When your dad runs Warped Tour: Up close with Sierra and Kevin Lyman

Sierra Lyman, center, is the daughter of Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. Here she poses outside the Warped press tent in Cleveland with LSY reporters Paige Kelschenbach and Mary Hartrich. (Photo by Tim O'Shei)

Sierra Lyman, center, is the daughter of Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. Here she poses outside the Warped press tent in Cleveland with LSY reporters Paige Kelschenbach and Mary Hartrich. (Photo by Tim O’Shei)

Each summer, the Vans Warped Tour makes its way across the country, setting up stages and tents in each city, bringing together music lovers of all types for a day full of sweat, moshing, singing, being with friends, and (most likely) sunburn.

The man behind it all is Kevin Lyman, the 52-year-old boss and founder of Warped.

In separate interviews during Warped’s stop in Cleveland this summer, we caught up with Kevin and his 18-year-old daughter Sierra, who works as both a tour staffer and DJ.

Most Warped fans know that Kevin founded the tour two decades ago, but not too many know that Sierra plays a role in tour, too.

There’s a reason for that.

“She makes a point not to say, ‘I’m Kevin Lyman’s daughter,” Kevin told us.

As Sierra builds her own career in the music business, she has become closer to her dad and learned up-close the realities of the industry. We wondered: What’s it like to be a family living on tour? And what advice do the Lymans have for other teens who want to work in music?

Family life

The first few years of Warped, which started in 1994, were also the first few years of Sierra’s life. That meant her dad was gone for months every summer, which gave her a different childhood experience than her friends.

“Until I was about 15, I would see my dad two weeks, maybe three weeks in the summer,” Sierra said. “Then he would be home all winter. It was nice, but it was very different than everyone else’s dads with their 9-to-5 jobs.”

Age 15 is when Sierra entered the music industry herself. It came not through her dad’s connections, but through her high school. During Sierra’s sophomore year, the school didn’t have the money to hire a DJ for the school dance. Sierra decided to step in and volunteer to DJ. She bought some low-end, affordable equipment, and the dance ended up being a success.

Sierra also found a new passion.

“I loved (being) on stage,” she said. “I was still with everyone and I could see how people reacted to the music. I could see what people liked. I was kind of able to control the room with the music.”

That experience lead to Sierra joining Warped in 2012 as a touring DJ, and again this summer on the tour’s staff.

Joining Warped also meant spending more time with her dad, especially every night in the close quarters of the tour bus, where they both can talk about their day on the tour.

“Coming out on tour has made my dad and I closer,” Sierra said. “We can relate to each other more, and relate our experiences more.”

Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, with LSY reporter Mary Hartrich, says he loves his daughter Sierra's work ethic. (Photo by Tim O'Shei)

Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, with LSY reporter Mary Hartrich, says he loves his daughter Sierra’s work ethic. (Photo by Tim O’Shei)

Kevin acknowledged that his long-time commitment to Warped was, at times, a strain on his family. For example, only days after Sierra was born, he left for tour.

“That was rough,” Kevin said. “I look back, and maybe that was a little bit selfish. But I knew we had to do something, and really that was going to be my one time on the road.”

Warped grew and grew, however, which meant months away every summer. Now, though, it means months together.

“There was a time where touring almost pulled our family apart,” he said, “but in the long run it has made it stronger.”

Working the business 

Sierra never expected to be working in the music industry as a child and she doesn’t take the opportunities she’s been given for granted. On Warped, she works the same grueling, sweaty days as everyone else.

Kevin says he loves Sierra’s work ethic and she never uses the fact that she is “Kevin Lyman’s daughter” to her advantage.

“She takes nothing of it for granted,” Kevin said. “It’s given her a lot of strength to deal with people and to tackle things head on.”

Sierra could be promised a job on Warped indefinitely, but she’s still entering college at Loyola University New Orleans this fall to study communications.

“I can really expand my options,” she said.

Kevin and Sierra share the same ideas on what it takes to be successful.

When we asked for advice on how to make a name for yourself in the music industry, Kevin said, “It’s patience.”

Kevin also pointed out that music is a competitive business. “People don’t necessarily want you to succeed, sadly,” he said.

His advice: Get involved in your local scene first, and grow from there.

“Some people shoot for the stars right away,” he said. “I believe in patience.”

Even Sierra did that. Her first music gig was that sophomore-year high-school dance. Only after that did she join Warped. And even then, she worked. Sierra isn’t simply on Warped to hang out and meet bands. She helps the tour run.

“You really have to be willing to work hard,” she said, “because it’s not an easy thing.”

Mary Hartrich, LSY teen reporter

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