Local singer-songwriter Elspeth Summers just released a new album, Round & Round. For more information, visit www.elspethsummers.com.
So, new album out?
Yes. I took about two years off of music. My first EP came out in December, 2014. And I had a producer in Canada for that one. That was basically produced by an independent party. So, this album, I decided that I wanted to do it on my own and really create something that I felt reflected me completely. So I made the album, recorded everything on my own, all the vocals, all the guitar. My boyfriend James [Coleman II] helped quite a bit with the mixing and the recording. … A guy up in Canada who played violin on my first record contributed, and a few other people from across the country, and then Gina Rose, who’s also a Reno musician sang harmony on four of them. So, I got the parts, mixed everything myself, and then had the album mastered by Rick [Spagnola] at Dogwater Studios in Sparks.
The album starts with a spoken word track. Tell me about that.
Absolutely. The goal with my music is that I want to be a voice for Mother Earth. I want to be a voice for preserving all the beauty we have around us. I want to crack the listener open. I want to touch people’s souls and hearts and inspire them to be better people and love our planet. So I wanted to start and end the album with spoken word tracks, so I could start it with a profound message, something that made the listener think, and was a prelude to what my music is about, and what I’m about as an activist trying to create change through my music and my art.
You described yourself as an activist. What issues?
Environmental issues are my biggest concern. I grew up with hippie parents, so I spent a lot of my childhood in nature. Most of my summers we would go camping in Markleeville. I grew up in Gardnerville and Tahoe. I grew up in nature. I feel like my purpose is to bring awareness to the fact that Mother Earth gives us everything. All of our abundance comes from nature, comes from the planet. We have to speak up about that. We can’t let oil companies rule our world with profit and greed. We can’t sit idly by and leave a destroyed, sick planet for future generations.
You took a couple of years off from music. Why was that? What brought you back?
Well, I had a full band, Elspeth Summers & the Sage Bandits, and I was touring quite a bit across the West Coast—Oregon, Washington, Idaho—and I was performing a lot, and it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t happy performing in bars everywhere. I wasn’t happy being a car for so many hours of the day. Music became this thing that I had to do for money and because I felt obligated, because I had all these shows, and all these tour dates. I got burned out—bottom line. I got burned out, and I wasn’t happy. Not just with music but with where I was personally. I wasn’t happy. And the band broke up, and it broke my heart. I took that time off because I didn’t want to touch my guitar. I didn’t want to sing. And then, making this album, I had a lot of motivation from my boyfriend to do it on my own. Because there’s a lot of stigma in the music industry that you have to go to a professional studio, and you have to do A-B-C, if you want to be successful. You can’t make an independent album if you want to be successful. But I said, “Oh, wait. I can do this on my own. I can.” And through the process of writing the album, I regained my love and my passion because I was creating something that was true to me. It wasn’t for someone else.