It’s been a year since Elspeth Summers bowed out from being a professional musician, but now she’s returned with a new self-produced album, “Round & Round.” The album spans 10 songs and a variety of themes, ranging from the personal to the spiritual.
Summers’ music communicates themes of environmental issues, spirituality and self-love, all through the genre of folk.
“I’m adamant about environmental activism and protecting Mother Earth,” Summers said. “I feel like I’m here for a reason because I know that we’re at a critical point in human history. We’re at a pinnacle where we can save our planet or not.”
Originally from Gardnerville, Nevada, a small town south of Carson City, Summers was raised in and around the greater Tahoe area by her parents.
“My parents were definitely very — they’re hippies to put it bluntly,” Summers said. “We went camping a lot during the summer, and I spent a lot of my childhood out in nature.”
At age 15, Summers found an old guitar at her house and from there became inspired to create music. While going to high school, Summers was in a folk band called “The Botanicals,” all the while honing her skills.
Dabbling in other instruments like the banjo, ukulele, mandolin and bass, Summers eventually branched out into her own band, simply known as Elspeth Summers.
“[Playing in a band] was definitely music bootcamp for me,” Summers said.
Summers moved to Reno after high school to be with her bandmates and follow her dreams of professionally pursuing music, something that would actually cause her to stop playing music.
Summers went on to tour the West Coast, playing throughout California, Oregon and much of Nevada. Summers would perform in almost any venue and for a variety of events, including the occasional wedding.
Exerting a large amount of her energy on music and performing, Summers eventually fatigued. The stress of constant touring and the disillusionment that goes along with it took their toll on her.
Summers took a break from music when she was 21.
“It got to where I had so many people telling me who I should be that I lost sight of who I am,” Summers said.
Summers used the year off to step back and evaluate her life. She used her dismal experience as a touring musician to learn and grow both as a person and as a musician. Now she looks back on it as an experience she feels made her stronger.
Summers came back to music more confident and set out to record an album, but she soon realized that recording an album in a studio is expensive. Not to be deterred, with help from her partner James Coleman II, she decided to self-produce her album.
“It was mine and Elspeth’s first time trying to record anything independently without a budget,” Coleman said. “So we used the bare-bones tools we had, which were GarageBand, an audio recorder that I use for my video projects and that’s about it.”
What was initially supposed to be a minimalist album with just Summers and guitar, the album would gain contributions from an array of musicians from across the globe through connections and Summers reaching out. Musical contributions include cellists, violinists and vocalists.
“Round & Round” was released on Sept. 9 of this year. The album has all of Summers’ traditional themes of environmentalism but with the additional theme of redemption — knowing that one can grow from mistakes.
“The message was about coming from the dark depths up into self-love,” Summers said. “You have to honor your shadow and your light.”
At this point Summers doesn’t have any plans to perform regularly again, but she does plan on having a short tour through Canada next summer and to release music videos to accompany her music.
“I’m just focusing on making more music and getting better,” Summers said. “That’s my main goal — to not do everything, but expand and grow and get better.”
Blake Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.