Young Pals Music production personifies the singer/songwriter’s Midwestern roots, meshing pop-country-folk template with city smarts
Singer/songwriter Dacada Summer has traveled a good long way since growing up in the tiny town of Dacada, Wisconsin, a locale so humble that it remains unincorporated. In 2012, with bigger fish to fry, the singer/songwriter catapulted himself from the heartland into the hubbub of New York City, where he is now based—albeit maintaining a 100% organic approach to his harmonic wares.
Full-length “Fourth and First”—released on physical CD and across all digital platforms on Thursday, July 4, 2013—comprises 10 songs written throughout that transition during the summers of 2011 and 2012. It chronicles the artist’s coming of age, and the dissonance between life in the big city versus his Midwestern upbringing. In Part I of the title track, Dacada Summer sums up: “It’s a day of independence for a boy who left home, picked up and ran away. It means something different, on this fire escape ledge… the whole world laid in front of him, a new allegiance must be pledged.”
Indeed, the album—produced by Ayhan Sahin and released on his indie New York-based label Young Pals Music, bears influences of both worlds—quite literally. Dacada Summer explains, “I wrote the music and lyrics, recorded all guitars, bass, harmonica and lead vocals, then sent the music files to my friends back in Wisconsin: studio engineer Cole Bemis and drummer Luke Leavitt. There are also tracks featuring appearances by my siblings Alexia and Joe.”
The result is a roots-driven pop-country-folk collective, saturated with harmonica, jangly guitars and insistent percussion—chaperoned by the rich, warm vocals of Dacada Summer—a.k.a. Jake—with a shout-out to his musical influences The Avett Brothers, Josh Ritter, Bright Eyes, Tallest Man on Earth and Bon Iver.
Producer Sahin says, “When Jake and I met to consider collaborating, he shared his demos with me, and I was stunned by the simplistic beauty of his songwriting, which was straight to the heart. The music, his words and the feeling he put into his vocals were all in line to successfully deliver a full-length project. At first, he wasn’t sure if he had enough material, but I assured Jake he was more than ready to put together a full album that would connect with the masses.”
As the third kid among four in his arts-driven family, Dacada Summer began guitar lessons in fourth grade, performing publicly throughout elementary and middle school. By eighth grade, he was leading local punk rock outfit Hopeless Hope, which released an indie album in 2005. Showmanship was more than a hobby; he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, focused on acting, playwriting, directing, and vocal and movement technique.
In spring 2012, his move to NYC was fueled by ambitions in music and theater. “I’ve slowly immersed myself into the lifestyle of an artist in New York City, which includes balancing acting and auditions with busking in the subways and playing open mikes wherever and whenever I can,” Dacada Summer. “My music has become a living journal for whatever it is life has in store for me in the moment.”
Among the highlights of “Fourth and First” is “First Snow,” with its driving uptempo instrumental template, a blur of acoustic guitar strumming and an anecdotal anthem about the past’s ever-present shadow over the present. He sings, “Centuries have passed since you vacated my mind. We’ve both been out searching, think we’ve found what we could find?/Time has this strange way of running us around, of giving second chances, of unwinding what’s been wound.”
In the clever “Hunger For Thirst,” Dacada Summer offers a melancholy ode to the universal search for companionship (“Expected more than rain from the sky. I needed time to find my love, or time to find the lack thereof”); while in the epic seven-minute “He Wrote Her,” he shares the sad, sweet tale of a woman looking back on her dearly departed husband.
Album opener “Change” is an uptempo chugger that pays homage to time-honored classic country with a splash of rock, featuring a cavalcade of harmonica, acoustic guitar and pounding percussion. He delivers one of the more fervent vocals on the album, singing true to the prevailing theme of “Fourth and First”: “Those fields I called home know I’ve got skies to scrape. This place kicks you while you’re down, but I won’t run away/I won’t win them all, I know. The more I lose, the more I grow… I’m sticking to my plan, I’ll go from boy to man.”
Hitworthy “Map of the World,” meanwhile, is a catchy love song, full of joyful harmonies (with sis Alexia accompanying on vocals) and a sing-along chorus, as Dacada Summer shares, “I don’t write happy songs, but you give me a tune/I don’t wish for things much, but I hope you’re here soon/Cause a day’s not a day, til I’ve seen you.”
And in the reflective slow-grinding “Fourth and First, Part II,” he revisits yesteryear, again recognizing its profound impact on today: “Centuries have passed since you vacated my mind. We’ve both been out searching, think we’ve found what we could find/But time has this strange way of running us around, of giving second chances, of unwinding what’s been wound.”
Throughout “Fourth and First,” Dacada Summer delivers a reverent dictum to his Midwestern roots—but make no mistake, this is no cowpoke collective. The album is abundant with self-awareness, musical mastery and lyrical lessons that offer a city smart narrative about navigating new and incalculable adventures around every corner. It personifies Everyman’s universal journey, fortified with the artist’s singular vocal prowess, with all potential to bring Dacada Summer to an audience that simply has no borders.