Venice singer-songwriter Summer XO, performing Tuesday, is using technology and visual art to produce an album
By Michael Aushenker
Summer XO has gone from “Hello World” to hello, Venice.
The indie pop singer-songwriter is celebrating a successful crowdfunding campaign to underwrite the September release of her forthcoming “Hello World” EP by performing live on Tuesday in her adopted hometown.
There is nothing particularly unusual about a musician turning to Kickstarter to raise the money to produce an album. But Summer XO also threw her considerable visual arts talents into the mix, offering pieces from her ongoing pastel series of abstract female portraiture, “The Girls,” as rewards for donors.
“Hello World,” influenced by her fondness for performers such as Feist, Fiona Apple and Ingrid Michaelson, was successfully funded last week to the tune of $6,566.
Summer XO said she turned to Kickstarter because “crowd funding has become a popular way for independent musicians to pay for production costs of recording music in the era of illegal downloading and as music streaming, with its lower payout to artists, becomes the norm.”
On Hello World, Summer XO accompanies herself on guitar, piano and ukulele. In concert, Summer performs with standup bassist Nico Philippon and cajon player Jose Trevino.
Born Summer Rose Virshup, the West Virginia native honed her musical skills on Paris.
“The only job that I could get was playing music in the Metro,” she said, but it was enough to support her for a year.
Living in another country, “you’re culturally isolated. I was reflecting on my life that I had stepped out of, my American life back home,” she said.
Her Paris experience informed much of her upcoming album. At Witzend, she is work-shopping several tracks from “Hello World,” including “Invented the Word,” “That One Thing,” and “Usually,” all of which were written in France.
Returning to America in March 2013, Summer XO landed in Venice, where she had some friends and found work at a local eatery. Then in January, the Abbot Kinney Boulevard restaurant where she worked laid off much of its staff.
Finding opportunity in crisis, “I threw myself into my music,” she said.
Summer XO performed last month at YogaNest Yoga Studio in Marina del Rey, a concert that was streamed live online.
Though now working a day job again, this time for a health food company, it isn’t lost on her that she used her painting skills to support her music.
“It’s kind of ironic that, by virtue of an arbitrary change in medium, music has essentially become devalued while original [visual] art remains unique, thereby retaining its value,” she said. “To me, the amount of labor is the same. To create a painting or to create a song, I work hard. Ultimately, I’m just thankful that I can offer something truly one-of-a-kind in exchange for help producing these songs that are so important to me.”
Summer XO performs at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Witzend, 1717 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. Doors open at 7 p.m.; $10 cover. Call (310) 305-4790 or visit witzendlive.com.