Summer unofficially begins with Memorial Day, hits its midpoint with Independence Day, and concludes with Labor Day. Mix in America’s pastime—hot dogs on the grill and a slice of apple pie—and it’s easy to see why summer is synonymous with America. That’s why client service intern Rachael Briner turns it up to 11 with a playlist of patriotism called Vol. 8: American Girl, the newest Spire on Spotify playlist.

Traditionally, summer is a time to get out of the office. But more and more are getting back to the office as America transitions out of COVID-19. This past year has no doubt changed what a “workplace” means. A company’s work environment can now range from a large office on the 56th floor of a building to a Google Drive on a MacBook Air. And work-life balance is both easier—and harder—to achieve while working from home.

Spire began the summer by re-entering our workspace three days a week. Every employee is in the office Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays—Wednesday and Fridays we work from home. The move back to the office was partially driven by the arrival of our summer interns. But it was also driven by the team’s desire to reconnect and collaborate once again. Simply put, we missed one another.

In a recent study by Marketing Week, 83% of surveyed marketers reported that this past year’s events pushed them to have more compassion for their co-workers. 64% of respondents also agreed that they felt more empathy from their coworkers, adding that work and personal life have often intermingled during the pandemic. The common suffering that many have endured brought a sense of commonality to the table. As a result, executives and other company leaders have been increasingly focused on their team’s connection as well as employee engagement.

This effort in creating a strong company culture hasn’t been a waste: 45% of survey respondents reported that they feel more connected to their co-workers now than prior to the pandemic. 46% of respondents say that they have learned more about their co-workers, forming personal relationships within the team.

One of the most flexible work environments in history has come to life this past year, and very well may be here to stay. Business attire is a dying requirement, and many companies are taking a more relaxed approach to work. These changes have not only proved how people can truly come together during a tumultuous time, but also how important an authentic team environment is during a crisis. The cultures of workplaces have changed, but it’s a change for the better.

Spire’s partial return to the office this summer has lit a spark both personally and professionally. Production is up, and so are the celebrations. From creative briefs and award-winning creative, to breakfast tacos and Top Golf outings, our team is fired up for an amazing summer.

With that, we present to you Rachel Briner’s star-spangled soundtrack for summer.

Rachael, what is the name of your album?

The name of this album is simple: American Girl. It’s based on the song from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that was, coincidentally enough, recorded on July 4, 1976. But it also speaks to me personally; my father is a United States Air Force veteran. I continue to be grateful for all the sacrifices that so many Americans have made and continue to make for our country, as well as the ability to strive to be better as a country each and every day. Summer makes me feel particularly patriotic.

How would you describe this mix?

This mix is everything that you need for an all-American celebration with your family this summer, whether that’s your company, your friends, or your relatives! It’s a kick-back throwback, America-loving, and who’s-got-the-burgers playlist to sing with a mouthful of Lay’s chips.

What was the inspiration behind it?

The inspiration behind this was everything that Independence Day means to me. It’s the mid-way mark of summer. It’s the family reunions and the friends gathered around a fire, and the shared belly laughs. It’s the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the bursting fireworks, and the watermelon juice that trickles down your little brother’s face. More than that, it’s the ability to have the freedoms we do, to spark change, and ultimately create a better country to live in.

What is your favorite song, and why?

There’s something special about summer, so “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” by Travis Tritt is my favorite. The song peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks in 2000, and at #33 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The lyrics remind me that while this year has been tough for all of us, the sun is still shining and there’s still hope. No matter how bad it gets, it will always get better… and it’s a great day to be alive!

If your playlist was a brand, what would it be and why?

If this playlist was a brand, it would definitely be Coca-Cola. A great American summer requires an ice-cold Coca-Cola in hand, especially with the 100-degree heat in Texas! Coca-Cola represents everything that is synonymous with summer: family, fun, and the U.S.A.

Any specific memory that comes to mind when you listen?

When I listen to this playlist, I think about the summer reunions my family and I had when I was younger. You’ll notice I did throw in a good number of classic songs; my dad would often play songs that he grew up with family events and backyard barbecues. The lyrics, the artists, and the overall feel are something that take me back to those simple times and the carefree days spent with the ones I love.

What makes your playlist unique?

I took a melting pot of genres and gave them a nice, big stir. While most people associate country music with Americana, I thought it was important to use songs outside of this genre that many of us and our parents grew up with. This creates a warm and familiar atmosphere, reminding us of the memories we’ve created and will continue to make with our families and friends.

Happy 245th birthday, America. And happy summer to everyone else out there. Stay tuned to the Spire Blog and Spotify Channel for the drop of our next album.