Photo credit; GMD Three

Photo credit; GMD Three

Musician:  SETH GLIER

Video:  “Sunshine

Seth Glier’s video “Sunshine” from new studio album Birds

Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Seth Glier’s studio album Birds is out now. The collection of insightful and well-crafted songs includes standout tracks “Sunshine,” “Water on Fire,” and the timely socially-conscious cover “For What It’s Worth.”

To celebrate the release of Birds on MPress Records, Glier created a music video for the album’s opening track, “Sunshine.”

“I wrote ‘Sunshine’ while living out of a storage unit for about a year,” says Glier. “I was in the middle of a lot of things; an apartment, a relationship, and my parents were in the middle of a divorce. My piano was the last thing I loaded into the storage unit so I could just open up the door and practice when I needed to. ‘Sunshine’ was written to an audience of cardboard boxes in a 5×8. Practicing, and therapy, got me through that time.”

Glier will be touring the U.S., including stops in major cities—New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. He “can’t wait to play these songs in front of an audience.” He feels these songs are needed right now and for our future, and that’s what allows the songs on Birds to soar to new heights.

“We’re going to need songs and all sorts of art in order to get us towards a future where the currency is compassion and resilience—as opposed to greed and authority,” says Glier. But the beauty is best seen with his hopeful outlook: “We’re all here to make something beautiful.”

SETH GLIER Web-Exclusive Interview
with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

How did the new album Birds evolve?
It started with a bunch of demos, rough recordings, of songs I had been writing and recording in my apartment. I met my co-producer, Steve Lunt, at a funeral and he asked to hear what I was working on. I sent him three songs and he spent the next six months convincing me not to change them. Most of this album wasn’t built from perfection but rather intent.

Photo credit: GMD Three

Photo credit: GMD Three

Tell us how the idea of the new song “Sunshine” came to you.
“Sunshine” was probably one of the first songs I wrote for Birds. A few years ago my life was in a real transition point. I moved all of my belongings to a storage unit in my hometown of Shelburne Falls, MA. I drifted and stayed with friends for about a year, but I would frequently visit my storage unit to practice piano during the day. “Sunshine” was a song I wrote there.

How does where you are, geographically, inform the song?
The cliché is that bands from Los Angeles or Nashville sound a certain way. I think geography and the sound that geography is tied to—certainly affects it. That is why I live in western Massachusetts. My greatest musical influence is silence—it’s where I find my way creatively. It is fun to be in New York and write, but it’s a totally different soundscape—especially when you’re not writing. Location has a lot to do with changing how you relate to the world. It’s almost like picking up someone else’s guitar—it’s tuned the same, it’s the same chords, but you have to fight a little harder to make that bar F chord work. (Laughs)

How do the times we now live in affect your songs?
Sometimes I wonder if the times are really getting worse, or if we just know more these days. You can’t really say anything without offending someone else. The tools I use as a writer harken back to the Woody Guthrie influence. I don’t want to write a song that’s preaching. I don’t want to get caught in that. I feel my job as a songwriter is to push the ship forward. Sometimes, they are rally cries. I use my anger to help me write. I’m appalled with the things I hear in the news, and where we are in this world. My anger is action oriented. I don’t want to sit still when I’m angry. It gets me off my couch. It gets me to pick up my guitar—it’s purposeful.

Especially now, why is it important to write songs with social significance?
I address a couple of different things on this record with “Justice for All”—trying to tackle the death penalty and point out the duality in the word justice and what it means. I was not trying to make a political statement. I wrote that song the same week Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed, and then a few days later the five police officers in Dallas were shot and killed. That song wasn’t about a political statement. As many of my songs, it came out of this state of crisis. It’s no different than when I’m writing a song about a breakup. It comes from the same place that love songs do. In this case, it’s a state of sadness.

