Interviews Music

The Jolly Dropout

Bailing on one of America’s most prestigious music schools after only one semester was never in Margaret Glaspy’s plans. “I didn’t want to be college dropout, necessarily,” the singer-songwriter says. “It had a negative connotation in my mind. But at the same time, I didn’t really care.” Her reasons were financial. Money was tight (read: non-existent) for the girl from rural California, and attending Berklee College of Music was a costly affair – even with a grant to her name. She stuck around Boston, nonetheless. After all, she’d made plenty of new musically inclined friends (including future partner, jazz guitarist Julian Lage). “When you drop out of school and the rest of your friends keep going, you find yourself feeling a little bit uncomfortable at times, saying, ‘What am I doing?’” she says. “In retrospect, though, I’m really happy; I don’t have a bunch of school debt and I still did my thing.”

Her thing is folk music with delightfully rough edges, but Margaret’s influences reach far and wide, from Joni Mitchell to Michael Jackson (“Thriller is just so perfect,” she says) to metal legends Rage Against the Machine. “I feel like they’re one of the few bands who have just really spoken their minds and have had a pretty radical message at all times,” she says. “They’ve always stirred me up in the best way – at a young age, especially. I remember hearing their music coming out of my brother’s room, not knowing what it was and being a little scared of it. Then, coming into my own, I started to discover those records for myself and realised they really spoke to me. They still do.”

Following her decision to quit Berklee, Margaret worked a multitude of jobs and counts a restaurant, a bookstore, a jewellery store and a bakery amongst her former workplaces. “They were all side-jobs and what they facilitated was me paying my rent,” she says. “Working in the bakery was good because I washed dishes and didn’t have to talk to anyone, so I could just work on songs in my head.” Some of those songs feature on her self-released EPs Homeschool and If & When; others on her debut album Emotions and Math, released earlier this year through ATO Records. “Emotions and Math kind of collected itself over a period of time,” she says, “so I feel like I’ve been in lots of different states when making it. And I’m in such a different place now that the record is out. Before, I was just doing whatever I needed to do in order to have the time and space to write.”

Nowadays, the 27-year-old’s touring schedule is so rigorous, she’s rarely at her Manhattan apartment. “I can’t own anything that lives, because I’m never home,” she says. “I love dogs, though. They’re just so adorable, loyal and sweet. I’m always wishing I could have a King Cavalier; I want a Cavalier puppy so badly! It’s my dream. Someday.” Until then, she’ll continue spending every moment she can back home in the private library across the road.

“Only members are allowed inside,” she explains. “They have all these private reading rooms, and they also have private writing rooms. I kind of aspire to write prose; I think about writing a book someday. So I tuck away into the writing rooms and either work on lyrics or just kind of research. It’s a pretty special place for me.”

This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 76 (Mar/Apr 2017).

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