“I don’t want to necessarily be singing in restaurants my entire life,” says Summer Gill, chuckling, “There’s nothing wrong with that, like if that was my only source of income for the rest of my life I’d actually be fine with it, but I mean I would like to branch out and play in actual venues where people are coming to see me and not a hamburger.”
It’s Friday afternoon and Summer Gill, 19, has just made the two-hour drive from Tallahassee to Gainesville. Fresh from setting up for her gig at Root and Pecker later that evening, she starts getting herself ready for the show.
Gill, a Florida State University student and musician, is no stranger to long commutes. Since starting college, travel has become a regular part of her weekly routine. On the weekends, Gill often travels six hours home to Stuart to do a lineup of gigs.
“It’s actually more worth it for me to travel home on a weekend,” Gill says, “So I’ll drive home on a Thursday or something and book, you know, two or three gigs that weekend so that I can keep it fresh.”
Although now she often performs solo in Tallahassee, Gill started her musical career at the age of 12 when she began singing covers at restaurants with her father.
“It’s cool because I have a built in bandmate and one who I’m not gonna fight with all the time about creative differences,” Gill says, “It’s cool just to get to hang out and bond with your dad over something like music.”
Her soulful voice and piano/guitar accompaniment quickly made her a standout act in the local music scene, but by the end of her high school career, Gill was ready to move beyond song covers and introduce some of her own work into the world. From heartfelt ballads about relationships to upbeat songs about her family and hometown, Gill says that her songs usually begin with a phrase or melody, which she then crafts a song around.
“For the most part, I’ll write songs that don’t seem to mean anything at the time, where I just feel like the words sound good together and the melody is cool,” Gill says, “but then a few months later when I’m singing it and tweaking and working on it, I’ll realize that it sort of reflects an event that happened in my life.”
Having just recorded a demo CD (available for purchase now), Gill looks to record a six or seven song EP in the summer of 2016.
“I want to start small and see if people respond to the smaller things, and then if I have an EP I can send it out to radio stations or venues and stuff and see if they’d be interested,” Gill says.
When I ask about her favorite gig thus far, Gill remembers her performance at YoungArts Miami in 2014 as one of the most memorable. One of only 800 students in the country selected out of thousands of applicants, Gill had the opportunity to take classes with renowned artists and sing at the prestigious Olympia Theatre.
“I got to perform … with a full backing band and backup dancers and everything,” says Gill, “It was like my Beyoncé moment.”
And while her over 200 YouTube subscribers and nearly 1,000 Facebook fans might beg to differ, there are still those who try to persuade Gill that there is no future in music. Her message for the naysayers?
“I realize that it’s not the most stable job, but it doesn’t really matter to me. It makes me happy, and so it’s just frustrating when people tell me that there is no future in this unless you get super lucky, and that’s just not really the case,” Gill says, “There’s always gonna be a way to make money or a living in general at something you enjoy doing, so that’s just kind of my goal.”