Trendspotting is a big part of any music writer’s job, but it ain’t easy. So when I hear a new artist like Lightyear, whose music is already fully realized and clearly destined for attention, I breathe a small sigh of relief.

Lightyear is a synth-pop project from Brooklynite Lauren Zettler, who performed more acoustic material for years under her birth name. It’s a culmination of her classical training and ear for pop melody, the result of actively discovering new and exciting influences.

In the wake of Lightyear’s debut EP All of the Miles, Zettler was kind enough to introduce the project to us.

What were you up to before Lightyear got off the ground?

I have played music my whole life, originally classical piano. Went to Berklee College of Music to study more contemporary stuff. After that I started writing my own songs and performed under my own name in the singer/songwriter circuit of New York for almost two years. That was a great experience, trying to find my way in that niche. But I honestly got bored. I took some time off and started listening to music I’d never heard before to find new influences. I decided to create something totally new (for me), and the project needed the new name.

What artists during that period stuck out for you?

I got into a big Metric kick. Then I listened to Emily Haines’s solo songs, which feel like they could be Metric songs ... like she starts with a really strong song that (the band) improves on. That encouraged me to keep writing the way I had while turning my music into something different.

Do you still write on guitar?

Sometimes. My brain could never really comprehend how to write a pop song on piano, but I’ve never felt completely comfortable on guitar.

Did the more traditional atmosphere Berklee help your songwriting ability, or hinder it?

It was an interesting experience. I did not love it but I really wanted to. I went in as a sheltered person without a lot of performance experience or confidence, so it was really intimidating. But I learned a lot, for sure. I visited it on kind of a whim and their style of teaching was very different than the conservatories I had considered. They gave me a lot of freedom, but that’s where it got tricky: there were a lot of students who didn’t know what to do with that freedom, and just slacked off to get by. You could accomplish a lot if you knew what you wanted that (accomplishment) to be.

How did the name, or persona, of Lightyear come into your mind?

I call it a moniker, I guess. I started recording before I knew what to call it so I had the material completed before deciding what name would fit. It’s kind of indefinable phrase, in terms of people knowing what a “light year” really is. 

It was a scary change for me. I had spent so much time trying to build a reputation as Lauren Zettler. I wondered if people would follow me, if fans I already had would like it ... a “no turning back” kind of feeling. But I had come a long way from where I’d began, and not to sound cliched but I’m excited about where I can take it.

What kind of support did you get for the EP? 

I funded everything on my own, but on the actual recording I worked with producers from Nashville, actually. I told them what I wanted to do, went in with a bunch of almost-finished songs and they helped me bring them to life.

Did debuting the Lightyear material on stage bring back a sense of unease?

Yes and no. Yes because I was very nervous and unsure of how it would be perceived. But no because I had so much experience under my belt. I did a lot of rehearsals to feel as comfortable as I could but there was definitely a new, invigorating kind of energy. I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do.

Maybe you feel like you fit into the Brooklyn scene more now?

I’m definitely still a newbie. Because of that I’ve been spending a lot of time meeting new people and checking out new bands. What’s amazing to me is how many people are here trying to make music. Bands you’ve never heard of before are playing down the street to 500 people. That goes to show how there’s room for everyone to support each other. That said I still feel like the new kid.

I would imagine, in that kind of environment, people are more interested in what is new and unheard than what’s already “cool” or popular.

I think people are eager to hop on before everyone else, which can be annoying or snobby – once something is heard by enough people it’s not cool anymore – but people are hungry for something new. In the city you can feel like you’ve seen everything before, and I think that’s where it comes from.

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