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I Am Lightyear
Stir-crazy singer finds infinite contentment
by: Devon Antonetti - July 5, 2012


Lauren 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 abilities.

This musical 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.

You 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.

What 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?
To 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.

You've 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?
Berklee 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.

Is 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?
Well, 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"

what it is

Sweet pop melodies from a soft, inquiring voice. For those who like: Feist, Emily Haines, Lykke Li