Michaela Newman has found growth and healing through her music. On Feb. 17, she debuted her lyrically-driven alternative project "Summer Songs," sharing raw emotions and the story of finding solace within herself alongside her listeners.
Story by Onaje McDowelle
Photos by Aaron Dehn
"The project just kind of fell in my lap," International Relations and Global Studies freshman Newman says in recounting how a couple of ideas blossomed into a four-song EP. "There wasn't a lot of planning that went into it, it all just kind of arose very organically."
Her path to becoming the budding songstress that she is today began a little more than a decade ago, about twenty minutes north of Austin in Georgetown, Texas. Newman remembers being introduced to music by her family, especially her mother who has been singing all her life. She says she even remembers writing songs in elementary school.
However, it wasn't until Newman's sophomore year of high school that the thought of becoming an actual artist began to come to life. "A friend and I created a duet under the name Jake and Jean, and we started recording songs together,” Newman says. From there, the duo collaborated on two EPs and began booking small shows around Austin. Back then, Newman was managing the duo’s public relations, management and social media in addition to performing.
The end of Jake and Jean coupled with high school graduation constituted a dark time, full of new emotions for Newman. The byproduct of those experiences became the Summer Songs EP. This was Newman’s first time being the sole artist behind her work and this presented its own set of intimidations and challenges. "I ended up writing all these songs about how I felt not just that summer, but for the last couple of years," Newman says.
She originally intended to write the songs and drop them individually, but she decided to release them together on streaming platforms like iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. "It was so interesting to see the content of those original summer songs, and how coming out of that influenced my writing and my state of emotion in the fall," Newman says. "It's kind of like my own therapeutic way to look back on last summer, which is why it's called Summer Songs."
Through the darkness, Newman says she has noticed tremendous growth as both an artist and an individual. "Last summer felt cold and dark, so it felt right to debut it in the winter," Newman adds in addressing the irony around the project's release date. "It was really cool to see an idea in my head come to fruition."
She draws some of her biggest musical inspirations from WildChild and Sylvan Esso. One of her favorite aspects of UT is the never-ending supply of student creatives. “There are so many musicians, producers and other artists,” Newman says. “It’s almost impossible for me to listen to all of them, but I love to seek out other students who make music and listen to what they have to offer.”
Newman is currently thinking of a way to bring student artists together and compile a playlist or curate a showcase that would make student-created music available to everyone. In the future, she wants her music to evolve from an alternative aesthetic to one that is more in the direction of synth pop. She says she also hopes to learn how to play guitar and hopefully find members for a supporting band. In her switch from majoring in International Relations and Global Studies to Arts and Entertainment Technologies, Newman hopes to gain the skills necessary to accomplish new dynamics within her sound.
"My writing is really honest, sometimes a little too honest," Newman says. However, that’s more exciting than scary, as she sees it as an opportunity for her music to resonate with people on an intimate level. Songs like “The Summer I Was Almost Blonde” and “Gunfire and Oceans” exemplify her ability to do just that.
"I want people to feel things. I want it to be art that when you listen to it, you walk away realizing something that you didn't before."