“I grew up in church and in my mid-twenties. It was one of those experiences where I thought I knew all the answers. I thought I knew what happens when I die,” says Sharaya Summers. She refers to her former church as a ‘non-denominational culty thing.’ Despite that, her parents were pretty liberal and luckily, her church was music-centric which gave her a place to develop her voice.
The singer-songwriter used to live in Portland, Oregon where she used to sell real estate, but when the crash happened back in 08’ she decided to split and move out of state. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee on a whim before finally settling in Los Angeles at 21 to become a songwriter. After being here several years, she hit it big with her singles “Haunted” and “Light the Moon” which garnered several hundred thousand plays on Spotify. She alludes to Father John Misty, Joni Mitchell Fleetwood Mac, Jonathan Wilson, and Jenny O as influences for her 70’s throwback sound.
When she showed up in L.A in 2012 and started a band, she would approach musicians and coax them to play with her by telling them things like ‘I have this demo.’ ‘Wanna play in my band?’ and ‘I’m going places.’ She ended up playing with the band she fronted for five years.
“I don’t know if I want you to put it in there because I don’t want people hearing it,” laughs a hesitant Summers.
The band got signed to a label fairly soon, but nothing ever happened. “I got to go through the whole disillusionment of getting signed and nothing happening,” Summers says. At the time, she was over eager and signed the first offer the band got. However, looking back she feels like her songwriting wasn’t ripe enough to provide fruit. “I do feel like I developed as an artist because of it,” says Summers.
Another reason for her songwriting being underdeveloped, she was insecure and afraid what her former church would say. However, her existential crisis helped her find her own space where she is comfortable to be herself. Despite what people might think.
Eventually though, she would move on from the band and go on solo, performing as Sharaya Summers. “It’s interesting because this is my first time using my last name, too,” says Summers. “It’s cool too because he influenced the music’s sound.”
Summers is referring to is her husband Jacob Summers from the band Avid Dancer, who she credits to helping her achieve the sound she has been looking for. They met on tour when she opened for him. And after, they began working together. “We started writing together. We then got married like last month. It’s that very typical marry a producer type of thing,” laughs Summers’.
When she first moved to L.A, Summers struggled to make people not make her music sound too polished and too pop. “I already write pop melodies, but I don’t want that production necessarily. I wanted that classic instrument feel. When I first moved to L.A, everyone was trying to push me to put my vocals to be super upfront, clear, and crisp. I felt like I was always butting heads.”
Her producer-husband Jacob captures more of that throwback ’70s sound for her. She uses the metaphor of photography to describe their creative relationship. She has the vision and the image in hear head, while Jacob is able to translate that technically through a camera.
Lyrically, she does it all herself. Summers keeps a notepad or her phone close, so when something catches her attention she writes it down. She then takes these fragments together and they start to stick together. “The song kind of comes and I sort of flesh it out,” says Summers. “I don’t think the lyrics are cryptic necessarily. It’s a personal experience. And I don’t even know where it comes from. It just one of the things.”
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.