“Finally, I learn to tell the truth to myself.”

This line from the opening track Finally of Macie Stewart’s debut album Mouthful of Glass seems to set the tone for the whole record. Playing and touring with a variety of bands since she was 16, the singer-songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist has collected a load of songs over the years. Despite the strange and depressing aspects that the pandemic brought, it has given her the time to finally finish those pieces – along with some newer ones. The result is a record that brings the conversations and intimate reflection processes, usually taking place in the very privacy of one’s mind, gently to the surface.

“A lot of the songs on the record are very reflective because I was going through kind of a transformative period in my life. When I write music, it often serves as a way to reflect and let things out and then be able to observe them and see what it really means.”

We All Know The Look Into The Mirror

The songs on Mouthful of Glass are moments of self-discovery captured in musical terms. They do not need any further explanation, for the moods Macie Stewart creates with her nuanced soundscapes in songs, such as the title track Mouthful of Glass, touch a deeper understanding of something that is personal and universal at the same time.

In the music video for Defeat, the artist takes a look into a mirror while calmly singing “I’m not one for admitting defeat”. Observations like this, though attentive and honest, but never obsessed with herself, define the lyrical stance throughout the record. We follow Macie Stewart as she discovers the strangeness of her mind without judging. And listening to this, she is inviting us to do the same.

The sound of the record spans from the warm, pearling tones of an acoustic guitar on What Will I Do over layers of voice, saxophone, piano, and strings on Where We Live to warm, hovering chords of an electric organ in Golden (For Mark). Through the adding and removing of sound layers, Macie constantly opens up new spaces and finds new colors.

Input Without Restrictions

Her lifelong experience of playing music throughout various genres has by all means helped Macie Stewart become the genre-bending artist of today. Starting off in classical music with piano and violin at age three, she discovered experimental music and improvisation when she was allowed to enter the bars of Chicago aged 21. Somewhere in between, she also played Irish Fiddle for six years and started touring with her first indie rock band Kids These Days at age 17, which was the reason why she did not go to college to study classical piano. But still, Macie has gotten around to using some of her classical education in her work as a composer and arranger as well as in her general approach to music itself:

“I think I learned so much from classical music. There’s so much I adore about it, like spending four months learning one piece, just living inside the piece and finding all the nuances within something that seems rigid. That is a beautiful thing that we can learn from classical music and classical music performance.”

Photo by Ash Dye

However, classical music never was the be all and end all to Macie: “I was deep in that world and I felt boxed in. There are notes on the page, there are the ways that the music is supposed to sound like, you know, playing things perfectly in tune – which I think is important. But also sometimes it’s not so important. There’s just so much out there and I think to restrict yourself and your own creativity, but also your own input to just one thing is not great.”

Music From Within

In Macie Stewart’s song writing, her many influences are on display while at the same time she combines them so organically that you don’t overthink what you are actually listening to. The idea of genre just seems irrelevant here.

“The best music pulls from your inspiration and your life experience. For this record, I was trying to make something without thinking about it too hard. I knew I had these songs, I knew I had these tools at my disposal and I wanted to make something with that. I didn’t have an idea for what I wanted it to sound like. I just wanted to challenge myself to make a record from the core of my being.””

In the process of finding the right sound, Macie drew inspiration from other artists’ records such as Cate Le Bon’s Reward: “That was such an inspirational record. Her use of space and her use of the saxophone, I was really drawn to and taken by.” In Macie’s admiration for Julia Holter’s Aviary, you hear the violinist in her talking:

“The record has some beautiful songs with strings on it and I’m always a sucker for records with strings!”

Listening to her own debut album now, Macie Stewart feels satisfied: “I look at records as just a period of time. I don’t think you can ever perfect it. So I’m proud of what I did with it, in that moment, and whatever I make next will undeniably be different.” What could be next then? There is definitely another solo album waiting, the artist confirms. Oh, and what a delight that would be.

Macie Stewart’s Mouthful Of Glass is out now via Full Time Hobby. She also created a playlist for our folk update, which you find below. Happy streaming everybody.