Summer Walker is a very busy person. Between shooting music videos and playing huge festivals in the States, the Atlanta-born singer songwriter hardly has any down time to herself. After several days of trying to pin her down to talk, Clash finally manages to pin the elusive songstress down to talk to us.
“Ello?” comes a female voice in a mock cockney accent down the other end of the line. “This is Summer,” she says, before giggling to herself. “Let me just move outta this room, it’s a little too loud to hear you,” she offers, as music blares in the background. As the commotion peters out, and the door closes, it’s time to try and get to know the enigma that is Summer Walker.
Walker’s story starts as any true hustler’s does: needing to pay bills. Like many artists before her, including Cardi B, Summer was working at a strip club in her native Atlanta trying to make ends meet. But it was in her home where she honed her musical talents.
“I always liked to play the guitar,” she offers. “I used to sneak into the bathroom to play it at night.” Her playing, however, is admittedly fairly limited, much to her amusement. “I can only play like four chords though,” she says through a burst of giggles. “I just know how to finesse it.”
It was the need for money that saw the songstress truly chase her dream. “I realised that I actually needed to make my music count so I could pay bills,” Walker confides. She signed with Atlanta-based label LVRN (LoveRenaissance), home to fellow superstars 6LACK and Boogie, in 2018. She has a strong bond with the LVRN group, and the collective has proven that you don’t need to be in New York or Los Angeles to chase a career in the music industry. And Summer believes there’s one huge factor that equates to this: the Internet. “Nowadays the Internet is key,” she insists. “You can be from anywhere in the world and it’ll give you a platform to get your music heard.”
Fast-forward a couple of years, and Summer is preparing for the release of her debut album, ‘Over It’. The project follows hot on the heels of the 2018 breakout success of ‘Last Day Of Summer’, which saw Walker burst onto the scene with her brand of raw, honest R&B. Her habit of exposing herself with every track she writes is what draws her fans in, and makes them hang on her every word. So, given that she leaves everything out there in the music, does she feel like she could ever over-indulge all her thoughts and feelings?
“No, not at all,” she says confidently. “You’ve gotta be vulnerable when it comes to writing songs, cos you don’t know who else might be going through the same stuff, and it might help them out,” she explains. On tracks such as ‘Deep’, she explains how her relationship with her partner is a lot deeper rooted than just sex. Whilst on her huge anthem, ‘Girls Need Love’, Summer mesmerises the listener as she debunks the myth that women can’t be as sexually active as men without being called out on it. “I feel like ‘Girls Need Love’ is a song that’s trying to make sure people know that we have an even playing field when it comes to intimacy,” she points out.
It was a ‘Girls Need Love’ remix that really threw Summer into the spotlight, as Canadian megastar Drake added his own verse to the song and opened up Walker to an even wider audience. With the 6 God showing her some love, she’s gone on to land herself a guest spot on the latest Rick Ross album, ‘Port Of Miami 2’. “I’m really appreciative of them for fucking with me, honestly,” she admits. “I really didn’t spend a lot of time with them; it was more a case of sending over my parts to their camps, but I’m grateful for the opportunities.”
Summer is a person of very few words. She rarely gives interviews, and when she does her anxiety makes the experience an uncomfortable one for her. So, in an industry where you’re required to be social on a regular basis, how does someone power through their anxiety barrier?
“It’s difficult to perform with my anxiety - there’s a lot of people in the room with you,” she confides. And whilst other performers might jump around the stage to their music, Summer prefers to keep her shows more intimate. “I’ve never been rowdy when it comes to performing,” admits the songstress. “I think it’s nice when they’re singing my lyrics back to me though, and we share a moment.”
With a legion of hardcore fans following her every move through social media, Summer tells how she didn’t really want to become a role model, more that fame found her. “I never wanted anybody to ever be like me,” she asserts firmly. “I guess I never really wanted to be a super megastar.”
‘Over It’, which is out now, is executive produced entirely by her boyfriend and super producer London On The Track. It’s his ability to understand whom he’s working with and what they want to achieve that Summer admires. “Anybody that he works with he pays attention to what they need, that’s why he’s where he is today,” she reveals, “he’s really talented.”
The singer likes to keep her work flow minimal, opting to record at home when she can, hardly visiting the studio at all. “Some artists go to the studio often and just write, write, write,” she says. “I only go to the studio like twice a month or something. I tend to only really write something if it’s heavy on my heart.” Usually albums are a long, drawn-out process, formed over many months of studio sessions, however ‘Over It’ was done in a considerably shorter spell than that. “To be honest, we got that shit done in three weeks,” she laughs. “For ‘Over It’, I had just moved into my new house and it wasn’t big enough to have everyone in there to record, so I had to get into the studio. But usually I really like to be at home in my own space to record, so I’ll write something and then send it over for everyone else to do in their own place.”
Summer will soon embark on a 35-date schedule dubbed ‘The First And Last Tour’, which sees her start in London for two nights in Brixton, before hitting up the US all the way to Christmas. So, is the tour title a tongue-in-cheek remark, or something she’s actually considering?
“It’ll literally be my last tour,” she reveals. “I might try to do something very small afterwards, like five or six dates with people I fuck with such as Ari Lennox and Smino. But pretty much that’s it.”
Whilst it remains to be seen if Summer tours on this kind of magnitude in the future, one thing is for certain: the authenticity of the singer-songwriter as an artist is both refreshing and inspiring in equal measures. She is single-handedly proving that you can become whatever you want to be in life regardless of anything that you think might be holding you back.
Over it? She’s just getting started!
Words: Mike Wood
Photography: Brandon Bowen
Fashion: Karolyn Pho
Hair: Malaika Frazier using Rejuvagrow Hair Care
Make-Up: Juanice Reed using NARS
Creative Directions: Rob Meyers
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.