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'Somebody, Somewhere' star honed musical talent at ASU

April 28, 2023

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.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


Starbucks partner aspires to help kids live purposefully

April 28, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Hayley Rose will tell you she always felt she vibed better with teenagers than adults. It was no surprise then when the 34-year-old mom of two decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention for adolescents.  ASU Online student Hayley Rose posing for a selfie in a wooded, snowy area while wearing a jacket and beanie. Hayley Rose says that when she was growing up, she was made to feel that she wasn't smart. But pursuing her psychology degree through ASU Online showed her that she was capable of understanding academic material — she just needed tools such as pausing lectures to process what she'd heard. "I realized that being provided with the information I wanted to know and being allowed to learn that information at my own pace was all I needed to love school and change my perspective on learning," she says. Download Full Image

“I can find a way to connect with kids, make them laugh and see them as their best selves,” she said. “When it seems no one else can connect with them — especially teenagers — I can somehow get them to break out of their shell and share their true selves with me. For as long as I can remember, I have always been able to sit with people in their pain and love them, even when maybe they didn’t feel they were able or deserving to be loved.”

Rose credits her empathy to her own experience with suicidal ideation as a preteen and young teenager. She remembers the depth of pain and what it felt like to be misunderstood, especially by adults. 

Although she was able to conquer those feelings, community college and achieving a four-year degree evaded her best efforts. It seemed college just wasn’t in the cards, that is until Starbucks offered her the opportunity to earn her degree through ASU Online

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a partnership between Arizona State University and Starbucks, offers 100% tuition coverage for eligible U.S. partners.

The partnership between Starbucks and ASU changed everything for Rose.

“I didn’t think I would be smart enough or able to get into an actual university,” she said. “Now I’m graduating! I never thought I would be here today, but I am so glad I am.”

Rose is excited to see what’s in store for her and her family. Her ASU experience changed the perspective she had of herself, proving she is smart and capable. This spring, she is graduating with honors and ready to take on the world. 

“All of my teenage children will come with me to watch me graduate and walk across that stage, and it will be one of the greatest feelings in my life to be able to show them, yes, you can,” said Rose, whose psychology degree is from ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I think my “aha” moment came even before I started at ASU, about 10 years or so ago. My now almost 14-year-old daughter was around 3 years old when she said something to me that pointed me in the direction I was meant to go. She said, “You always see people through God’s eyes, Mom, and who they want to be inside.” 

That sentence has always stuck with me because it rang like a bell in my mind. She was right. Even the most difficult, ornery individuals, I could find a way to connect with them, make them laugh and see them as their best selves. 

I was suicidal as a preteen and young teenager. I had my son when I was still in high school at 16 years old, and he saved me from wanting to end my life. I am so glad that I didn’t follow through with suicide. I have always wanted to give other teenagers the opportunity to experience life first before they make a decision they can’t reverse, without truly knowing what life is like as an adult. 

So, when my daughter said that to me, it shined a light on what I was meant to do: help teenagers learn how to cope with their environment, learn to survive, learn to live.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Online — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: That I actually do like school and online school is most definitely the best way for me to learn. 

When I was growing up, I was often made to feel — or outright told by some of my teachers — that I was not smart and wouldn’t get very far as an adult. This altered the entire course of my life and affected the decisions I made.

In my time at ASU, I learned that I am not incapable of understanding academic material; I just learn in my own unique way, like all of us. I need to pause lectures to process what I heard (something you can’t do in a physical classroom), and sometimes I need to read detailed research three or four times before I can speak intelligently on the subject matter. 

I realized that being provided with the information I wanted to know and being allowed to learn that information at my own pace was all I needed to love school and change my perspective on learning.

Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?

A: I wanted to go back to school for some time, but raising two young children and working full time, I did not have the time, space or money to go back. Also, I didn’t think I would be smart enough or able to get into an actual university. When Starbucks began offering 100% tuition coverage at ASU, it got me thinking again. 

I cannot thank Starbucks enough for giving me the opportunity to gift myself with the blessing of an education and the ability to move forward with my life.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online?

A: Hands down, Dr. Jodi Swanson was the professor who taught me the most — not just about the subjects she taught, but about life, school and being a good human being in general.

Academically, I think the most important lesson she taught me was to first ask myself who is my audience and what is my intention. A lot of times, I have these great ideas and the passion to make them come to life, but what is clear in my mind is not clear when I am presenting it to others, either because I didn’t tailor it to my audience or think through my end goal. Starting every project from this perspective helped me be more effective and intentional with everything I do — not just with schoolwork, but in my personal life as well.

She also taught me that it is perfectly OK to be my genuine self and accomplish the academic and professional goals I set for myself. Oftentimes, I have not been taken seriously because of my age, looks or the way I present myself, and it would leave me feeling like I would never make it in the professional world. Her genuine and authentic connection with me and all of her students taught me that you can ... be yourself and still get where you want to go.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: You get what you put in. Instead of looking at each assignment as just one more thing to turn in, give yourself the time to learn what you are reading, watching and hearing because it doesn’t last forever. It took me five years to graduate, but here I am, and one day you will be there too. Each day you are a little bit closer to that finish line and it feels so good when you get there.

Also, giving yourself the gift of education will change your life and the way you look at the world. I was a struggling, poor, teen mom, and life has been hard for me. So many things I was taught and told in life simply aren’t true, and I’d never have known that without going to school, reading the research and being pushed to look at subjects from different perspectives. Don’t give up on yourself or let anyone tell you who you get to be. You choose.

Editor's note: We often ask graduates where their favorite spots for power studying are. In Rose's case, flexibility and ingenuity were key — she said she moved dozens of times with her children trying to get away from a threatening ex-boyfriend, and completing assignments was very difficult.

A: When I think back over my years with ASU, memories of me completing homework flash through my mind: me locked in a car while my young children slept, trying to read and write by the light of my phone; me hiding at a park playground, sitting under the jungle gym while my kids played and I tried to give them attention and also read through research; me working at Starbucks and spending my 10- and 30-minute breaks in my car, using the store’s free WIFI to turn everything in by their deadlines; me stopping at gas stations, hotels, coffee shops, in all different states, armed with slime kits and books and tic-tac-toe games to entertain my kids while I tried to finish a school project before we had to hit the road again.

It was like this until this last year; now I am in my own house and I think my very favorite place to study is out in my own backyard, on my own deck, with my kids sitting beside me at our patio table, completing their schoolwork, safe and calm.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will continue with Starbucks, at least for a little while. I am a store manager now, with my own store and team of amazing baristas, and it’s nice to create my own environment and be able to provide the type of customer and partner experience that I have always wanted.

However, long term, I would like to be in a position where I can re-create mental health programs for teenagers in my state of Colorado. We are fifth highest in the country for suicides, and it is the leading cause of death for kids ages 10–15 years old. We need a complete overhaul of how we approach mental health in our schools here, and I would love to lead that project.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would use that money to create and provide affordable, sustainable housing for as many people as I could. I learned through my years on the run that it’s very difficult to achieve what you want to achieve, and live a life that you enjoy and are proud of, if you don’t have a home base. You can’t get very far in life without an address or a safe place to relax and re-center. Everyone deserves to have a place to rest their head and regroup.

Written by Margot LaNoue for ASU Online