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What prompted you to record the Stephen Stills’ song “For What It’s Worth” (aka “Stop, Hey What’s That Sound”)?
I first performed this song in Oklahoma at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival—which happened to take place the same week that Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and five Dallas police officers were murdered. I was angry at the way things were unfolding in my country, and that resonated with my audience. I decided to record “For What It’s Worth” because I believe we continue to find ourselves in a similar time of cognitive dissonance, and the lyrics ring as true as ever. Musically, I wanted to deconstruct the song to its most minimal sense.

Tell us a little about “Water on Fire.”
I spent over a year writing this and researching the topic. The birth of this idea came when a friend in Oklahoma was explaining to me how he and his family have been dealing with three or four earthquakes daily in their home. It all started about six years ago when his state passed a law allowing hydraulic fracturing to take place. We often think what’s good for business is good for the country—over the people, communities and environment effect. I think there is a false equivalence between freedom and capitalism, and in many communities around this country we’re reaching a tipping point. “Water on Fire” was my attempt to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Who inspired you to write songs?
My brother Jamie was definitely my greatest songwriting inspiration. He was born with autism and was non-verbal. I was his care provider—his PCA worker (personal care attendant) for much of my teens. I later became his legal guardian at 25. Learning how to communicate with him without words transformed how I use words in my songs. In a way, he taught me what not saying says. It instilled a new way of listening to someone by reading body language and gestures. It is very helpful when I’m writing a song and want to show how someone feels—as opposed to telling how someone feels. My brother passed away at the age of 30—right around the time I began to write songs for Birds. Throughout the album—I’m talking a lot with him.

Photo credit Tom Moore

Photo credit Tom Moore

What did he teach you?
Losing him taught me a lot about life. There’s a tremendous amount of life and magic that’s trapped inside loss. There’s an onset of pain, but he gave me a much greater gift—even in the process of giving him breakfast. I learned a little secret along the way because I had to communicate with him without words, and he communicated with me without words. I had to learn a whole new language. As much as I miss him, every single time I sit down and I’m in that creative writing state—there he is, and there’s that language. I feel profoundly in touch with him—even though he’s not here.

What made you want to write songs?
At first, it was just therapeutic and a way for me to make sense of a feeling. I usually don’t know what I’m writing about. That’s why I’m writing—to figure it out. I wrote my first song on September 11, 2001. Creativity has always come from a state of crisis. It certainly is still therapeutic, but now I’m curious about where songs and social justice intersect. Songs have the unique ability to get inside and stay alive inside. They’re like mediators between the spiritual and sensual world—that’s a magical thing. We’re going to need songs and all sorts of art in order to get us towards a future where the currency is compassion and resilience—as opposed to greed and authority. As a songwriter, I’m deeply aware that the way in which we tell a story ultimately has the power to change the story. I still have a lot of work left to do.

Tell us about your creative process.
Most of the songs and melodies for Birds came from outside. Each morning while playing piano and writing, I noticed serval birds would come sit by the window sill—listening in. After a while, I began talking to them—asking what they thought of whatever I was working on. I figured—they sing songs all the time, so maybe they can help me with my songs. (Laughs) They never replied, at least in a language I could understand, but I think they still had a lot to do with my choices.

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Tell us one experience where something unique inspired you to write a song.
When I’m about to write a song, there is this feeling that comes over me. I remember the feeling more than the process of writing itself. It’s a bit like meditation. I get quiet and withdrawn, but it’s a calmness—more than anything else. Sometimes it’s in direct relation to an article I read or a movie I watched, but more often it’s a little bit of everything in my life that gets wrung out into a song. There is no separation from one experience to another.

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
Just start. Try to kill the critic that’s inside your head. He doesn’t belong there. Daydream, lose focus, get lost and don’t explain yourself. Do the opposite of what they teach you in second grade. You’ll be fine. We’re all here to make something beautiful.

