“The practice of writing is easy; you just have to keep your eyes and ears open,” Summer said in a recent interview with the Sparks Tribune. “If you’re very sensitive and try to feel their needs, you can keep your finger on the pulse. If people are out of work, then you know they need encouragement.”
Summer, who will perform at the Peppermill Hotel Casino in Reno Friday night, considers herself as a “mouthpiece” in ministry for her listeners through her music. Now, with the release of her latest album, “Crayons,” she hopes to present a compilation of colors and styles that represent a return to youth and artistic freedom.
“If you’ve ever seen a kid with a box of crayons and they color on the walls, you can’t get mad,” she said. “It’s sheer, utter genius when their get their first box. With this CD, I feel like I’ve been set free.”
The new collection – her first in 17 years – incorporates her popular musical stylings in disco, pop, funk and soul in a voice that is distinctly hers.
“If you took a box of crayons, each color would represent something different,” Summer said of her latest album, “but the box won’t be complete without having that color.”
“Crayons” features tracks including “Stamp Your Feet,” “The Queen is Back,” and the Latin-flavored “Drivin’ Down Brazil.” The songs encompass a wide range of ideas and emotions, touching on facing life through fear and pain to teasing herself for her title as the “the Queen.”
Summer achieved a number of “firsts” during her career in the 1970s and 1980s. The five-time Grammy winner was the first artist to win the award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female in 1979 for “Hot Stuff” and was the first recipient of a Grammy for Best Dance Recording in 1997 for “Carry On.”
In 2004, she became an artist inductee and record inductee into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York City for 1977’s “I Feel Love” album.
Summer, born as Donna Gaines to a large family in Boston in 1948, first discovered her love for music at 8 years old singing in church.
Summer’s music has topped the Billboard charts for many of her well-known disco hits such as “Love to Love You, Baby,” “Bad Girls,” “On the Radio” and the Grammy and Academy award-winning “Last Dance.”
She said songs like “She Works Hard for the Money,” one of her most popular hits, is a prominent feminine anthem.
“People are still levitating off the seat; they know the song is for them,” Summer said.
And disco, for which she has an affinity, is a style of music that just won’t go away, she said.
“It’s important in terms of the height of the disco era,” she said. “It won’t die after so many years. It’s like a resurgence, sort of like sleeping giants.”
The six-time American Music Awards winner has accomplished three consecutive No. 1 double platinum albums, 11 gold albums, four No. 1 singles, two platinum singles and 12 gold singles. Despite a highly successful career, Summer said one of her biggest challenges has been dealing with rejection while trying to promote herself early on.
“I don’t care how famous you are,” she said. “You are the tide that can change. You have to always be in the state of mind to cope and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to be aware that it’s not so much about you but about (the industry’s) trends.”
In spite of that awareness, Summer chooses to focus more on the joy she receives from bringing joy to others.
“Making people happy (is rewarding),” she said. “People are in so many places good and bad – getting married, getting divorces, raising kids, in a lost romance, in a new romance. Whatever it is, it’s nice to know music is one of the few things where you can go to in your mind and it’s just there.”
Summer performs at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Peppermill Hotel Casino. Tickets are still available from $50 to $85 online at www.peppermillreno.com.