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Musician ISMAY Travels Long and Far to Find Herself in Finding Lucinda

by Rich and Laura Lynch

We had the pleasure of attending a premiere of Finding Lucinda at Belmont University's Johnson Center on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Directed by Joel Fendelman (Man on Fire, Remittance, Game Night, David) and produced by Liz McBee (upcoming Red For Revolution, Hi, I'm Nancy Rubin, Burning The Village) - this film follows Avery Hellman (ISMAY) an aspiring artist hoping to justify her creative journey by exploring musician Lucinda Williams' pivotal years. Finding Lucinda is currently being previewed at select locations and should be available for streaming sometime later in 2024.


Emmylou Harris and ISMAY in Nashville at the Johnson Center.

The film opens with grainy clips of Lucinda then shifts to the farm that Avery works at. At the ranch she cares for animals, plays music and reflects on Williams' substantial body of work. Avery realizes that she is uninspired by life on the land and dreams of something more. So, she decides to take a road trip across the southern United States to find inspiration in the people and places that shaped Lucinda's early days before the commercial success of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998) that ultimately earned Williams a Grammy.

Clips and interviews with Williams are woven into the story as ISMAY visits the spots were Lucinda perfected her craft. The film features interviews with Charlie Sexton, Buddy Miller, Mary Gauthier, Josh Baca and Max Baca (Los Texmaniacs), John Grimaudo and Wolf Stephenson. Through these conversations this documentary shines light on the immense impact Lucinda had on others. Over the course of four years, the team looked into Williams' past, finding hidden tales and treasures such as the discovery of Lucinda's earliest recorded songs, which were stored in the Malaco Studios vault since the 1970s. These tracks miraculously survived a devastating tornado in 2011, becoming a testament to Lucinda's enduring talent. ISMAY also learned how influential Lucinda's poetic father was on her development as a writer.

As much as Finding Lucinda is about Williams the other prevailing theme is dealing with self-doubt and taking the risk of pursuing your dreams. Avery grew up in a musical family that included being a part of a Lucinda Williams tribute band which led to Hellman's struggle of whether she was good enough to be a recording and touring musician in her own right. ISMAY reveals that by studying the early career of an artist that has so much integrity is how she found her answer to whether she could envision a future in music.


ISMAY is interviewed after the screening at Belmont University.

Along the way, there were uncomfortable moments as Avery's considerable lingering doubts and inability to get out of her own head were portrayed on the big screen. But, as the singer/songwriter confirmed in the post showing Q&A session she largely overcame her feelings of inadequacy through the process of making the film and now realizes that she is good enough and more than worthy to pursue he own musical adventure - which she is now doing full-time.

Initially, the early moments of the documentary could be construed to represent the point of view of one overly fixated fan. But, ultimately by the end of the film it becomes clear that the movie was more the working of true admiration resulting in an honest exploration of what made one much loved artist (Lucinda) tick, thrive, stand out and survive on her ultimate path to achievement. ISMAY went on to reveal that Lucinda wasn't even her main influence. Her recorded output seems to have more in line with someone like Suzanne Vega than Lucinda.


Illuminate Worship and Caroline Mason put on a post film service for students at Belmont.

We even thought perhaps the film could have been called "Finding Dar" as Avery's insightful folk-rock style also reminded us of another well-respected Williams. In Nashville, ISMAY shared more insights into the film and she even had the chance to meet up with Emmylou Harris - a longtime family friend - who was in the audience watching along with the rest of Music City. All in all - Finding Lucinda is an amazing vehicle for an artist like Avery to find an audience in an era where developing a fan base is increasingly more difficult with each passing year.

Belmont University was an ideal place for a film of this caliber as this college is known for their music curriculum. As we were strolling the scenic grounds of Belmont's campus we stumbled upon Illuminate Worship - a group of students who were performing popular CCM tunes as the sun set just before the rain began to fall. We met their female singer named Caroline Mason who herself is just starting out on a musical journey having just released her debut single "Dead Ol' Grass". We listened and were blown away and totally captivated. Thus, we ended the evening on an even more inspiring note!!!

Remember that Finding Lucinda is being previewed at select venues and should be available for streaming later this year.


Wow, Caroline Mason is one to watch in Nashville!

Related Links: For more information on FINDING LUCINDA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - ISMAY | Finding Lucinda | Caroline Mason | Belmont University


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