At Work: Margaret Glaspy
“The city has always taught me to distill what I have to say, and my first album was me expressing myself quickly and concisely, like learning how to use the middle finger,” Margaret Glaspy says, while characterizing her sophomore album, the new ATO release Devotion, as a distinctly New York piece of work. “But Devotion felt like another side of New York—a real, deeply sincere side. I’m going out of my way to show you how earnest I can be.”
It’s a spring day and Glaspy—who was born in Sacramento, grew up in Red Bluff, Calif., and attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music—is calling from her Brooklyn apartment, where she is currently quarantined alongside her partner, guitarist Julian Lage. The singer-songwriter arrived in the Big Apple in 2010 and released her solo debut EP two years later. Her first album, Emotions and Math, dropped in 2016—a stripped-down, guitar-driven affair that won her praise from fans and critics alike. Her approach to Devotion, though, was far more experimental. She put aside her guitar—at first—and began creating new songs using her Ableton production software, building loops and adding layers of melody until it was time to welcome live instruments back into the fold.
Her method was similar to her songs’ themes: Glaspy used love as a base and began examining its different angles, both from her own experience and from the depths of her imagination.
“This record is totally sincere to my experience, but many songs capture these portraits or vignettes of situations I’ve never been through. I’m a writer— creating scenarios all the time,” she says. “But I wanted it to capture the feeling of being in love, settling into whatever love you find and embracing it.”
Devotion’s 12 songs, which were recorded in quick succession during a five-day studio session, stray far from the straightforward rock of Emotions and Math. “New Yorkers work quick; things are expensive here and you seize every moment,” says Glaspy.
On opener “Killing What Keeps Us Alive,” Glaspy’s stacks her vocals sky-high over a bed of slippery synthesizer tones and muted percussion. With “You’ve Got My Number,” she creates a mesmerizing loop of feedback and bass—it’s late-night pop just waiting for a dance-club remix. But throughout, Glaspy’s lyrics are sincere, earnest and thoughtful. “This record is me opening up, giving the songs more breath and air, and not forcing anything,” she says.