I knew it was going to be a late night, so I ate dinner and took a nap. There was too much time to kill between dinner and going out. Napping was the best strategy. After all, I’m not a night owl by any stretch of the imagination. As most of you know, I get up around 4 a.m. most days, meaning I go to bed at an undisclosed early hour (let’s just say I go to bed earlier than my nine-year-old nephew).
The nap was for strength: I was going dancing with my bestie Julian and his bestie Margaret (whom I had never met). Julian and I had been talking about going dancing since in utero. We’d been waiting for the stars to align which looked like us both being in NYC on the same Friday or Saturday night, us both not having gigs, us both feeling up for it, us both agreeing on a dance club with a particular vibe, etc. Alignment achieved! Our celestial bodies would be making a visit to Von at Bleecker and Bowery.
I remember the tiny subterranean dance floor, the size of a studio apartment; I remember the music was a curious mix of old school hip hop and Whitney Houston’s almost-hits, with a few undeniable dance-floor-fillers from MJ; I remember the three of us — Jules, Margaret, and I — holding our own, taking up space, spinning and grinning to the music; I remember taking a breather upstairs away from the music just so I could talk to Margaret, laugh a full-throated laugh with her, one that wouldn’t be drowned out by beats and breaks; I remember ending the night in the morning at the 24-hour diner on Bowery that was only in business for a nano-second; I remember Margaret eating a prodigious amount of french fries.
Swoon! She’d already won my heart by dancing her un-drunk ass off at a tiny club with a ridiculously boring name, but this late-night display of hunger/gusto really sealed the deal.
Then I heard her music, or more precisely, her voice. Haunting. Sandpaper rubbed velvet. It does strange things. It can sound like static; it can sound like a 1940s singer coming through a pre-CBS Fender amp on the night of blue moon; it can sound like your sister singing in the shower; it can sound like the hippestcontemporary jazz singer minus the pretense and bullshit. In short, I never tire of it. If her voice was the uppercut; her guitar playing was the sucker punch. Sly. Understated. Playful. Reaching. Vulnerable. Surprising. Disarming.
Allow me to introduce you to Miss Margaret Glaspy. If she asks you to dance or eat or both, for god’s sake, say yes.
(This interview is part of the TENACITY series. Read the FAQ here.)
1. Tell me a story about/describe to me your lowest musical moment, when you were at rock bottom, the most frustrated, the most discouraged.
The low points I've begun to realize, are really the high points. Whenever I think that I'm struggling, I'm realizing whatever I'm working on a little more fully. I've gotten rejected from labels, not had a penny, and lost complete sight of my songwriting process (sometimes all three at once) and have learned to take those as humbling reminders that the "lows" will never go away and are just as important as the highs.
2. What change or changes did you make? How did you get out of that place? What made a difference?
Often, I feel that accepting whatever state you're in and being okay with it is the first step to get back on track. Whenever a bump in the road comes along, seeing how it makes me feel and then trying to understand that feeling is helpful for me. If I'm just "sad," that doesn't leave me with much to work with. If I start understanding what's making me feel weird, I'm able to track down the actual source and try to reorient myself. That sounds so technical, but I suppose after spending a lot of time having to work my way through difficult situations (as one does) I've learned to look at everything more objectively to help me get through it and take myself a little less seriously.
3. Tell me about your most meaningful or your biggest musical triumph? It can be very personal or very public. How did it come to happen?
My biggest triumph in music is waking up every day and being able to do it. I feel really lucky to have had parents that said, "Go! Do what you want!" At times it can be difficult to do one thing consistently (at least for me it is) and showing up to music every day feels like a total personal triumph.
4. Tell me how being a musician has made you a better person?
Music has taught me about perseverance, self-esteem, problem-solving, working with others, the list goes on...You're essentially running a small (or medium or large) business and life skills help! When you get a bad review or your saxophone player starts getting a little difficult, you can't kick and scream. I relearn this every day and I think I'll never stop relearning it.
5. To whom would you like to ask question #4 -- living or dead? Why would you want to ask them? What do you think their answer to question #4 would be?
Joni Mitchel! She's a goddess and I have no clue what her answer would be.
6. There is a saying: "A rising tide lifts all boats." How are you actively working to lift the boats of your fellow musicians or artist friends? Another way to ask this question: What have you done for a musician/artist friend of yours lately that has contributed to furthering his or her career? Tell me that story.
I don't think I'm specifically any kind of saint in helping my fellow musicians, but I have learned that when the phone rings, I should always answer. There was a time when I would take a mental note to call so-and-so back and take a couple weeks to do so. Now, more than ever, talking with friends helps me and it makes me want to let my friends/peers know that I'm there even for the smallest thing. On a more musical note (pun alert), I think spending the time to make really good music and write the best songs anyone can is the best way to move along the musical community as a whole.
7. Do you have a musical challenge you'd like to issue to my readers? Some small/ do-able practice they could try for 1, 7, 14, 21 days? Something that you worked on that made a difference to you as a musician or a person?
My musical challenging is: try and be present every day. Like really present! Anytime I'm able to be present, the music is always much better for it.
8. Is there a question you'd like to ask me?
Kate! Is there a contemporary artist that you think is making music that is just as compelling/great as your favorites from back in the day? Do you think the praise we give the greats (Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Bob Dylan - some personal favorites) comes with perspective and time or do you think there is music being made with the same luster in 2015?