Margaret Glaspy: Q&A
Quarantined Artists is a new FUV feature that includes online Q&As and on-air conversations with musicians dealing with life in Covid-19 lockdown.
Margaret Glaspy didn't rush the release of her second album, Devotion. It's been four years since the Sacramento-born, Brooklyn-based Glaspy released her critically-lauded 2016 debut, Emotions and Math, landing on her feet as a folk-rock polymath with a gritty perspective on the vagaries of love. But instead of winding back to familiar ground, following the release of 2018's three-song, love-blasted EP Born Yesterday, she steered in a different direction altogether. What's more gutsy than pushing your own boundaries?
Love looms large on Devotion, but so does risk: Glaspy cannonballs into the deep end of a whole new sound, playing with loops, electronics, and synthesized vocals. Yes, there's romantic unease, but also the dazed realization of what true love can be. (Glaspy's partner is fellow musician Julian Lage, playing their song "Katonah" together here via "Live from Home" from our friends at "Live From Here.")
A roux of earthy emotions and wiry synths flavors Devotion. Glaspy's studio experimentation also works well live, as she demonstrated in our FUV Live concert from Rockwood Music Hall in late February. But just two weeks before Glaspy's album was to be released on March 27, and days before she was about to embark on a North American tour (she was booked to be at Brooklyn's The Bell House on April 14 and 15), the world snapped shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the second musician quizzed in FUV's new Quarantined Artists series, Glaspy tells us a bit about her new album and how she's weathering homebound life during what she calls a "strangely liberating" time:
You describe the songs on your third album, Devotion, as "letting love in even when you don't know what will happen when you do." We certainly need a lot of love in these days of social distancing and anxiety — how does Devotion fit these times?
These days, it seems that earnest, devoted energy isn’t necessarily the “cool” approach but I’d like to think that I’m an official cheerleader for being earnest and saying what you mean rather than having irony or a nonchalant attitude take precedent. I’m excited to choose love over fear and spread that message however I can.
You also leaned on Ableton, MIDI, and challenged yourself technically for this album. Why was it important to you to change up your sound for Devotion and take things in a very different direction? Also, you recorded the album with producer Tyler Chester in Red Hook. What was it about that creative bond that worked so well?
Working with Tyler was incredibly fun because, first of all, he’s my friend. Making things with your friends makes the whole process that much sweeter and I was liberated to speak my mind and be in the moment with him because I trusted him and I think that feeling was felt in reverse. Along with being an amazing producer, he is a brilliant musician and his playing was paramount to this record. It was the perfect fit to be able to speak to him as a musician and then have him translate that to larger production ideas. It was important for me to try new things because I’m evolving as an artist and I was feeling stir crazy staying in one place. I hope to continue to evolve for the rest of my life.
Songs like "Killing What Keeps Us Alive" and "Stay with Me" really show the adventurous range of Devotion. What surprised you the most about the songs you found yourself writing for this record? And what are you most proud of?
All of it was a thrill to see come together. It’s hard to say what one thing I’m most proud of but I would say “Devotion," “Without Him," and “Killing What Keeps Us Alive” are especially proud moments for me on the record.
Are you self-isolating in Brooklyn or elsewhere? How are you coping?
We are at home in Brooklyn, feeling lucky to have a roof over our heads and hopeful that our community and the world at large can stay as healthy as possible. While it’s a confusing time, it’s been strangely liberating to get to be home and work on music, study, make food from scratch, and get more sleep than we ever have. It’s reminding us we are all so fragile and need a lot of care. I’m thankful for the opportunity even though it is under unfortunate circumstances.
Like so many musicians, you've had to cancel your spring tour. What were you looking forward to most, bringing Devotion on the road? And are you hoping to do online performances?
I’ve been playing a lot of online performances and its been so fun to connect with everyone at home! It’s a bummer to have had to cancel our tours but anything to keep people safe and healthy, I’m here for.
Is there a lyric on Devotion, or a lyric or quote generally, that resonates with you during this time of uncertainty?
There’s a lyric from “You Amaze Me” that I think is poignant right now: “You amaze me… Filling up those big shoes, looking at a sky of gray, never wishing it was blue." It amazes me, seeing all of humanity put on the brakes and have to be present with their circumstances. It’s inspiring to see people take the lemons and make lemonade instead of being endlessly frustrated and scared. You all amaze me!
- Margaret Glaspy, April 2, 2020