Margaret Glaspy on Releasing an Album During a Pandemic

Glaspy's Devotion came out right as the coronavirus indefinitely halted live music. Here's how she found inspiration amidst the challenge.

November 9, 2020

Margaret Glaspy ’07 released her second album, Devotion, on March 27, 2020.

In any other year, that sentence would’ve been just a fact, something you’d look up on Wikipedia and then move on. But in 2020, the month of March brought an enormous amount of change to lives across the United States as the coronavirus reached pandemic levels. By the time Devotion came out, Berklee students were almost a week into their abrupt shift from campus life to remote learning. The situation, to put it mildly, had changed.

Glaspy was in rehearsal with her band, getting ready to hit the road to promote the album, when she got a phone call saying that touring wasn’t going to be possible due to the pandemic. “My first feeling was that I was just so glad I was okay and that my family was okay and that I was healthy,” Glaspy said. After that, she said things “followed with little bits of shock. Like, I would accept it and feel totally fine and then…I’d look at the calendar and realize, wow, I was supposed to be in Paris today, or I was supposed be in Germany today…. It took a little while to understand.”

Because there isn’t an infrastructure for touring right have to bring [music] to people in some kind of digital format. Therefore, it’s harder for surprises to happen. You have to plan the surprises.

—Margaret Glaspy '07

Glaspy was quick to realize that upping her digital presence would be a key way to get her music out to people and connect with audiences. In fact, the same day Berklee began its remote curriculum in March, Glaspy released a video on YouTube of her and her partner (and fellow Berklee alumnus), the guitarist Julian Lage '09, performing an original song for Live from Home, the quarantine version of Chris Thile’s Live from Here radio show. That would be the first in a string of intimate, acoustic performances Glaspy would share on her YouTube channel over the coming months.

Watch Glaspy and Lage perform their song "Katonah" for Live from Home:

“Because there isn’t an infrastructure for touring right now, I think you have to be so forward with playing music because you have to bring it to people in some kind of digital format,” Glaspy said, describing her approach. “Therefore, it’s harder for surprises to happen. You have to plan the surprises.”

In other interviews surrounding the themes behind Devotion, Glaspy has talked at length about how getting away from the familiarity of the guitar helped her approach her sound for the new record, which often skews toward synthesizers and processed vocals. In a way, it made a seasoned musician—Glaspy has been playing fiddle since she was 8 or 9 and studied voice at Berklee—embrace being vulnerable. That vulnerability influenced her lyrics as she explored the idea of what a long-term love relationship—devotion, in other words—really requires.

Those intimate, acoustic performances are a far cry from the often more electronic sound that Devotion showcases; those lessons in vulnerability seem to have provided her a strong sense of resilience and agility in the face of so much change. It makes sense, then, that her songwriting has shifted back to the guitar. “I’m leaning on it more than ever. I’ve become friends with it again,” she said. And that process has been fruitful, as her daily songwriting practice has opened new creative doors to the point that she plans to have yet another full-length record recorded by the end of the year. “The whole thing is really just showing up,” she said. “That way I can say I’m a songwriter every day.”

For all those budding artists and Berklee students who feel like they’re looking toward an uncertain future in the music industry, Glaspy points to something she learned during the short time she was at Berklee. “Moving to Boston from a tiny town in California was the biggest investment in myself,” she said about her decision to enroll at Berklee. “Your biggest asset is that it’s worth something to take what you need and keep moving. It’s worth it—it doesn’t have to look like your peer on your left or your peer on your right. It's okay to stay true to what you need in the moment.”

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