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New Artist of the Week: Summer Dean

By Amanda Wicks

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Texas-born singer/songwriter Summer Dean's hard work is paying off. At age 40, it's about dang time.

Dean shifted her focus exclusively to music only in more recent years. Prior to that, she taught elementary school for a decade. "That’s what small-town Texas girls do", she explained. "But here I am, age 40, quitting my stable job, cashing in the wedding money my momma put aside for me and making this album".

After releasing her EP Unladylike in 2016, Dean played gigs all over the country, spreading her Western-tinged traditional country sound to any and all who turned out. Now, she's preparing to release her debut album Bad Romantic, out August 27.

She recorded Bad Romantic at Niles City Sound, an analog studio in Fort Worth. On the single "Blue Jean Country Queen", Dean extols her love for country music - almost to the point of worship. The track features a searing electric guitar solo right alongside a pedal steel solo, and shows off how Dean enjoys playing with the genre. Listen below.

If you hear a lot of Western swing in Dean's music, it might have something to do with what she listened to growing up, namely Bob Wills. In preparation for Bad Romantic, Dean spoke with Holler about his influence, how Texas has also influenced her sound and what she has planned next.

Where are you from and has that influenced the type of artist you are?
Being from Texas has a direct influence on my music and songwriting. They say you write about what you know. I grew up in the northern part of the state, almost Oklahoma, where simplicity and tradition are the way of living, where a white starched shirt and jeans is a suit and tie. It’s grass and cattle country and everyone is your friend and neighbor.

I’m the fourth generation of a cattle ranch there so that’s where I’ll spend the last part of my life as well. I also take a lot of influence from my travels. I feel a deep connection to northern U.S., around Montana, Wyoming and the Black Hills.

Speaking of influences, what were you listening to growing up?
Bob Wills was at the top of the tape deck as a kid. We listened to A LOT of western swing. Some other tapes in my deck were George Strait, Ray Price, Juice Newton, Reba McEntire and Asleep at the Wheel.

Did you ever want to do something other than music?
I was an elementary school teacher for 10 years. I’ve also worked in retail and ranch realty. But I always dreamed of being a musician, just never thought I could, ha!

Are you more creative when you’re happy or when you’re sad?
For me, there’s not one more impactful than the other. I like feeling happy and making others feel the same. But when the darkness hits, it sure is a comfortable bed for me to lay in.

What drives you the most?
An E350 named Vanya Tucker. Ha! But, really, one thing that really drives me is all those sweet people coming to shows, dancing to the tunes and coming over to say "Hi". I appreciate sincerely them spending their hard-earned dollar to support our music and I don’t take that lightly.

I want to give them good songs and a good show. I’m proud of myself when I do.

In general which comes first for you, the title or the song?
I’d say mostly the title. There’s usually some kind of spark that ignites a song, whether it be a word, phrase, melody, or just a general idea. The voice memos app on my phone is full of “sparks” of all kinds that I update and use for writing references constantly. But they ain’t all gems!

Who would be your dream collaboration?
I’ve gotten to work with some of my favorites, like Colter Wall and Matt Hillyer, for this record. Some personal dream collabs would be Connie Smith and Leona Williams.

What’s next?
Bad Romantic comes out August 27 and I’m excited for people to hear it. I’ve been working on booking tours everywhere to come play for all of you! I’ve been writing a ton lately and I’m just about ready to record the next album.