Becca Damante '17
Next Thursday evening at 9 p.m., singer-songwriter Lauren Zettler will perform at Jittery’s Live in the CC TV Lounge. Her music has been described as “electro-pop with a songwriter element to it” and has influences ranging from Brandi Carlile to The Beatles to Emily Haines of Metric.
Next week’s show will be an intimate performance with just her and a piano. Shows like these are among Zettler’s favorite kind, as they give her a chance to connect with the audience and share stories about how the songs were written.
Zettler, an Indiana native, had a typical childhood growing up. Her parents were chemists and encouraged Zettler to become involved in an extracurricular activity at around age eight, and she chose to learn classical piano. She developed a great relationship with her piano teacher, who inspired her to continue past elementary school. Though playing piano was an integral part of her childhood, she only sang when people were out of the house. Zettler explained, “Whenever people were gone in my house, I would turn the music on and sing along as loud as I could to it…to see if I was good at it or not…I was too shy to actually ask anybody or sing in front of anyone.”
While she was “a pretty shy kid,” she always had a desire to play music. Her love for music continued into her college years when she attended Berklee College of Music in Boston as a music business management major. This education led her to a job at Universal Music Group, but something didn’t feel quite right.
A spontaneous Brandi Carlile concert changed everything for her. Carlile sang one of her lyrics: “I’ve seen your nine to five’s wash away your dreams.”
Zettler had an immediate reaction to the lyrics. “When she said that, I literally felt like I had this weird out-of-body experience where I just kind of was like, oh man, that’s the answer,” she explained. As a result, Zettler quit her job at Universal Music Group after just one year and decided to pursue music professionally, hoping she could make people feel emotions the way other musicians did for her. She also revealed, “I felt like I wanted to pursue my own music, and if I didn’t try it [then], I would never try it, and then I would regret it.”
Flash forward to today: Zettler has been working in the music industry under the name I Am Lightyear. She explained her choice of name, saying, “I felt like nobody really cared about what I was doing when I was just Lauren Zettler. You are boxed in as a singer-songwriter with a guitar.” For her, I Am Lightyear embodied the work she was creating. However, she explained that she’s not so established that she couldn’t change her name in the next few years if something else comes along.
Under the name I Am Lightyear, Zettler has released a couple of short albums including her most recent EP, “Holding Pattern.” The songs are bold and unique; they combine striking electronics and warm bass lines with airy vocals and are filled with a space unlike any musician I’ve heard before. The final track on the album, “Love,” begins with a faraway instrumental riff that continues throughout the song against a driving beat. And, like all of Zettler’s songs, it has poignant lyrics that listeners can easily connect with. In one song, she reflects on what’s likely a past lover, singing, “I search for you in all of my things, in other people too/ It’s like the further you go away, the closer I am to you.”
Recently, Zettler has been writing top-line for EDM musicians and has begun working on a variety of other side projects. In the future, she hopes to do more co-writing. But, songwriting is a difficult endeavor and often a learning process, as Zettler knows. She said, “I’m still learning to say what I want to say myself without feeling influenced by what’s popular or what I think somebody wants to hear.” She hopes to continue to make authentic music for her fans and affect people on a personal level, sharing parts of herself that let her connect with people and their stories.
Lauren will perform on April 16 at 9 pm in the CC TV Lounge. This event is free and open to the Smith community.