The lowdown on Lin

A St. Paul's School alumna is gaining notice for her uncommonly deep voice

April 26, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

One solo changed Lin McEwan's life.

About 10 years ago, as a sophomore at St. Paul's School for Girls, McEwan sang "Amazing Grace" at a school gospel show and received a standing ovation. Her uniquely low voice struck a chord with the crowd, and their overwhelming response sparked an interest that later led McEwan to pursue a career in music.

"That was it," said McEwan, whose real name is Linda Thieman. "From then on, it was pretty much my passion."

In the next few days, the Baltimore native will perform twice in the area. First, she will open a show at the 8x10 on Tuesday. The next day, she returns to St. Paul's for a private concert.

"I'm very excited about it," McEwan said. "I feel like it's coming full circle to be where I started."

McEwan's uncommonly low singing voice - considered a contralto - set in when she turned 10, she said. Though surprised at first, she learned to love the way it made people take her seriously, she said.

"I don't know why, exactly, but people do seem to attribute a certain maturity to you when you have a low voice," McEwan said. "I always had people telling me I was an old soul. I thought it fit."

Though McEwan always thought she could sing, she didn't get many chances before high school. She had to play Santa Claus in eighth grade because none of the boys' voices was low enough. She sang in choir, but "Amazing Grace" was her first real solo performance.

After graduating from high school in 1998, she majored in English and theater at Vanderbilt University. Studying theater helped McEwan hone her stage presence.

She graduated from Vanderbilt in 2002 and waited tables at Sabatino's for a year before moving to New York's East Village. She'd been to New York only twice but knew that's where she would end up, she said.

"I've been told since I was fairly young that `You're going to move to New York one day," she said. "`You belong in New York.' I have to admit, it suits me very well up here. I love it."

After a couple of years of theater performance and playing solo in New York City, McEwan formed a band. She cowrites songs with pianist Mike Pettry and released a self-titled album last year. She hopes to record another this fall.

McEwan likes her voice's polarizing effect on people. Usually, they are either drawn to it or pushed away.

"If you love it or hate it, that's fine," she said. "But I want the people who like it to not just like it. I want them to love it - to really, really enjoy it."

Returning to play at St. Paul's School will be a chance for McEwan to get a real critique of her music, she said.

"It's not like any of them will know me or feel the need to applaud if they don't feel it," she said. "It's going to be a good opportunity to get a good, honest reaction from a crowd."

The show will also be a homecoming for McEwan.

St. Paul's "was a really important place for me," she said. "It really opened up a lot of possibilities."

Lin McEwan opens for Corey Smith at the 8x10 on Tuesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. The venue is at 8-10 E. Cross St. Call 410-625-2000 or go to Wednesday, she plays a private show for St. Paul's School for Girls.

To hear a clip of McEwan's music, go to

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