After a 17-year break from new songs, the Queen returns
A queen needs her people, or so Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, realized a couple years ago when she found herself "just sitting around the house."
"I was feeling like I wanted to connect with an audience again," she says. "So I went back on the road and realized I wanted to sing new songs. How many times can you repeat yourself? Your fans like to hear their favorites, but artistically you're always looking for something new or different. I decided it was time."
The result of her onstage epiphany is Crayons, her first full-length studio album of newly written material since Mistaken Identity in 1991. Not that the prolific writer ever stopped. "I have over 100 songs or more," she says, calling from a beach house in Florida. "I was actually getting ready to record seven years ago - I had about 40 songs - but then 9/11 happened, and nothing seemed right after that. It changed everything, so we didn't use any of those songs on Crayons."
Summer also found the notion of signing with a smaller imprint appealing, which brought her to Sony's Burgundy Records. "I had been offered several deals over the years," she says. "But my career started on a small label, Casablanca, and I am very comfortable with that. You actually know the people who are working your record and they know you. It's more like a family."
One of her collaborators on the album is, in a sense, family, and uniquely qualified to co-write he Queen Is Back, a nod to her disco divadom. Evan Bogart is the son of Neil Bogart, the late founder of Casablanca Records and an early mentor of Summer's. "From the very start, Neil said to me, 'Think in terms of copyright, not songs. You want a copyright, something that will apply to every generation, every genre, at any time. Songs need legs and a life.' I thought of him telling me that when I sat down to write with Evan. He looks so much like his father, I just wanted to hug him and tell him how much I've missed him."
Of Crayons' title Summer says, "My goal was to have every song be different. Your ear doesn't get tired listening to this record. Every song is a different color in this box. If you are known for a certain style of music, people think that's all you can do. But every singer and musician has a need to try other things. It's part of the creative process. We are all musical explorers."