Bret Rodysill was on the verge of a major breakthrough. He released a widely-acclaimed debut EP, 2010’s Race to the Bottom, and two singles on Loose Narrative, a London-based record label. A series of high-profile gigs, including SXSW and CMJ, soon followed ─ but a crippling nervous system disorder stopped him in his tracks.
Nearly five years later, Rodysill, known as The Record Summer onstage, makes a tremendous comeback this week with the release of “White Dress,” the anchoring single to his forthcoming full-length debut called Lay It Bare (out March 5). Elastic, glistening synths erupt in sprays, lacing up Rodysill’s deeply moving lyrics with a special kind of sparkle.
“Send in your white dress / Sunlight in your hair,” he sings, a bit wistful. Its ‘80s dance-club aesthetic plays with an approach into which Rodysill has frequently dipped: dancing away the pain. For “White Dress,” produced by Bryan Hanna, he ventured to explore “the experience of being married and watching my married friends,” he says. “I noticed the juxtaposition between all the purity and sanctity of marriage [and] how ‘perfect’ that experience is supposed to be — and a reminder that in plenty of situations, marriage doesn’t fulfill the needs of the parties.”
“Especially when people aren’t on the same page, marriage can leave those involved needing a lot more to get by, whether that’s attention, boosts to one’s pride, or something else,” he continues. “Marriage isn’t always perfect. I think we’re taught that on a certain level, unless we go along with the proposition that it is, it’s almost as if we’re saying something we shouldn’t say.”
“White Dress” is undeniably perfect single material, as it primes the listener on his songwriting voice. “[It] seemed to have a lot of the individual elements I wanted in a first single release, put together. I wanted something that was both catchy, but also with depth in its message,” Rodysill explains. “Mixing hooks and bright, polished production with introspective lyrics and thoughtfulness” is a hypnotic elixir, setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting new chapter.
Lay It Bare is a true labor of love. Looking back now, Rodysill wasn’t too sure he’d ever reach this point — even if songwriting often kept him grounded and connected to himself. “I wrote sporadically throughout, but the hardest part was just finding drive on individual days when it just wasn’t there, and having the inspiration to move forward,” he remarks. “You can get pretty down when you’re dragging through the long-term pain I had been and have been dealing with.”
Glimpses of inspiration gave him hope, yet it remained “really hard to put pen to paper. I struggled with that a lot. It’s when you have an idea, but you’re just too down and buried within yourself to do anything about it. As I’m feeling better, it’s become easier.”
Despite the treacherous slope, Rodysill never gave up, but instead, he pushed forward to rediscover his voice again. “I just got so tired of feeling the way I did — and so much of the time, I was dealing with that, that it felt like I was nearly-constantly trying to find my voice and creativity again,” he says. “You really want it, so you keep looking for it, but when you’re in the grips of really extreme depression, anxiety, and physical illness, it’s like you’re constantly drowning in it, and you can’t get out. I’m slowly coming out of that drowning feeling.”
Throughout his new album’s creation, the musician felt more alive than he has in a long time. “Making music always has that influence on me. There is a huge catharsis that occurs. As you hear the songs coming together, from the initial ideas to mixes to more mixes and then masters, I’ve always found it extremely exciting to hear the potential of one’s work,” he describes. “I find it to be a really deep and emotional experience, like you’re letting out this deeper, base self you’ve been burying inside. It’s extremely freeing to let it out.”
Rodysill stands in the glow emanating from his new album, and his new outlook on life is truly inspiring. With Lay It Bare nearing the horizon, he has learned “something really, truly good can come out of immense pain, turmoil, and emptiness. They always say that good art comes from pain, but I don’t know if I’d really experienced that so far in my life and in my writing,” he surmises. “Living through what I’ve now lived through and having something to show for it does make me feel good.”