What instruments/equipment can you not live without?
My girlfriend inherited this 1925 Steinway piano, and it’s incredible. That’s what I used to write all the songs on this album. And I also used it to record all the songs. It was a grand gift into my life. My first love has always been the Yamaha piano, but lately I’ve been really getting attached to my guitar—a Martin CEO-7. I also use several Strymon pedals (El Capistan, Riverside and blueSky) to process the acoustic guitar and give it more texture for a live show. In the studio process and writing process, I also use this wonderful plugin called Valhalla. It’s a reverb that gives you just about any vibe you’re after—and it’s only $50. I use a PorchBoard as a kick drum. I tour in a Prius, and it’s far more spatially economical. (Laughs) I’m using D’Addario Strings, pretty much exclusively—for acoustic and electric. And I use D’Addario capos, tuners and their other accessories.


What PRO are you with?
I am with ASCAP. As a writer, I’ve had good experiences with them. I’ve done one of their writing workshops, and it was OK. But some of my frustration is that they don’t understand the world that I live in—playing venues that are 200-seats and smaller.

Do you remember the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio or TV?
I do remember the first time I heard my song, and it caught me by surprise. I turned on the TV and heard the song on a TV show. It’s also great for the ego. (Laughs) I was actually at my lawyer’s house, and some crummy reality show on Bravo was using the song “Beauty in the Breakdown.” I remember hearing it and thinking, “Wow. I used to sound a lot like this … Wait. This is my song.” (Laughs) My lawyer asked me if I knew anything about it. The next day, we tracked it down to a sync catalog.

Top 5 Musicians who inspired you to become a musician? 
Randy Newman, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne.

What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?
Mule Variations (1999) – Tom Waits
Blue (1971) – Joni Mitchell
What’s Going On (1971) – Marvin Gaye
Graceland (1986) – Paul Simon
To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar


Tell us a “pinch me” moment when you thought “Wow, this is really happening to me!
I had some of these moments a few years back while attending the 2012 Grammy Awards. Rubbing shoulders on the red carpet with Tony Bennett was one. Last year, I got to share the stage with Dawes, which was awesome because I am such a huge fan of that band. I’ve had a few touring moments where I’ve gotten to open and sit-in with some of the artists who inspired me as a teenager—Marc Cohn, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Edwin McCain—will always be heroes to me. Those are all wonderful moments that are not only encouraging but also remind me that I’m a small part of this circle that continues on and on.

Why were you at the Grammys?
I don’t know why I was there. (Laughs) I was very fortunate to receive a Grammy nomination for an album I recorded, The Next Right Thing. It was an engineering nomination. I did much of the tracking in my parents’ basement. I was living with my parents at the time. It was a couple of years after I dropped out of college. It was a wonderful sense of arrival, and very weird and surreal at the same time. But the nomination kept my parents off my back. (Laughs) It brought me more attention to do another album. I don’t live with my parents anymore—whatever that took. (Laughs)

How do songwriting communities like Kerrville help you?
I think every community needs safe spaces to share ideas. Spaces of expression are sacred ground—now more so than ever. Kerrville is certainly one of those places for me. These are events that I start marking the year by, and when they don’t happen—it throws me for a loop. (Laughs)

GT_SETH GLIER SELECT_COMP DECK_FNLSBest advice someone has given you.
It was from a woman named Patty Watts, my very first booking agent. I was 16 years old, and I would send her mix tapes. From ages 13-15, I was so stuck on getting into the music business. I heard there was a booking agent who lived down the road from me. It was a town of only a thousand people. She wanted to make sure local musicians played in local clubs as well as regional festivals—predominantly handling New England. I would call her every day after school—after the bus would drop me off. I’d call and check-in to see how things were going. I was basically playing manager. (Laughs) Patty is the one who said: It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice. There’s also another important advice I got: It’s always better to have snacks and not want them—than it is to want snacks and not have them. (Laughs)

What’s next?
Snacks, and a Tour. (Laughs) A whole lot of touring is ahead for me, as I’ll be out supporting Birds till the end of the year with my trio—which consists of Joe Nerney on saxophone, recorder and harmonica, and Rachel Coats on upright bass. I can’t wait to play these songs in front of an audience.

Where can your new fans get more info and stay updated?

I’m also on Instagram and Facebook—where I engage a lot.


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