To Lael Summer, music has never been a stranger. This New York native could sing before she could walk, and claims the ability to sing all of the songs from the musical “The Sound of Music” shortly after. Currently, Lael is a senior in The University of Southern California’s elite Popular Music program. Lael released her debut EP last August, which featured four songs from her newly released album, Burden to Bear. We asked Lael a few questions about her musical upbringing and some of her favorite songs off of her new album.
Entertwine: How’d you get into singing? When did you realize music was your main passion?
Lael Summer: I practically came out of the womb a performer; I was the loudest and most enthusiastic participant in nursery school sing-a-longs and a devoted member of Church Street Music School–but really, for as long as I can remember nothing has brought me greater joy than the freedom and the release I get from singing. It’s not typical that a 3-year-old’s favorite movie is The Sound of Music, but I knew every word on that soundtrack. Throughout my childhood I was always in some sort of after-school musical theater program and always had people commenting on my voice. I never truly thought about making a career out of music until my mother suggested I begin voice lessons at age ten–in fact, I had my sights set on being a fashion designer. However, once I began voice lessons, there was no going back. The high I got from performing was (is) incomparable and it never seized (seizes) to amaze me just how delicate of an instrument the voice is. There is always room to improve, to fine-tune, and to access new territory. Music is a universal language, something that everyone can connect to and being able to share that gift is beautiful.
I am fully aware that devoting my future to a career in music promises no stability and sometimes I wish that I could just be satisfied as an accountant or a lawyer, but for me it isn’t a choice. As cliche as it sounds, music–writing and performing and singing–has chosen me and I cannot imagine being happy doing anything else. I’m just praying that I can make a successful career out of it….
ET: What type of style would you categorize your music?
LS: Whenever anyone asks me this question I always struggle to come up with an answer. If I had to classify it I would say it has kind of a neo-soul/funk/R&B flavor but there are definitely elements of rock and pop in there. I honestly don’t know how to define my music–you’ll have to tell me!
ET: Tell us about your latest album Burden to Bear. What was the writing process like?
LS: Burden to Bear is my debut album, so it’s my baby. The production process took over a year of hard but enjoyable work and I am so grateful for those who helped it all come to fruition, especially Tomas Doncker: my producer, cowriter, musical director, guitarist and mentor. I could not have done it without him. The writing process was unbelievably cathartic for me; I had a chance to explore many different facets of my identity and express some of the things I cannot express solely through words. These songs are each snippets of my soul (sorry for the corniness) and there were times during the process when I was so overcome by emotion it was painful.
Sessions are so much fun; when in the studio, I am in my element. The recording process is absolutely fascinating–watching the music all come together piece by piece–there’s nothing more gratifying then knowing “I made this happen. This is my creation.”
ET: Which song would you say is your favorite off of the album?
LS: Another difficult question.
I go through phases depending on my mood. Lately I’ve been listening to Make Me Whole quite a bit.
ET: What would your dream tour be like? Who would you love to travel and tour with?
LS: My dream tour would involve traveling all over the world, performing for and meeting people of all backgrounds. I would love to start by touring the US. There are so many states I have never visited that I really want to. I would love to perform at all sorts of venues for all kinds of occasions and for both huge and smaller audiences.
I could list hundreds of artists I would do anything to tour with. This might come as a surprise but I desperately want to collaborate with Eminem. He’s a genius and if I ever had the chance to write and perform with him, I could die happy. Eric Clapton too. Those are the two at the top of my list at the moment.
Connect With Lael: