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The Talented Erica Sommer: South Beach Singer Extraordinaire

At the end of 2013, we attended the opening of South Beach’s popular new hotspot The Cabaret South Beach. Back then, we sat down with the owner Edison Farrow and, additionally, had a chance to meet some of the great voices who frequently perform there [see here]. At the time, we were introduced to singer and songwriter Erica Sommer. All the performers at The Cabaret South Beach have their own brand of talent, but Erica’s ability to make you feel emotion, while she sings, is one of a kind.

With over 20 years performing, as a solo artist and also as a lead singer for various rock bands including Raging Geisha, Ms. Sommer’s performances are both intimate and lively. Many of today’s biggest music stars have background singers. Erica got the chance to show off her talent for the Celine Dion song Right in Front of You. On the business side of the music industry, she also used to work for Gloria and Emilio Estefan. There are many layers and stories to her musical journey, but for now she is focused on solo performances.

To close 2014, we went back to The Cabaret South Beach on December 27th as Erica gave a special two hour performance. She performed for the first time in 18 years with musician and fellow soloist Carlos-Hernan Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez, who lives in France, went to college with Erica at the University of Miami. They have collaborated on music including a song they performed together entitled Versailles.

After the show ended, we had a chance to speak with Erica to talk about her music career. You can read the highlights or listen to the entire CYInterview below:

Listen to the entire Erica Sommer CYInterview:

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Giving an overview of her musical career, Erica Sommer shared this:

“Originally, like I used to do solo projects and then I started, I had some people who got interested in me, they were like, ‘Wow! You could be the next Tina Turner.’ And I was like, what? That’s crazy. So then I started getting into rock, got coached by an awesome coach called Beth Cohen and she rocks. But, so I did that for a long time. Then I started working with a couple of mainstream producers, Dave Siegel, Shane Stoner who have been on all kinds of albums worldwide. So I started working with them a lot, had a great guy Joe Monagle who use to back me a lot and then we just started having like creative differences and wanting to go in different directions and then I finally decided about, maybe two years ago that I just wanted to really focus on my solo project again.

It’s really called the bittersweet, but most people know me by Erica Sommer for so long that it’s kind of hard to get the bittersweet to catch on, but I choose to go with the bittersweet because I truly believe in life that everything is bittersweet, you know and without the bitter how can you savor the sweet? And if everything was always roses, you wouldn’t appreciate it. So I think most of my songs happen to be like very bittersweet. You know, it’s like, I want to love, but I’m not sure if I should love. You know, Things like that.”

For the first time in 18 years, Erica performed onstage at The Cabaret South Beach with musician and fellow solo artist Carlos-Henran Gonzalez. He came over for the performance from Paris, France, where he resides today. It was two hours of memorable music by both of the performers. Reflecting on what the performance meant to her, Erica shared this:

“It meant a lot. Carlos and I, we met all the way back in 1995 when I was a wee freshman at University of Miami and he was a sophomore and we got paired together. He was my accompanist and this is when I was still doing strict classical music and we immediately clicked. We’re both only children. We have very odd, quirky sense of humors. So we get all giggly. Anyways, we use to work together on all kinds of original music as well as our classical music and then we had to stop working together like halfway through sophomore year because our vocal coach was like, ‘You guys are ridiculous. You can’t get through one song without laughing. So I’m gonna separate you’

So that’s when we stopped working together and that was the last time I got to perform on a live stage with him and even though we’ve collaborated over the years through Skype and Sound Cloud and all these great things, he’s been living in Paris I guess probably like eight or nine years now. So with that being said, obviously we’re never in the same vicinity to actually perform together. So it was awesome tonight to be able to have my best friend join me onstage and perform a song that’s, it’s been doing really great in France. His dedicated audience, I mean, these people like private message me on Facebook, like complimenting me on the lyrics and how much the song means for them. We had a guy, who like, left us a Facebook video today like singing a part of our song and wishing us luck on our concert tonight. So, I thought that was awesome. So it means a lot to me that Carlos could be here.”

