In Conversation—With Summer Dennis & Rhymes

Summer Dennis & Rhymes is the name of the duo made up of singer Summer Dennis and musician Bill Moore.  The two write their songs together, and Moore’s lush, multi-genre tracks are the perfect accompaniment to Dennis’s rich expressions of affairs of the heart.  The classically trained Summer Dennis is a beautiful, curvaceous young woman with the confidence to express her womanliness with no apologies.  On January 31st she sang a tribute to the recently departed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC, where the duo is based.

Recently Summer Dennis and Bill Moore took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about their childhoods, their inspirations, and what music means to them.

What kinds of childhoods did you have?

SUMMER: I was the oldest child.  My dad was a computer guy and my mom was a nurse, but she only worked one or two times a week.  They had me in every lesson I could be in, so I was super busy and active.  It was fun.

BILL: Youngest child of high-achieving parents.  Curious, quick mind, and athletic– but shy.  Always creative, but short attention span.

What role did music play in it?

BILL:  I took piano and vocal lessons as a child and also learned to sing with my mother at church.  I was also in plays and productions.  Music was always playing in the house and the car, especially gospel and jazz.  Mom played piano and sang through childhood, and my sisters constantly played contemporary music.  With my parents it was constant jazz and big band.  My first instruments came in grade school.  I started bass in late high school, then moved to guitar in college and stayed there.

Who—or what—in your life was the best influence on you as an artist? As a human being?

SUMMER: I would say Whitney Houston, Earth Wind and Fire, Lauryn Hill, and Stevie Wonder

As a human being, my parents were highly influential in my belief system.  They were very involved in my life, and I’m thankful for that.

BILL: John Coltrane, George Clinton, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Isley Brothers, Ohio Players (original), War.

Summer, you project the image of a beautiful, voluptuous woman in a cookie cutter world.  How did you develop that amazing poise and self-confidence?

SUMMER: I was a competitive gymnast for my whole life and my favorite event was Floor.  I loved to dance and perform, and that was part of why I medaled so often.  Also my mother was a pageant queen, so I think I got a lot of my poise from being her daughter.  It’s probably genetic.

“Circles” is such an engaging song.  What’s behind it?

SUMMER: I was thinking about how our musical and life journeys have been similar and cyclical.  It’s interesting the way life seems like it’s moving, but then you look around and even as you move forward, much of It seems like the same.

BILL: Trying to speak musically to the passage of time over life.  Wanted to make a groove that says it’s good to be alive through the good and the bad.

Did anything funny or weird happen while you were recording the album or videotaping “Circles”?

SUMMER: I would say the weirdest part was the fact that my concept for the video just didn’t seem to translate to anyone.  I really wanted to do this huge storytelling production, and the final cut just didn’t look like what I saw in my mind.  We’re still working on an extended cut of the video because I still want to tell the story, but I learned that I am a very complex individual.

How do you regenerate after giving yourself heavily to the music?

SUMMER: I live for giving heavily to the music.  The only thing that typically needs recovery is my back and my vocal chords.

BILL: Why would I want to do that? The music don’t stop.

What conditions do you need in your life in order to maintain your creative output?

SUMMER: I really need to have a safe and comfortable low-anxiety environment for the ideas to flow how they should.

BILL: Capacity to view the world objectively and translate experience into messages that resonate with the audience’s experiences.

Are there any books or films that have influenced your work?

BILL: Several out-of-print books about Taoism, Zen concepts, and mental power.  Books showed me that you will be more successful in all things if you flow with the current instead of fighting it.

What was the most mesmerizing musical experience in your life?

SUMMER: Opened for a national act for the first time as a young musician.

BILL: On stage in front of a full arena I first realized the full power of branding, imagery, and perception.

In your opinion, has music in general changed since you were small?

SUMMER: There’s just less music in the music.  It’s more electronic and It lacks depth.

BILL: It’s become more simplistic.  Because people have shorter attention spans there’s much more music coming more quickly from many, many more sources.

What does music mean to you?

SUMMER: Music means the world to me.  It’s literally the reason I live.  Life is not worth living without music.  Point blank period.

BILL: It’s my art and my therapy, the endless journey of combining 12 tones into appealing and attractive vehicles to send messages.

Do you follow a spiritual discipline that helps you on your creative path?

SUMMER: I believe that Jesus is with me always to help me through this life and journey.  I also speak my intentions over healing crystals and learn about the journeys of my ancestors to apply their life lessons to my own journey.

BILL: Meditation helped to center and focus my abilities.

If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?

SUMMER: Finish what you start and depend on nobody to do it!

BILL: Bring our best art forward as truly and purely as we can.

What’s next for you?

BILL: Third and fourth album collections for Summer Dennis and producing some other artists that we’re talking to.