In a small dorm room sat an aspiring artist, thinking, writing and composing hope into reality.
Michaela Newman, international relations and global studies freshman, dropped an alternative folk EP “Summer Songs” on Feb. 17th. It’s a collection of four tracks inspired by her experiences during the summer of 2016. Her album can be found on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.
“It’s called ‘Summer Songs’, kind of ironically because they were released in the winter,” Newman said. “But they all kind of stem from the summer before I came to college.”
Newman teamed up with her old pals Ryan Thiele and Colin Huntley to produce the EP during winter break in Thiele’s home studio. Newman wrote the songs and took care of the vocals, Thiele spearheaded production while playing the keys and bass, and Huntley jammed on guitar.
“It was a pleasure working on this EP,” Thiele said. “I had a lot of fun taking the raw ideas that Michaela had and turning it into the singular work of art that she had been wanting.”
But the longtime friends now walk separate paths. Huntley is studying at Berklee College of Music and Thiele is working on personal projects of his own. They aren’t an official band, but with time to kill, the artists were open to recording the tracks.
“It’s good to be playing for a project that’s inspired,” Huntley said. “And that’s exactly what this project is.”
Though much of the inspiration for songs came around the tail end of summer, Newman said most of the EP was derived from lyrics drafted during the fall semester.
“I’ve always known Michaela as a talented musician,” Huntley said. “But to be there watching her bring a concrete vision to life for the first time was incredible.”
According to Thiele, Summer Songs embodied the essence of music. It allowed him to step back and see music for what it is — the expression of one’s inner being and emotions.
“It was one of my favorite projects to date,” Thiele said. “The simplicity allowed me to really dig in and make it a true expression of the artist.”
Newman’s career was a long time in the making. Raised in a musically inclined family, she began singing in front of crowds in elementary school and has been writing songs her whole life.
“I like the term ‘lyrically driven,’” said Newman, “I really try to write stuff that has a big emphasis on lyrics.”
During high school, she was part of an acoustic pop duet named Jake and Jean. Nowadays, Newman performs with the Longhorn Singers, a show choir.
Although she’s a vocalist at heart, Newman said she aims to diversify her craft. She said she plans to change her major from international relations to arts and entertainment tech to specialize in music and sound track. Eventually, Newman wants to move toward production and add synth pop to her repertoire.
“I would love to get a band together eventually and kind of branch out from just a solo thing,” Newman said.
Through Newman’s past experiences with Jake and Jean and performing gigs in Austin, she has developed the expressive style used in “Summer Songs.”
“After the duet split, that was when I started writing songs that really meant something, (that were) really rooted in experiences that I had,” Newman said. “This project is really like the culmination of a lot of years of work and writing. I think this is the best stuff I’ve ever written. But it has a lot of history behind it.”