by Chris Bryson
With the success of her full-length debut, Emotions and Math, and an appearance in the April edition of Rolling Stone in an article titled “10 New Artists You Need to Know”, Margaret Glaspy’s career has been on the upswing. This week she’ll be in Manitoba to play the Winnipeg Folk Festival.Glaspy’s voice is distinct, lying somewhere in between Liz Phair, Joni Mitchell, and Frances Quinlan. Her croon is smooth. Her snarl is sharp. And her guitar work mimics these elements in groove, crispness and abrasion. Glaspy’s singer-songwriter style is impassioned yet distant; her grunge-swagger indie rock mixes with slow-burner distorted folk, a niche sound she’s made all her own.
With her upcoming visit to play the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Glaspy explains her trip here will be in the midst of an extensive tour that will take her all around the United States, parts of Canada and the United Kingdom, along with one stop in Norway.
“You’re working pretty hard the whole time but you really feel the fruits of your labour pretty instantly because of just having a really great time and getting to play music for a living,” says Glaspy. “Everybody’s just kind of living their lives but it’s fun to kind of realize that so many other people’s lives are different than yours but they’re also very similar at the same time.”
In talking about some of the things she’s learned over the years with regard to musicianship and songwriting – from her time spent gigging and playing music in Boston and New York – Glaspy touched on her ideas of success and its influence on her craft.
“In terms of just attention and things like that I think it really shifts quite a bit so you can’t really leave it as your compass,” says Glaspy. “That’s certainly what I’ve learned. And while in releasing this record it’s been fun to, you know enjoy the kind of I suppose you could say successes from it. And at the same time I know I’ll make records that won’t be understood by everyone. So you just kind of have to essentially take the good with the good and take the bad with equal weight and just keep making music I suppose.”
As someone who’s created and been fully delving into her own niche style and sound, Glaspy says that “as an artist you have to truly follow your nose and make things that you find are interesting in order to kind of enlighten and do your job and enlighten the people around you also. Because if you’re following the patterns you see around you, you’re not really doing your job.”
Glaspy’s an artist that’s been known for not wanting to divulge too much about lyrical meanings and sentiments, often opting to leave these things to individual interpretation.
“Often I think of songwriting or making music as kind of my job description and less of an emotive experience,” says Glaspy. “But there is lots of craft that goes into it that makes it not really a direct representation of my feelings but more of something that I’m trying to convey overall.”
Anyone who listens to Glaspy’s music will instantly notice her unique voice, which is something that, for her, has come forth through both nature and nurturing.
“When I was young I kind of yelled when I would try and sing. I was really really loud. And then as I evolved I was able to understand dynamics and subtlety and trying to make different sounds,” says Glaspy, “but in terms of my technique and the things I try, my own inflections and things like that, those I kind of learned and cultivated over time.”
Glaspy continues, “If you liken it to any other kind of instrument I think it makes sense in terms of, you know you see a guitar player and they like to use distortion or something like that. Or they like to make their amp feedback. Or they like to play really fast or play really slow. When you’re a vocalist you also have these opportunities that are coming from just a human voice. So I think that maybe it’s not always looked at that transparently but it is that transparent in terms of just saying here’s an instrument and now I’m going to affect it and make it sound different at different times to fit the song or emotion that I’m trying to convey.”
Having lived, honed her skills and gotten close with the music scenes in Boston and New York (she currently resides in the Big Apple) Glaspy has learned a lot about the impact and importance of community.
“I think you’re kind of as good as the company you keep in a lot of different ways. I think it’s cool to really rely on your community wherever you are. And I say that as kind of someone who’s really just written songs in a room for a really long time that’s kind of always been my disposition is kind of being to myself,” says Glaspy, “and yet I can’t deny that all the music, whether it’s the records that you listen to in your room, if that’s your community, whether you’re friends with the people or not you create communities and kind of rely on them I think in a way that’s healthy and definitely has contributed to the music that I’ve made over the years.”
Glaspy says she’s planning to work on a new record after touring this year. And, if you find yourself at the 2017 Winnipeg Folk Festival, be sure to check her out.