, Lexington's Rhyan Sinclair has made four albums. The latest is her solo debut.

Rhyan Sinclair - What Time is it in California?

Lexington musician Rhyan Sinclair performs “What Time is it in California?” from her solo debut album “Barnstormer” at Grimey’s New & Preloved Music in Nashville, Tennessee on June 22,2018.
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Lexington musician Rhyan Sinclair performs “What Time is it in California?” from her solo debut album “Barnstormer” at Grimey’s New & Preloved Music in Nashville, Tennessee on June 22,2018.

Rhyan Sinclair is on stage and on the air at the Nashville Palace fielding some questions from WMOT-FM radio host Whit Hubner.

When asked how long her new album has been out, she says that it just came out that day, June 22. If she wanted to get really accurate, she could say "13 hours."

"It's so surreal and weird, because I've been working on this for so long," Sinclair says after the broadcast, sitting in the music hall that has hosted legends from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings to fellow Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs and rising stars such as Margo Price.

"It's out there? That just kind of weird, because there's been so much build up to it — all the details and the songs and everything, and you feel like, 'I've got to do this and that.'

"Now, it's finally out there. That's so weird, and so cool that it's finally done."

Rhyan Sinclair prepares to take the stage at the Nashville Palace for the WMOT-FM radio show "Finally Friday" on June 22, 2018. RIch Copley

"Barnstormer" represents a huge turn in Sinclair's career, as it finds her stepping away from her band All The Little Pieces, which she recorded three albums with, and completing a move from an indie rock sound to traditional country, which is often referred to as Americana music these days.

The Lexington musician wrote or co-wrote all 14 songs on the album, which she co-produced in Lexington and Nashville.

All that, and Sinclair is only 17 years old.

"All of her songs are written from such an authentic place, and she has such great traditional influences, plus she's young and hip — it's a really cool blend," says Sean Giovanni, owner of The Record Shop recording studio, where Sinclair recorded two songs on the album. "What really drew me to her music when I first heard it was how much passion is in her voice and how effortless it is.

"It's her. It's what she was meant to do."

That became evident early, Sinclair's mother, Toni Karpinski says before her daughter's second record release day event: an in-store performance at Nashville's Grimey's Records, where artists such as Parker Millsap and Parquet Courts have played to promote their new records recently.

Drummer David Grigsby's kit sports an illustration of Rhyan Sinclair by 17-year old Emma Guinnip of Lexington. Rich Copley

"She was always really interested in listening to music, even when she was really, really little," Karpinski says. "We went to a really tiny church, and she was able to sing in the adult choir at 8, and she learned to hold the melody against harmony, which really helped her develop an ear for harmony."

When Sinclair assembled the first version of All The Little Pieces at 11, Karpinski says she knew her daughter was getting fairly serious about music. But it really was not until the group's last album and a side project that she realized music was going to be her life.

Bass player Billy P. Thomas, left, drummer Matt Halvorson, guitar player Zach Lafferty, and lead Rhyan Sinclair. All the Little Pieces rehearsed on Thursday Oct. 20, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Mark Mahan

"The Legend of Lavinia Fisher," released in 2016, was a concept album based on the story of 19th century serial killer that Sinclair heard about on a ghost walk in Charleston, South Carolina, where the band was playing. And it was, in retrospect, the beginning of the end for the band, which had a mercurial lineup over the years.

"It was a natural process," Sinclair says. "The music went in a more country direction with 'Lavinia' and that sort of caused All The Little Pieces to dissolve."

Drawing her even more to country was an obsession with an an album that pre-dated her birth by more than a decade: "Trio," the 1987 collaborative effort between Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.

"I learned that they did an album together and went, 'Oh my gosh, I've gotta get it,'" Sinclair recalls. "So I went and searched for the vinyl, and I'm not sure where I ended up getting it, but it was a long search for the vinyl. And I just couldn't stop spinning it.

"There's something so timeless about it. It was old, even then, in a way. I think that's so cool. It spoke to me and really resonated with me."

Rhyan Sinclair (center) on stage with David Grigsby (left) and Toni Karpinski (right) at the Nashville Palace for a broadcast of the WMOT radio show "Finally Friday" on June 22, 2018. Rich Copley

She turned the "Trio" jones into a series of concerts with herself, Karpinski and Lexington artist Whitney Acke performing selections from the album and the record in its entirety.

All the while, songs were being written for "Barnstormer," and Sinclair and her family were getting more serious in their approach to making and releasing a record.

The other major shift with "Barnstormer" is a strong album release strategy, including hiring press and radio publicists helping book and organize events like the series of shows Sinclair did last weekend in Nashville. She's back home Sunday evening for record release show at The Burl.

Copies of Rhyan Sinclair's solo debut, "Barnstormer," on display at Grimey's New & Preloved Music in Nashville on June 22, 2018. Rich Copley

"You can't just put a record out and expect it to be discovered," Sinclair's step father, Julian Karpinski, says. "You've got to put it under people's noses."

While many parents discourage their children from entering the risky, unforgiving world of music, the Karpinskis have actively supported Sinclair, Toni even becoming her daughter's backup singer and co-writer on two songs from "Barnstormer" — the title track and "Kentucky Night Sky." (Rounding out her band are veteran Lexington musicians Jeff Binder on bass and David Grigsby on drums.)

"It's a creative thing, and it's not like you have a kid who's saying, 'I want to be a star,'" Toni Karpinski says, explaining their support for Sinclair. "You see this is what she really wants to do for the rest of her life. She wants to make music. She wants to be the best that she can be, and she works so hard."

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"Barnstormer," which Toni likens to a senior project for Sinclair who has been home schooled since the first grade, also marks what may be the most important milestone for the musician.

"I just really found my voice to be able to speak completely and authentically," Sinclair says. "I was able to be completely raw with these songs, and its really a personal journey for me."

Rhyan Sinclair performs at Grimey's New & Preloved Music in Nashville with bassist singer Toni Karpinski, drummer David Grigsby and bassist Jeff Binder on the same day she released her solo debut, "Barnstormer," June 22, 2018. Rich Copley

While making career moves usually executed by artists twice her age may seem unusual from the outside, Sinclair says, "I don't have any perspective on it, so it just feels normal. It's so much fun and what I love to do. I'm so grateful to get to do it."

Asked where he sees Sinclair going with her music, Giovanni says, "I think wherever she wants, depending on what her focus is. I know that she's very true to her art, and she doesn't want to sacrifice it for commercial viability. She's going to end up in a place where people are looking for music like that, wherever that might be.

"I don't see her bending her creativity or authenticity to try to fit into anything. She'll make the market fit into her, and that's what happens with real artists."


Rhyan Sinclair

What: Album release show with openers Grayson Jenkins and Dave Ernst & The Early Favorites

When: 5 p.m. July 1

Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Road

Tickets: $10; $15 ages 21 and younger