At 29, alt-pop rocker Bryce Avary has more than a decade of professional musical experience and five studio albums under his belt. Going by the name The Rocket Summer, he finds ways to spread optimism and inspiration to thousands of fans -- including his more than 35,000 Twitter followers.
But Avary is quick to turn the acclaim around and praise his own sources of inspiration: his fans and his faith.
"My relationship with my fans has always been so important to me and so vital to the life of The Rocket Summer," he writes in an email interview while on the road between shows in Alabama and Missouri. "Through the highs the fans have always been there, and through the lows the fans have always been the ones carrying this. I feel like the most blessed guy in the world to have the fans that this thing has."
The sense of optimism and hope is palpable in songs like "Walls," off The Rocket Summer's 2010 album, "Of Men and Angels," in which the singer empathizes with listeners' struggles and assures them they are not alone.
"I certainly aim to be optimistic, but life throws its curve balls and can sucker punch me just like the next guy. My faith and relationship with God is the core of any of my hope," Avary writes. "Sometimes writing hopeful songs is therapeutic throughout the garbage. I see music as the friend that can convince you not to jump, and I think about that when I write."
It's personal: The personal connection is something Avary prizes in all aspects of his music, from the production to the instrumentation to the lyricism. Though he tours with a band for live shows, his albums are all Avary: every vocal is his, every instrument is in his hands. He draws his music from his life, and he breaks down walls wherever he can, even when it means leaving the traditional music industry to return to an indie model.
"I felt it was time to tear down the corporate barrier between my music and my fans," he writes of the decision to leave the Island Def Jam label and produce his fifth album independently. "It's a dream come true, owning my own label, Aviate Records. For me, it was an easy decision to walk away from any kind of corporate handcuffs and know that I could put out my music whenever and however I want."
The new album, "Life Will Write the Words," comes out June 5. But visitors to The Rocket Summer website -- www.therocketsummer.com -- can already get sneak peeks, including a free song download. It's not Avary's first venture in that arena; his acoustic live album, "Bryce Avary, His Instruments and Your Voices," released a year ago, is still available as a free download on the site.
"Releasing the live acoustic record was a way to thank fans for their support over the years," he writes.
On tour: And Rocket Summer fans at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center show will be able to hear at least a few songs off the new album weeks before it hits iTunes and mainstream ears.
"The songs I'm most excited about playing right now are the new ones that we are slowly debuting live and are on the new record," Avary writes. The fan feedback at concerts is one of the things he says he loves most about touring.
"The best things are hearing the songs come alive and hearing the crowd react to them," he writes. "It's amazing to hear the stories that the fans have about how powerful music is. I always see that as God working through music."
Avary expects that music will continue working through him, as well; the primarily self-taught instrumentalist enjoys making music through whatever speaks to him, whether that's a guitar or a banjo or even a typewriter.
"I hope I don't ever stop," he writes. "I'd love to pick up some less-traditional-to-the-standard-rock-band-outfit instruments such as cello, but right now I think I have enough on my plate."
On Thursday night at the Pullo Center, the crowd will taste what new delights he's serving up. It's a meal that should fill fans with hope.
-- Reach entertainment editor Mel Barber at 854-1575, ext. 458, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @yorkweekend on Twitter.
See the show
The Rocket Summer opens for Switchfoot in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave. on the Penn State York campus in Spring Garden Township.
Tickets are $36.
For more information, call 505-8900 or visit pullocenter.yk.psu.edu.
Listen to The Rocket Summer and download free music from www.therocketsummer.com.