When you get Rachel Mazer to talk about herself, its only circumspectly. She’ll go on a tangent extolling the talents of her collaborators or peers before sheepishly saying, “I’m doing it again, aren’t I?” It’s clear the songstress is nervous, and unused to speaking about her own work, but it’s endearing for a talent such as hers. Especially with her debut record on the way and clearly going to make an impact in the LA singer-songwriter scene and beyond.

The Bay area-born, LA transplant is on an upwards trajectory, not only for trailing in the wake of acts like Moonchild (who she counts as friends and peers) and Lake Street Dive (who Rachel’s vocal talents are most easily likened to), but because she is forging ahead boldly with an impressive vision and sense of purpose. Her album, How Do We Get By, is not a happy one, coming at the tail end of a year involving the death of her brother, but neither is it moored in that tragedy. Even at the album’s lowest point–the bare bones ballad “Nothingness” is one that is wistful, but not hopeless. There’s a quiet questioning in Mazer’s dulcet tones, a bewilderment that is still full of love and wonder for her brother.

Its a shockingly impressive dance on the very edge of a blade–to have such a passionate song so full of charge that manages to neither fall to anger nor to despair, though flirts with both feelings, but speaks more to the sudden, shocking absence of a loved one. The sense that you never considered a world without that person in it…and that most hard question we ask ourselves constantly…”what’s next?” The album’s first and title track, “How Do We Get By?” also speaks to this explicitly, though in a more upbeat and deliberately inspiring way with its gospel-like refrains.

“I think that’s one of the best songs on the album, but not one of the best tracks, you know?” She asks me, shifting nervously. I nod and smile, feigning my understanding, though the difference may only be known to true musicians, of which Mazer can surely be counted. An accomplished saxophonist and professional touring bass player, (not to mention her incredible pipes) she can pick up just about anything and play it. “I was always good at practicing,” she shrugs in response to my wonderment.

Coming from a family of musicians, her calling always seemed clear. With an aunt and an uncle as professional harp and woodwind players, respectively, and a house where music was readily accessible and her talents supported and fostered, (“My dad’s a singer! Well…he’s a lawyer. But he’s a singer!”) she was given an cd collection of Ella Fitzgerald, which she promptly listened until the discs started skipping. From there she began discovering jazz and soul musicians and on and on…

Her passion took her to University of Michigan, where she fell in with a community of artists and musicians, including her producer Tyler Duncan at Barber Shop Studios, of whom she speaks glowingly. “We’ve got this great work rapport…he’s one of the few people we can just work on the same thing for hours and not ever get sick of one another.” Here, again, she goes off for awhile, describing in detail the glories of the studio and how Vulfpeck did all their recordings there, among many other talents–many of whom were her peers in the Michigan singer-songwriter scene.

“I just…felt like this was the place to come to,” she says with a smile of her new hometown, LA. And she’s built an impressive community here, too, in relatively short amount of time, holding a regular singing slot at the Perch in DTLA and getting gigs from Moonchild’s Amber Navran, as well as her constant collaboration with other artists.

It’s in this final role, as a hired gun of some sorts, that ties in most with her whole identity, I realize. From her constant talking-up of the talents of others, her deft abilities as a collaborator, and the entire purpose of her record==”I just want to write songs that people can be present with. To experience and let it flow through them.”–Mazer is an incredible conduit. Even while dealing with easily one of the hardest things in her life, it’s her empathy and compassion for others that seems to drive her forward. When the record was written, cathartic though it was for her, she was most excited for her parents to hear it for what joy, sadness, loss, and hope it might bring them, that they may, too, experience some catharsis.

How Do We Get By is the perfect continuation of this. At once sorrowful, but never despairing. Bewildered but not frustrated. Triumphant but not gloating. It’s a record about the human condition that never loses sight of also being a gorgeous, sultry, silky listen. It’s Mazer attempting to act as a conduit for the most amount of people–to channel that catharsis, to do the most good, to help others feel the most present. And goddamn does she succeed. One track after the next is absolutely amazing, from the more obvious “tracks” (to borrow her parlance), to the slower ballads, each song brings a new angle, a new approach, a new observation of the human experience.