Sarah Summer’s DIY folk album, Belly of the Beast, captures her struggle during a high-risk pregnancy | Provided

“For me, music is therapy,” said folk singer/guitarist and former Charlestonian Sarah Summer. “It’s a way to triumph over any darkness that may set in.” 

This feeling is evident upon listening to Summer’s brand of DIY femme folk, particularly her most recent EP, Belly of the Beast, which she created as a means of coping with a harrowing life experience.

Late last September, Summer was in a precarious position during her second pregnancy: both her life and the life of her unborn child were at risk. When she returned home from the hospital, she had strict orders to remain on bed rest. 

“My doctor was like, ‘You can’t do anything, you can’t lift anything, you can’t do any chores,’ ” she said. Her only creative outlet was music, and she ended up writing Belly of the Beast within the first two weeks of October. Little boy Simon was born Oct. 16, and though he was about a month early and Summer had to undergo an emergency Cesarean section, both mother and child are recovering well. 

Nowadays, Summer continues to write new material, and has begun to collaborate virtually from her home in Arizona with one of Charleston music’s most revered names, producer and musician Wolfgang Zimmerman. 

“I’ve always wanted to work with Wolfgang, it’s been a dream of mine,” she said. So far, Zimmerman has added piano, bass and drums to her tracks, as well as autoharp. “There’s going to be more beat to it. It’s gone past folk.”

She recalled one email she sent to Zimmerman after he sent her a track, reminiscent of American folk rock’s early days: “[It] sounded like Bob Dylan — during his Rolling Thunder Revue days — and Cat Power got together to back me up on this song!”

The partnership is off to an auspicious start, but Summer isn’t pushing a strict timeline. “I’ve always been the type to just take my time … I’m not in a hurry,” she said. Rather than leave listeners with a few singles or an EP, she is looking to create a full-length album experience.

She previously recorded under the name Jolly Monster but can now be found on both Spotify and Bandcamp as Sarah Summer. She has hopes to play a live show under this iteration of her musical journey next time she’s in Charleston, sharing the music that has given her strength.

“In my early 20s, I didn’t have anything—any kind of outlet. I was so sad all of the time,” she said. “I was majorly depressed and lost until I found channels to put my heart through, and it just worked out that I’m not as sad anymore. And if I am, I just pick up my guitar, and it really does make it all better.