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Erica Sommer performs with Carlos-Hernan Gonzalez

With over 20 years as a performer, Erica’s dream today is to perform in Europe. Perhaps she will get to perform with Carlos in France in the future:

“If money was no object, I would already be there. No, definitely. I would love to perform over in Europe and Paris and the UK and Amsterdam, Royal Dam, like whatever, you name it, I want to go. So I’m never closed to options and yeah, definitely. … I think that over in Europe unlike here in the U.S. it’s like everything needs to fit in this nice little box and you need to be in a genre, you need to look like this genre, you need to sound like this genre. I’ve never looked like how I sound. You know, so that’s always been a challenge here in the U.S. I’ve back in the day sat down in many record labels talking to execs about possibly doing a deal and at the end of the day, I didn’t look how I sounded, you know. In Europe, people don’t care. If it’s real, if it’s acceptance or if it’s something original or quirky, if it grabs people, they will make it work. People appreciate music and creativity and the expression and I think it’s very important.”

Many of today’s biggest music stars have fellow artists who do background vocals for their songs. Erica had a chance to provide music for the Celine Dion song Right in Front of You. This is what she told us about that experience:

“I worked with her through the studio and it was pretty cool. It was very unexpected. It was, one chick I guess like they had flown her down to do all the background vocals from New York and it just wasn’t working out. … I ended up getting a call like, ‘Hey. What are you doing?’ ‘Just chilling at home, you know’ They were like, ‘Can you come to the hit factory right now?’ And I’m like, ‘Ok, what do you need?’ ‘Like, we need you to lay down some background vocals.’ I’m like, ‘Do I know the songs?’ ‘No. But I’m sure you can learn them.’ So I went over and next thing you know I was like, wait, what? I am doing background vocals for who? So it kind of was like, it was really cool and was actually with a unit of guys I’ve been working with for a long time so it was easy. It wasn’t something that I had to like think too hard about. And you know, and then it was like, oh, wow, look my name’s on an album. Woo, cool. So it was like that. I mean I never actually got to meet Celine, but my name’s on there.”

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CYInterviewing Erica Sommer

Besides being a performer, Ms. Sommer has also worked on the business side of the music industry. Talking about working for Gloria and Emilio Estefan, she told us this:

“I use to work on the other side of the biz too and I worked in music business. I use to work for the Estefans for about two, two and a half years and I worked on the publishing side as well as the production side. But I actually did all the contracts. I did a lot of the contracts, a lot of negotiations. So I didn’t actually perform on any of those tracks, but that’s actually how I met a lot of the core guys that I’ve worked with over the years including one of the guys who’s actually here tonight, still a good friend. But yeah, my Emilio and Gloria story. I use to work in the corporate office here on 5th and Jefferson.”

Erica has given many great performances at The Cabaret South Beach since it opened in December of 2013, but nothing topped getting to perform with her best friend Carlos-Hernan Gonzalez.

“I got to perform here back in October for the first time on strictly my solo thing and it was great and it was such an honor because so many people showed up that I haven’t seen from all different walks of life, all different eras in my lifetime and it was really, really special and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ And just when I thought I couldn’t top that, even though the turnout couldn’t be as great as I wanted it to tonight because of the craziness in the city of South Beach on the last week of the year, it was awesome because I still had a lot of great friends that came out and wished me well, but on top of everything else, to be able to have my best friend onstage with me, be able to perform a song that we put a lot of love into and to be able to have both of our mothers in the audience, which is amazing and they haven’t seen each other since over 10 years ago, like, actually before my father passed away. So it was a really special night for me tonight.”

You can find some of Erica Sommer’s music at the link here.

You can find out more about The Cabaret South Beach at their site here.

You can follow The Cabaret South Beach on Facebook here.

You can follow The Cabaret South Beach on Twitter here.

You can email Chris Yandek at [email protected]

You can follow Chris Yandek on Twitter here.