|I Am Lightyear
|Stir-crazy singer finds infinite contentment
Devon Antonetti - July 5, 2012
Zettler is better known these days as I Am Lightyear. The Indiana
native is the daughter of chemists, and a former chemistry student
herself. But Zettler was never particularly interested in the science
world – heading out instead on a musical path. That path led her to
Berklee College of Music in Boston where she studied film scoring.
After graduating, Zettler packed up for New York to write and perform
songs for the first time – showcasing her sweet, poppy vocals. But it
wasn’t until a series of life changes that she started performing under
the name I Am Lightyear, a moniker that she takes on for its infinite
project deals a lot with transformation and sea change. What kind of
life circumstances compelled you in this direction?
My artistic life was paralleling my personal life pretty intensely.
I was making some major changes (mainly related to a
relationship), and so my creative process really needed to reflect that
because, without getting too personal, it was the kind of situation
that was all-encompassing.  The girl-with-guitar
singer-songwriter thing didn't feel right to me anymore, and I wanted
to shed that history and start over again.  I wanted to get a
little louder, more complicated, more daring, and more fun.
played under your real name in the past. Is there a different mindset
when taking on a new name? What is difference in your sound and
approach to music between Lauren Zettler and I Am Lightyear?
I really felt like my new project deserved its own identity, separate
from what I had done before.  That's why I decided to give it
a different name.  There is definitely a different mindset - I
feel like I can be a bit freer.  If I'm performing as Lauren
Zettler, that's me up there, saying things that I would say, and
thoughts that I would think.  When I'm performing under I Am
Lightyear, it's not me anymore.  It's a band, it's a bunch of
ideas that come from places I wasn't really aware of before, because I
feel like I can write about anything.  That being said, a lot
of my material is obviously personal and relating to my life.
But I also feel like I can be different on stage, with the
way I move my body, and the way I use my voice.  It's a cool
thing, and maybe I could have found that freedom as Lauren Zettler, but
I'm happy to have found it this way instead.
are differences between the New York and Midwest music scenes? Are
their subtleties between Indiana fans and New York fans that people
might not realize?
be honest, I moved to the East Coast before I started playing music
live.  I didn't even start gigging until I moved to NYC after
going to school in Boston.  Ultimately, I think New York is
full of transports, so there have been many Midwesterners at my shows
in the city and they have been friendly and encouraging.
Having now played in the Midwest via tour, etc, New York
definitely has a different vibe - it's a bit more intimidating, and I
feel a bit of pressure to play it cool.  My nerdyness usually
wins out.  I try and play it cool, but my bones just don't
know how sometimes.
talked about struggling a little while attending Berklee. What were
your biggest challenges in being in an environment with some of the
most talented of your peers?
was definitely a place where you needed to assert yourself to get the
most out of it, and my confidence just wasn't there yet.  If I
could go back knowing what I know now, I would have said "fuck it" and
gone for everything I could have gone for.  I was a
wallflower I still kind of am, but I'm more aware now of how
networking works and how imperative it is.  I wasn't ready for
that when I was 18 and inexperienced, so I wasn't good at getting
people's attention.  I got a little lost in the shuffle, which
is unfortunate, but it is what it is, and I still find that there's a
common bond there with other Berklee alumns I know.  It's a
cool thing - when you tell someone you went there and they say "oh cool
I went there too!" you have a bit of a bonding moment, and that's nice.
having a science background beneficial to learning musical techniques?
The worlds seem so different, but are there things you learned from
science/ chemistry that you apply to your music?
they do say that math/science and music pair very well together, in
terms of helping to understand and learn them.  I would guess
that my parents' scientific skills (they were both chemists) were
genetically effective in the sense that music was really easily
understood by me from the beginning.  If I'm being completely
honest, I was never super wonderful at math or science, but I think
that is mainly because neither interested me.  I took honors
chemistry in high school to appease them, you know, make them proud,
and it was SO HARD.  Aside from that, I've always been
intrigued by the science/beauty/world connection, and that has
obviously provided for some lyrical inspiration.  Music evokes
emotion the same way something visual evokes emotion, and music and
vision together, don't even get me started. The natural beauty of the
world is directly related to science, so therefore I find my emotional
reaction to things is scientific as well.  And that feels
crazy.  I wish my understanding of science could help me be
more articulate sometimes.
"I wanted to get a little louder, more complicated, more daring, and more fun."
I Am Lightyear
"All Of The Miles"
Sweet pop melodies from a soft, inquiring voice.
For those who like: Feist, Emily Haines, Lykke Li