“I don’t like sympathy.”
It’s a line from “Situation,” the second number on singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy’s forthcoming debut full-length, but it probably won’t even take you that long into the record to pick up on the sentiment. The poetics on the album aren’t exactly detached—they’re clearly written from the perspective of someone who’s seen their share of relationships—but you won’t find moony language or dramatic longing in the lyrics, even on tracks with themes that might call for them.
“The only way I can think of it is like cutting all the fat off. I think that in every aspect of the record, that was the objective—to take away the excess,” Glaspy says. “I think lyrically that happened, too. I was just really not portraying any kind of rose-colored anything on it.”
In person, Glaspy is exceptionally warm, so much so that to hear her sing such flippant verse—“Tonight I’m a little too turned on to talk about us / And tomorrow I’ll be too turned off and won’t give a fuck”—is a surprise in itself. Even the more vulnerable lines feel fiercely independent, like a well-deserved eyeroll directed at her own perceived shortcomings. On the album’s title track, lines like “Now that you’re hear / I’m just living in fear / of you leaving” are spat with a low, brazen tone that doesn’t feel at all afraid. Glaspy describes her songs as “objective” more than once, and that becomes clear quite quickly: she is describing even the narrator’s romantic woes with a matter-of-fact neutrality you don’t generally get in the first person.
“In making a record, I kind of learned how analytical I can be while working with emotive concepts or material. That was the reason that it was good to name the record that, because I felt like it really gets at me as a person as well as all the material on the record, too,” says Glaspy of Emotions and Math. “Those two words, they kind of sum up life to me in a certain way.”
California native Glaspy was deeply involved in music from an early age, and despite outside interests in science, math and acting, she took to several instruments and ultimately won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. Her stint was a short one—tuition costs forced her to withdraw after one semester—but she retained the spirited interest in furthering her growth as a musician by sneaking into workshops while living and working in Boston.
“I suppose it’s been a long time coming, me making a record,” she says. “[Music] is something that doesn’t feel like work. I always worked the hardest at it—I don’t know what sense that makes. It’s just something that I’m so passionate about that I spend a lot of time doing it, and I don’t feel the hours.”
Glaspy logged plenty of hours specifically recording Emotions and Math, going through three recordings of the full-length—iPad recording, home recording equipment, and full studio setup—before the album was ready for release.
“My dad always says that opportunity favors the prepared, and I felt like I was just very prepared for [the studio recording] experience,” she says, noting that recording her songs several times before left her more capable of relaxing and taking in the studio experience. “It really made it so much more enjoyable—I was really able to kind of dive into it, because all the parts were in place.”
That’s not to say that Glaspy was puffed-up and confident through the whole process—rather, the time she’d spent with the songs through each stage of the writing process allowed her to work through them in a way that left her feeling satisfied.
“To be honest, sometimes I’d doubt myself,” she says. “When you’re making a record and you make it three times over, sometimes you’ve got to scratch your head and say, ‘Why is this so hard?’”
Mostly, Emotions and Math cuts the low self-esteem out along with all of the other excess feelings, which makes “You Don’t Want Me,” a would-be duet about a woman immersed in romantic self-doubt, all the more compelling.
“She’s always kind of doubting what she’s talking about,” says Glaspy of the primary voice in the song. She wrote another part into the track, a more reassuring voice, with the idea of making it a duet. I ended up singing that part myself,” she says. “I think I was always kind of thinking that probably a guy, a male singer, would sing that part. But it just kind of ended up that I was the best person to sing it.”
Glaspy says she thinks the song will find new life when she tours, potentially getting that male vocalist on stage to perform the track with her and embody what she had in mind from the start. But if Emotions and Math proves anything, it’s that Glaspy doesn’t need it. These are songs from a woman exercising complete ownership of her emotions, and with any luck Emotions and Math won’t be the last of it.
“It kind of made sense that it would end up being my job: songwriting, singing, performing,” she says. “It all kind of led that direction, because it was the common denominator of all those things that were always really fascinating to me. It’s always kind of made sense that I would end up in this spot. I think I’ll end up in a lot of other spots as my life goes on.”