Tatum Lynn has always been comfortable singing in front of people. It eventually led to the first of several big breaks and a song on the Billboard Top 40 chart—a rarity for an independent pop artist—but Lynn, now 20, has been impressing people since the time, as an 8-year-old, she sang an Adele song over a mall intercom.
Lynn, who will re-release an updated version of her debut album, Let Down Your Hair, in March, grew up in a musical family in Tempe, Arizona, as the youngest of five siblings.
“All my sisters are very musical, and we all grew up singing in church together,” she said in a video call from Tempe, where she still lives close to the Arizona State University campus. “Our mom taught us all piano, taught us all everything. The boys didn’t get that. … The boys definitely don’t like singing.”
In school Lynn (whose full name is Tatum Lynn Stolworthy) would sing in show choir and talent show. She didn’t perform an original song in front of others until she was invited to at her older sister’s wedding. In high school, she happened to be performing the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a basketball game that was attended by an executive for the Arizona Cardinals football team, who later invited her to sing the national anthem at a home game in front of thousands.
“That was my sophomore year of high school. That’s when I was kind of noticed,” she said.
Eventually, music industry talent finders noticed, too. Her next big break came in 2019 when her single “Later Baby XO” cracked the Billboard chart. But high school wasn’t all about building a music career for Tatum Lynn. She also found herself becoming a student leader in several ways.
First, she bootstrapped a suicide prevention campaign and club at her school that was later implemented throughout the Tempe Unified School District. It wasn’t a typical effort, as youth suicides in Arizona in general were experiencing a spike at the time. But Lynn’s school was known among people in the city as the “suicide school” in 2015 and 2016 following the deaths of several students.
She was the youngest speaker and panelist at a suicide-prevention conference and went on to start a student club called “Aztec Strong,” (named for the school mascot) which grew to 300 students who discuss their feelings and how to help others. Lynn also partnered with an organization that provides counseling to teens over the phone, and eventually all student ID cards would include the organization’s hotline number. The organization would go on to have access to classrooms and the school’s cafeteria.
“Starting in middle school, we lost a good friend from suicide, and it just kept going,” Lynn said. “Since my eighth-grade year, into high school, we would lose someone. And then my junior year, I lost a really good friend of mine who took his life. Finally, I was like, ‘This needs to stop. Something needs to happen because kids are struggling.’”
There’s a song on her album, which will be released on March 5, about the loss of life at her high school called “With Me.” The piano-led ballad, is both a showcase for Lynn’s powerful voice and a respite from the numerous danceable anthems that Taylor Swift fans will enjoy.
That’s not the only extracurricular Tatum Lynn pursued in high school. With the help of her dad, a businessman who works in real estate, she started—at 14—a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Music As Therapy, dedicated to providing music therapy and instruments to kids in special-education classrooms in Arizona.
“I had a really close friend in school, and music really touched him in a different way than anyone else,” she said. “It really helped him. When I worked with Best Buddies, he was very high on the spectrum with autism. We had music therapy in our school for only little bit, and then the funds for it were just cut. He didn’t have that program anymore, and I could just see he was struggling, not having that.”
She asked her dad how she could help. He suggested a simple GoFundMe campaign, and a much more involved option. The two learned the many requirements and steps together.
For her debut album, Tatum Lynn was introduced, by her manager, to cowriters for the first time. Her team included Jon Levine (Dua Lipa, Alessia Cara, Andy Grammer), Lauren Christy (Rihanna, Bebe Rexha), John Fields (Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers, P!nk), Andrew Wells (5 Seconds of Summer, Meghan Trainor), Stephan Moccio (Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion) and Michael Bland (Prince).
To that point, she’d written by herself, but she quickly realized she loved collaborating with others.
“It was definitely different getting in a room and writing with someone else, because I feel like more ideas were bouncing, and it just went really great,” she said. “I really enjoy writing with other people, especially when your friends and you get along, and you think the same things.”
Lynn originally self-released the album in the fall of 2019, but with the success of “Later Baby XO,” she decided it could be more successful with more professional representation. She didn’t realize she’d be waiting for more than a year for that to happen. The pandemic had a way of changing things.
None of the songs on the album are old, fortunately. Lynn wrote all of them between 2019 and 2020. Prior to that, she kept her original songs to herself, her journals and her family.
In November she released her next single, the incredibly catchy and self-empowering “Let Down Your Hair,” with a video choreographed by “So You Think You Can Dance” dancer and choreographer Benji Schwimmer, who has become a friend since then. The video has Lynn and a couple of dancers practicing in an empty studio, and tripping—which really did happen at one point, but its ending up in the video is a re-creation.
“I made it more dramatic for the shot,” she said.
The album includes snappy kiss-off anthems, as well as love song “Closer,” which Lynn wrote for her now-fiance. Lynn, who began her music journey by posting covers online, also shared her version of Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” leading up to the holidays. She’s hoping her fans won’t have to wait as long for whatever comes following the album.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.