'Somebody, Somewhere' star honed musical talent at ASU

Bridget Everett pays tribute to beloved ASU voice teacher in season 2


In the first season of the quirky, poignant, small-town comedy drama “Somebody, Somewhere,” the main character, Sam, belts out a transcendent version of “Piece of My Heart” in a cathartic moment where she feels the power of her voice.

Bridget Everett, the star and executive producer, has created a show where singing is an emotional outlet for Sam, who is dealing with a lot in her life.

“Somebody, Somewhere” is set in Manhattan, Kansas, hometown of Everett, who is an Arizona State University alumna.

Everett’s journey from music student to starring in a semi-autobiographical TV show about a singer was long and winding. After graduating with a degree in vocal performance from ASU in 1995, she waited tables while trying to find her musical home. After several years, she became a successful cabaret singer, stand-up comedian and actress in New York, and starred in episodes of “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Girls” and the movie “Trainwreck.”

In “Somebody, Somewhere,” which debuted in 2022, Sam returns to her hometown to care for her dying sister and deal with her messy family dynamics. She forms a friendship with a former high school classmate and finds release in singing with the choir and among her friends. The show started its second season on HBO Max on April 23.

Everett answered some questions from ASU News:

Question: How did you end up at ASU?

Answer: I wanted to go to a school that was fun and had a great music department and a swim team. And I also like soaking up that Vitamin D, so ASU checked all the boxes.

Q: Were you on the Sun Devil swim team?

A: I had a music scholarship, and I studied vocal performance. But I missed swimming so much because I had been a swimmer my whole life, so I was a walk-on my sophomore year, which was such a wild idea. But I did it, and I had so much fun, and was in the best shape of my life. I loved training outside. It was really cool. But I could only handle one year because when you’re a music major, you have so many commitments, you have to be in this choir and that choir and this, that and the other.

Q: Where did you live?

A: I lived in Cholla (residential hall) my freshman year, and then I just lived around Tempe in little apartment complexes.

I went to all the spots, like the Dash Inn (which closed in 1994). I was doing the Jimmy Kimmel show last week, and Jimmy went to Arizona State and we were talking about the Dash, which is the bar that we all went to when I was in college. And when they would charge your credit card, it would say ‘Dash Bookstore’ so your parents wouldn’t know.

Q: What did you do after graduation?

A: I kicked around in Arizona for a while, in Tempe, and then I moved to Scottsdale. I worked at the original P.F. Chang’s. I met Charles Barkley and all the sports stars there and that was super fun.

Living in Scottsdale was where I found karaoke, which ultimately changed my life. That was kind of my only outlet. That, and I sang the national anthem at some spring-training games. There were a lot of guys, some people from the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland As and also Dusty Baker from the San Francisco Giants, who knew that I sang and sort of facilitated me singing the national anthem at those events, which was really very cool for me.

Q: What led you to leave Arizona?

A: When I was in school, there were a lot of us who would work at Quisisana, this resort in Maine. It’s sort of like a “Dirty Dancing” style resort. They would go around and audition people at conservatories all around the United States and they stopped at Arizona State. I auditioned for that and that’s where I would go in the summertime. So, I would drive every year in my 1990 Nissan Sentra from Phoenix to Maine and back every year. In Maine I met all of those singers, and a lot of them lived in New York, and I always wanted to live in New York — that’s where Debbie Harry lived. I just needed a push to get there and that was my push.

Q: And then your career started taking off?

A: I wouldn’t say it started taking off. I waited tables for a very long time. I was kicking around in karaoke bars and I did a children’s theater tour. But then I found cabaret eventually and that’s what led to everything happening. I needed a little more structure than “last call at the karaoke bar.” That was going to get me places but not where I needed to go in my career.

Q: Do you still use the training you learned in your music classes at ASU?

A: Yes. In season 2, there’s a voice teacher. Her name is Darleen Edwards and she is named after my college voice teacher and my high school voice teachers. Darleen Kliewer-Britton was my teacher at Arizona State, who I just loved. And a lot of the connection that I felt to her with my voice lessons is evident in season 2 of the show. There’s such a personal relationship in the way a voice teacher sees you and understands you. It’s very special. So, those days are really meaningful to me, my time at Arizona State.

Q: How important is it for you to be in a show that’s about music where you can break into song and not have it be weird?

A: It’s everything to me because singing and music is the great love of my life. It doesn’t feel like a story that has been told a lot. I know we’re not reinventing the wheel, but the way it sort of informs Sam’s life and is so much a part of her emotional ecosystem is really important. I also didn’t want a thing where Sam was just breaking into show tunes left and right. It’s more about how music weaves through the fabric of her life. It may be on a stage, it may be on the toilet. You never know where she’s going to be singing.

Q: What would your advice be to an ASU music major on finding a perfectly fitted show that’s about music?

A: If your goal is opera or music theater, that’s great. Study hard, learn your languages, know your lines, show up prepared. But if you want to try something else or something different, the important thing is to recognize what makes you different and what makes you unique and really foster that and really lean into that. Because that’s what’s going to set you apart. No one does you better than you do you.

Q: Did it take you a long time to come to that conclusion?

A: Yes! Dozens of years.

When I went to Arizona State I thought I was going to be an opera singer. Then I came to New York and I thought I would be in musical theater. But I just didn’t fit into those worlds. And when I stumbled onto cabaret, I found a way of expressing myself in a different way. And I still didn’t feel like I fit into that world, but I met some comedians and I met some storytellers and drag queens and I just let all of that influence wash over me, and I came out with my own voice and set sail.

Q: Do you sing every day?

A: When I’m touring or doing shows, I do my vocal warmups, some that I did at Arizona State. I do stretches. My teacher, Darleen Kliewer-Britton, was really into the Alexander Technique, which is all about breathing, so I do all of that. You have to keep it all open and flowing. But right now I’m not singing every day. I live in New York.

Q: Where do you tape the show?

A: We tape in Chicagoland and we get b-roll in my hometown of Manhattan, Kansas. I am insistent about taking a unit to Manhattan and getting as much footage as we can.

Q: What does your hometown think of the show?

A: I think they like it. I think they feel fairly represented. My hometown is really big on community, and I think that they’re proud that a small-town girl did something in the big city. But I can still walk through my hometown and plenty of people don’t know who I am so we still got some work to do there.

Q: What’s ahead for you?

A: We’re working on season 3 because you have to write it before they pick it up. And that’s really all I have the bandwidth for right now. That and trying to get my dog to listen to me.

Top image: ASU alumna Bridget Everett stars in the HBO Max show “Somebody, Somewhere,” about a woman who returns to her hometown of Manhattan, Kansas. Photo by Sandy Morris/HBO.

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