The path that led to the recent release of Summer Lane Emerson’s new album started with the pandemic. After releasing her debut single, “Blood-Stained Wings,” in 2019, Emerson put out “Jaybird” in 2020, and — either due to or despite the lockdown — received a good response. It was so good, she dropped two more singles, and now all four of them (and three others) comprise her stunning recently released debut album, Jaybird.
“After the pandemic, I was so busy, and, honestly, I lost the motivation,” she said. “I didn’t feel like playing, and finally I got a bit of the light back. I jumped back into it and realized how much I love it.”
More amazingly, Emerson was able to pull all this off while managing a family of three with another little one on the way.
“I love being able to take on the best of both worlds,” she said. “I think that the music honestly is a valuable thing to incorporate into my family. When I’m home practicing, my daughter is dancing and jumping around just like she is at my shows when she comes to watch me.”
The biggest sacrifices Emerson has made have been taking time out from family to book shows and promote. Otherwise, she said, her music career has become something of a family undertaking, one that involves everyone in the household.
The album is intensely personal. “Blood-Stained Wings” is about rape, while other tracks, especially “Jaybird,” deal with romantic love. Emerson wrote the title track after meeting her husband.
Jaybird, she said, is “a timeline of my life. It caught me [during] the most depressed times of my life up into the best times of my life.”
Growth, reflection, and just the human experience in toto also appear in Emerson’s lyrics. They blend seamlessly with the album’s folk-like soul and her airy yet strong vocals.
“You don’t think you’ll get through the shitty times,” she said. “It took me a long time to change and heal from trauma and issues, and I really liked to get those songs out there, but it is also about those happy times, and it got the ball rolling again.”
The recording process dates to 2020, too. That’s when veteran producer/engineer/musician Taylor Tatsch (Maren Morris, Cut Throat Finches, Shadows of Jets) approached Emerson after one of her shows and invited her to his studio, AudioStyles, in the heart of Hill Country, Fredericksburg. Along with handling production and engineering, Tatsch played guitar and a few other instruments on Jaybird. Members of the folk-rock group the Rock Bottom String Band and Urban Pioneers provided the rest of the backing instrumentation. The album was mastered by Todd Pipes (Deep Blue Something, Phantom Power, Little Universe).
“Making music with friends makes a snowball effect,” Emerson said, “and through playing and hearing the tracks, it all meshed perfectly.”
Now, Emerson says, her inspiration comes from her family and creating music that will last. It’s one reason why she’s picking up where she left off pre-pandemic, with a slate of shows scheduled.
“I started playing shows again,” she said. “I wanted to release the album, but it got pushed further and further, and then the baby [came]. I just keep going because I realized now is the time, and I don’t see myself stopping again.”
Summer Lane Emerson
7pm Sat w/Squirrel Nut Zippers
at the Kessler Theater,
1230 W Davis St, Dallas.