- July 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH YOUNG SUMMER
DC-based electronic pop songstress Young Summer (Bobbie Allen) has always been in the spotlight. After she found herself opening for singer/songwriter Trent Dabbs at a show in her hometown, the musicians exchanged contact information with hopes of working together again. What formed from there was a fresh, electronic pop incarnation now known as Young Summer.
Last year, Bobbie released her debut EP, Fever Dream, and her songs have made an infectious wave with crowds across the country and on TV placements for hit shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries, to name a few.
Her debut album SIREN drops August 26, and USA Today recently streamed the full record exclusively on its site. Bobbie will hit the road in September, where she’ll play the All Things Go Fall Classic festival and numerous dates on the West Coast, including shows with hit singer/songwriter Mary Lambert.
We chatted with Bobbie about her transition from acoustic guitar to electro-pop, what it’s like writing with Trent Dabbs and why luck favors the prepared.
Drink of Choice: Coffee, Tequila
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: How did you get into music in the first place?
Young Summer: I've been a huge fan of music my entire life. We moved around quite a bit. My Dad was in the military for about 40 years, so I was always moving, every two years. Being really young, you can't drive to see your friends, so you might as well have moved across the country. You just were pen pals with people. Music really became a family member in that way.
Kristen: How so?
Young Summer: It was the only thing that was constant. I could put a record or a tape on or whatever. That track was going to be the same, every time. It was a safe harbor, and it became really important. I remember watching, always being obsessed with musicians and their backgrounds and their stories. Just really being so fascinated by it.
Kristen: And when did that fascination turn into an intentional pursuit?
Young Summer: I think I always knew I wanted to do it myself, but I knew that I needed to come to music with some kind of ability. I loved singing, but I thought, "You know, I should play an instrument." After college, I taught myself how to play the guitar. It was anti-climactic, where I was looking up Ryan Adams and Tom Petty songs on the internet. I would look at the chords on the website and figure out where to put my fingers for the specific chords. I was playing every day after getting home from an internship that I had, and after that I realized that I could write songs, and then I finally had a way of mapping that out, with the guitar.
Kristen: When did you decide you wanted to perform?
Young Summer: Well, I moved back to the Virginia/D.C. area in 2009. I had really bad stage fright at first, but at that point, music was more important to me than ever. And it always had been insanely important, but it never occurred to me to not go out and perform. I felt like it was this propulsion coming from nowhere. I set up gigs for myself, and was terrified. But told people I was doing it, and did it on purpose so I couldn't back out.
Kristen: Tell us about recording your first EP.
Young Summer: It was basically just an acoustic guitar and some other people that were in the area that were amazing musicians joined me. It's really funny, because those people have actually gone on. They've moved to Nashville, we're all still friends. It felt as if fate stepped in. Because three days after writing and releasing this EP, I opened up for Trent Dabbs. It was kind of crazy that that happened so quickly.
Kristen: And you and Trent have since collaborated. That opening slot kicked off a musical relationship between you two.
Young Summer: Yeah, I started going to Nashville. There was no plan, in the beginning, for us to make a record, at all. I was going down there and just as a huge fan of his, was excited to work with him. While I was there on that first visit, he said, "Let's write together." I thought, "Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into!”
Kristen: So intimidating.
Young Summer: But I did it. I said, "Let's write. And I hope things come out of my mouth and I hope I come up with something!” I had only ever written by myself up until that point, and the first song we wrote was a song called, "Close To Home," which is on the EP. It was crazy, and he seemed impressed by it, but I had no idea what the expectation was of a song, writing as a co-writer. It feels like a family. He and I and Jeremy Bose. It’s so organic and we're able to work really fast, which is kind of crazy.
Kristen: How did you end up playing for Trent in the first place? Did you book the show yourself?
Young Summer: I'm super lucky. There's a venue in the D.C. area—in Vienna, Virginia—called Jammin Java. The owners are three brothers—the Brindley brothers—and Daniel Brindley and I are good friends. He’s one of the most wonderful people in the world. He always believed in me. I would send him stuff early on, before it was done, when I was doing solo stuff. He knew that I was a big fan of Trent Dabbs and Andrew Belle. He emailed me and said, "Listen, we need an acoustic opener for Andrew Belle and Trent Dabbs. You're perfect for it. Do you think you can get people out if we have you play?" I said, "Oh my god, I will. I will make it happen." I was so excited about this opportunity.
Kristen: Yeah, that's incredible.
Young Summer: He was just looking out for me. If he hadn't done that, if Daniel hadn't pitched me for the performance, I wouldn't be in this position right now. Because I never would have met Trent. I fell very lucky.
Kristen: And obviously your sound has taken kind of a different turn since first starting to write with Trent. It’s gone from acoustic to more electro-pop driven. Was that an intentional transition?
Young Summer: I was really limited, working by myself and writing by myself. The guitar was all I had. I always wanted to do more and have a more developed sound. I've been a big fan of the ‘80s music and that resurrection that's coming back. I always liked the 808 drum, and that kind of thing. And Jeremy Bose is a genius at the mechanism that is electronic music. He's able to build these beautiful foundations for music. We had written “Close to Home” and “Half the Time”—which were acoustic, singer/songwriter genre songs—and he said, “Listen, I want you to hear something. Let me know what you think." It was the bass line for “Fever Dreams.” It was that drum kick. I immediately thought it was amazing.
Kristen: And then did the writing come after that?
Young Summer: Yeah, I mean immediately the lyrics started coming. Now, a lot of times the melody and the sound will inspire the lyrics. But they came really fast for the record.
Kristen: Which is a really good sign.
Young Summer: Yeah, absolutely. Even though it’s a more synthetic sound than I was used to, it struck me so directly. It just felt so right. From then on, all three of us knew we had to go that way.
Kristen: And when does the album drop?
Young Summer: It drops August 26. After the release, the game plan is to be out as much as possible in the next year. I’m hoping to jump on a tour as support for another band.
Kristen: What’s the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Young Summer: Oh my gosh. Well, the first one that comes to mind was that I made an itinerary for our trip to London, and sent it to my drummer and his wife. I printed everything out and had it in a folder. It was super Type A and nerdy.
Kristen: You're a planner then. Were you over there playing a show?
Young Summer: We were over there for the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, England. I'm with the Agency Group and they had booked two other shows for us over there, so we played the festival and then we played a show with an up-and-coming artist named MNEK. He’s amazing. He’s around 19 and crazy talented.
Kristen: What was it like being around like-minded artists?
Young Summer: It was the coolest thing ever. Phantogram was also there. I had the best time, and I had never left the country before, surprisingly. But it was honestly just the best trip. It was so awesome.
Kristen: And, you had a great itinerary, so ...
Young Summer: My itinerary was awesome.
Kristen: What’s the best advice you've ever received?
Young Summer: Early on, somebody said to me that luck favors the prepared. It was life-changing. I didn't know how to play the guitar yet. I was about to graduate from college. It was the height of the recession, and it felt like a really ominous time for me. The person who said it to me is a musician who meant a lot to me. I said something along the lines of, "You know, I want to do music some day." He said, "Well, you should go for it. And just remember, luck favors the prepared." In other words, don't sit around eating a sandwich and hope that something happens for you. Go out there and learn the craft. But that really, honestly, changed my life. It's really crazy.
Kristen: What are your hopes for the future?
Young Summer: I'm just going to keep doing my job and hope I can get as many people to hear the record as possible. I can’t wait to get it out there and play it. I hope I'll be in Chicago soon.