The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Gia Margaret

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I think I didn’t know it then but I needed to realize – and realize now – that I’m not only a vocalist.”

—Gia Margaret

gia margaret ii

Released last month, the utterly beguiling “Mia Gargaret” reveals an achingly beautiful set of largely instrumental works from the gifted talents of Chicago artist Gia Margaret. These delicate ambient song cycles cast an undeniable power; slowly emanating from the ethereal bliss of synthesizer, piano and acoustic guitar: shimmering out to seas of splendor.

The opening two tracks invites the listener deep into the realm of reverie and inner-reflection. Apathy’s gentle flourishes of synthesizer arpeggios forges the soothing textures and warm radiance (in which this entire record is beautifully submerged in). Fragile piano tapestries are wonderfully woven together, as some field recordings fade in gradually towards its majestic close.

The immensity of “body” is nothing short of staggering: an examination of the human condition across a distillation of two sumptuous minutes. A spoken word essay is narrated beneath otherworldly soundscapes of reflective synthesizer loops. The sheer emotional depth unleashed by this heartfelt gem inside its intricate array of masterful production and sonic wizardry hits you profoundly.

Hypnotic vocal lines are fused with immersive electronic beats on the introspective bliss of “barely there” before poignant, soul-stirring piano lament “no sleep no dream” seeps into the ether of forgotten dreams.

“3 movements” is a divine solo piano exploration that navigates the human heart and soul of all natural things.

To create something truly uplifting from the depths of darkness lies the true power of Margaret’s song-craft. Let the healing power of music flood your mind’s eye.

‘Mia Gargaret’ is out now in Dalliance Recordings.


Interview with Gia Margaret.

Congratulations on your achingly beautiful new full length release. First of all, can you please take me back to the period of time in which this collection of songs were written and recorded? This sonic departure was prompted by illness and having lost your voice (which I hope you are doing well now) but I feel the healing power of music is very much translated to the listener’s experience of this record.

Gia Margaret: Thank you so much. I still can’t believe it exists? I wrote this record mostly during the second half of 2019. It was a transitional time for me in so many ways. I was full of so much uncertainty both personally and professionally. To top it off I felt robbed of my own joy with the inability to use my voice. That’s amazing you can feel a healing power. I wouldn’t say I felt completely healed while making it but definitely soothed me at the time. Maybe I was searching for something healing? I’m glad it feels that way anyhow.

The sonic palette of synthesizer, piano and acoustic guitar creates a divine sound world of lo-fi ambient gems with such an array of soothing textures and warm, inviting timbres. Can you discuss your studio set-up and your compositional approach for this album? 

GM: My studio set-up is very…humble. I have my computer, Logic and a simple interface. Most of the synth driven songs were recorded right at my desk shortly after they were written. I have a pretty basic synthesizer (Korg Minilogue), a few little Yamaha reface keyboards and a casio SK1. (I think I used those the most!) The acoustic piano was recorded at my friend Scott’s studio, which I am lucky to have access to. And the acoustic guitar was plugged in direct. Nothing fancy. I would say 90 percent of this record was made right in my living room. As far as compositional approach:  I think I wanted the songs to be structured but I didn’t want to commit myself to any sonic palette.  I can’t say I really had an approach or ever do. I like to treat every song differently and I make whatever resources that are available work for me.

The opening two tracks ‘Apathy’ and ‘Body’ serves the cornerstone of this captivating record. I’d love for you to recount your memories of witnessing these songs unfold and the layers of the tracks themselves. For instance, the deeply moving spoken word element embedded in ‘Body’ forges such a poignant and moving sonic exploration. Can you shed some light on these found sounds, so to speak?

