If you watch HBO’s popular series “True Detective,” odds are you’ve heard Lera Lynn Buettner’s (AB ’08) songs. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter has had four songs featured on the show’s soundtrack. The UGA Alumni Association recently sat down with Lera to learn more about her musical career and time spent studying anthropology at UGA.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and what led you to UGA?
I was born in Texas, but my parents left soon after and slowly made their way to Georgia, stopping in Louisiana for about five years first. We moved around a good bit in Georgia, and I finished high school in Woodstock. It was around that time I visited Athens for the first time, to hang out with friends and see live music. I fell in love with the town’s energy and lively music scene. That’s ultimately what led me to UGA. My family stressed the importance of college, though I had my sights dead-set on music. UGA and Athens were my ticket to satisfying both.
As a student, were you involved in any activities or student groups on campus? Did you have a favorite professor or any fond memories from your time in Athens?
I worked my way through college, waiting tables, bartending and saving up as much as I could between semesters so that I could work fewer hours and still survive when school was in session. That said, I didn’t have a lot of extra time for student groups. What time I did have was always devoted to music. Attending UGA still endures as some of my most fond memories. What a luxury it is to go to college and just learn all day! My senior year was definitely my best, as the courses were digging deeper into the things that truly interested me. I loved study groups that were assembled by classmates. I loved sitting in the group and discussing the subject matter in-depth outside of the classroom. It’s easy to take that for granted when you’re so young, but those are some of the most important conversations you can have; just digging in and bouncing ideas off of other people who are dedicating so much energy to the same things as you.
One of my favorite memories was a beautiful and moving lecture by Dr. Peter Brosius. He was recounting time spent researching in the field and the relationships he’d developed there; the focus being love at the center of everything in life. His lecture brought the whole class (100+ students) to tears. I think he was in tears, too. I will never forget the passion he has for what he does. It reminds me to do what I do for the right reasons.
Since graduating, you’ve moved to Nashville. How did you establish yourself as a musician in there?
I’ve yet to establish myself anywhere, really, because I’m trying to establish myself everywhere all the time. As an artist, you’re often trying to establish yourself on a national level. There’s a difference between a studio musician in Nashville and an “artist.”
You’ve had several songs featured on the soundtrack for HBO’s True Detective. Tell me how that project came about and what doors it has opened for you.
I’ve had four songs featured in the series so far. I was lucky to have my manager set up a meeting with legendary producer, T Bone Burnett, after he expressed an interest in using the title track from an EP I released last year called “Lying in the Sun.” We got along well. Burnett asked if I wanted to collaborate on music for the show and the rest is history. I got to appear in the show several times and I’ve learned a lot about the business side of music and show business. The show has exposed my music to many new eager ears – that’s been the best part of the whole thing.
Do you have any other big projects in the pipeline? Where do you envision your career in five years?
I’m currently writing and recording my next LP. I’m really enjoying the process. I feel like there are so many more possibilities to explore. I hope that in the next five years I can buy a sensible new car. That would be success!