Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Who: Margaret Glaspy
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
Recommendation: Teaching and learning
When I got off tour from my first record, 2016's Emotions and Math, I was really disoriented. I had been living in a bubble of hotels, airports and green rooms for the 2 1/2 years prior and once I finished the touring cycle, I didn't know what to do with myself. The streets of New York City were unsympathetic, and I craved some perspective that I didn't know how to get. I retreated to upstate New York in the effort to gain some peace of mind. That had its own feeling of uneasiness, being alone in the quiet, but it allowed me to see what I was craving: education; I wanted to learn. I had been creating so much output and I needed some input. Very quickly, I researched ways that suited my schedule to receive an education, and I have been enrolled as a student at the Harvard Extension School ever since.
Fast forward to now, Harvard has been a constant in my life before and during quarantine, and it inspired me to want to offer the same outlet to the public by teaching songwriting. At the beginning of May, I offered a month's worth of lessons to the public, and they were sold out in just a few days; it became clear that I wasn't alone in craving to learn during idle times. Now, every week, I have the pleasure of listening to what songwriters all over the world are working on and get to answer their questions and relate to their struggles and successes in their process. Some students I've gotten to work with more than once, and seeing their progress means everything to me. Obviously, it's incredibly gratifying as an artist to help someone else on their path, but it's also really inspiring to see writers from all over the world choose to keep staying curious and vulnerable in a time that can feel really scary and fear-inducing. That alone has inspired me to write more songs than I ever have during quarantine. (If they can do it, I can do it!)
Teaching "songwriting lessons" is a less-worn path than other paths of academia in the music realm and I find, as a teacher, that it requires the ability to transcend genre or instrument in working with students that write music in many different styles, in many different ways and at all different skill levels. For me, it's all about allowing and finding a student's sense of style while instilling ways to use structure to stay productive and find the true meaning in what they are making. Lyricism, arranging, performance, chord choice, playing ability and so much more go into making songs great, and I'm such a nerd for it all.
It's a chaotic time for everyone and some days it's best to just go easy on yourself. Other days, at least for me, I need a healthy distraction and the feeling of progression in my life. This has filled that void for me and, seemingly, done the same for my students, and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity.
For more information on songwriting lessons with Margaret Glaspy (starting in July and onward) visit www.songwriting.study
Margaret Glaspy released a new record, Devotion, in March.