: I wrote both “Apathy” and “Body” in the same evening. They always felt like good friends thereafter. I have to be completely honest, I don’t remember making them that much. Sometimes I will hit record and play until something sticks. I do know I wrote them last September and that whenever I like something I’ve made I will listen over and over again. I have a memory of heading to my friend’s place on the train and having “Body” on a loop. I think I knew then that it was special to me and it would go on the record. These songs flowed out of me effortlessly. I had been listening to a few of Alan Watts’ lectures that week and I think originally I plugged in his lecture there as a placeholder. Eventually it all felt too fitting to remove in the long run. It was a happy accident and I’m lucky that his son Mark gave me permission to use the lecture in exchange for allowing him to use the song in a documentary for his Dad. That was probably one of the best emails I’ve ever received. I was sort of a philosophy/Alan Watts nut in college and during my 20s.

I get the impression the necessity of music (and music-making as a process) was an important therapeutic outlet during this period of time. Despite the fact your voice – in terms of the traditional singer-songwriter format – is barely found on the album, the alluring aspect of this music is just how these songs very much have a voice and lyrical quality to them. Were you surprised by the results? In terms of the music-making process, I’m sure you have uncovered new pathways of your own special song-craft?

GM: I’m still surprised at the results. Like I said earlier, but maybe I didn’t emphasize, is that I don’t remember making some of it. I was in that much of a fog at the time. I think I didn’t know it then but I needed to realize – and realize now – that I’m not only a vocalist. While singing is such a big part of me and I am getting stronger, none of it would be the same without the taste I’ve acquired and without producing my own music. It’s been nice to realize I can express myself in other ways. I went to school for music composition and dropped out. I think for a long time I felt I could never release instrumental music or be apart of that world because I wasn’t technically trained enough/ couldn’t survive a rigorous program. I hope to continue to make ambient music and it would be nice to someday make a piano record.

gia cover

‘3 Movements’ is a stunningly beautiful solo piano tour-de-force and I love the placing of this piece towards the end. Was piano the first instrument you played as a child? Can you talk me through the movements of this piece of music?

GM: Piano was my first instrument and I started to play when I was about 6 after begging my parents for a few years. I don’t have a piano anymore but there’s truly nothing like sitting at a real piano. It’s my first love. I originally wrote this piece of music for Mark Kozelek’s new spoken world album. He asked for 3 movements so I wrote 3 movements. Lots of looping piano and layering over top. I don’t think there was much rhyme or reason. Mark gave me a few simple directions and I tried to make something he could use. It was an honor to be asked to do this because I’ve spent a good portion of life listening to his music. I was almost embarrassed to ask him if I could use this on my record but I became attached after I had already given it to him. Since he edited some of it to fit around his spoken word we agreed that we could both use the music on each of our projects. He was very cool about it! Thanks Mark!

What are your earliest musical memories? What was your musical upbringing like living in Chicago? At which point do you remember wanting to embark on your own solo path?

: Earliest musical memories involve my mother exposing me to music. And while no one in my family is really musical, I owe my love for music to her.  She had a big record collection and always had a new cassette to discover in the car. Some names that come to mind include Genesis, Enya, R.E.M., and Sinéad O’Connor. My dad showed me Sade by accident when it came on his favorite smooth jazz radio station, haha. (so I’ll give him some credit too because I spent ages 11–14 listening to “Lovers Rock” pretty religiously) I feel like they didn’t know what do to with a creative kid like myself, but they supported me in the ways that they could. I took piano lessons and I started making up my own songs at a young age. As far as knowing when I wanted to embark on my own path, I think that happened when I dropped out of music school to focus more on songwriting. I was in a few projects and spent many years backing other musical projects. I spent a few years producing for other people as well. I think I didn’t fully embark until a few years ago when I made my first record and decided to fully focus on myself. I’ve never felt worthy of anyone listening to my music but somehow people are out there listening and I’m grateful.

What music have you been enjoying lately?

GM: Lately I’ve been listening to and revisiting Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s “Keyboard Fantasies”, as much Mehdi Hassan as I can find, and Ivy’s “Long Distance”.

‘Mia Gargaret’ is out now in Dalliance Recordings.


Written by admin

July 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm

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