Gia Margaret’s second album was not supposed to turn out this way. The Chicago-based songwriter made her debut in 2018 with There’s Always Glimmer, a collection of bittersweet folk songs that bubbled at the edges with electronic flourishes. While playing live across the U.S. and Europe Margaret began to struggle with her vocals. She was diagnosed with laryngitis in early 2019, but things got steadily worse until any singer’s worst nightmare was realized and she lost her voice entirely. “I felt I was reliving a nightmare every day” Margaret explains now in a FaceTime call. “I was just getting on stage and not knowing what was going to happen. There was one night where I felt I literally sounded like a frog. It didn't sound like me and I was really hurting myself.”
Sent home to recuperate, Margaret spent the first two weeks completely separate from music, not picking up an instrument or even attempting to create. Eventually she discovered a pragmatic solution while playing around with her synthesizer, filling her home with drone-like sounds. “I just let it play throughout my apartment,” she recalls. “It was really calming and I felt like I was doing something musical and not hurting myself.” Soon enough, Margaret had written and recorded an album’s worth of this ambient material. Mia Gargaret takes an obstacle and makes something uniquely immersive and deeply personal from it. Richly textured with a variety of digital and analogue synths, Margaret uses spoken word, field recordings, and samples of British Zen lecturer Alan Watts to offer an experimental window into her moment of strife. The album could have been a sombre substitution for an artist more used to putting her feelings into words. Instead, a tangible feeling of relief and optimism radiates from the record as if the path of new possibilities are stretching out in front of its creator in real time.
Like much of Mia Gargaret, “Barely There,” premiering below, feels like a warm embrace. It is also one of the few songs to feature Margaret’s speaking voice, something she was able to utilize after it came back to her during the recording process. “Do you ever feel like you’re living your life but you’re also barely there?” she asks on the track as a wall of sound wraps around her. Speaking about the song, Margaret says it represents a feeling of retaining *a* voice in a period when she had lost hers. “[It’s about] just being more courageous and being vocal about what I was going through.”
Gia Margaret arrives at a time when the meditative powers of anything, be it music or simply a walk around the block, are felt more keenly than ever. Margaret made the album pretty much in isolation and extolls the virtues of Brian Eno and Yo La Tengo’s ambient and instrumental works as a comfort in her own time of trouble. “I think it's really soothing,” she says of the genre. “It's not super heady. It's just music that you can get lost in. There are times in my life when I can't handle a lot of lyrics, I'm just, I don't know, I'm often too overwhelmed to take in a lot of emotions.”
Back in isolation for the second time in a year Margaret is busy working on her next album. Her voice is slowly returning to full health and she estimates she’s written 75% of the album she always planned to make next. Asked what the biggest change she’s undergone throughout the whole process has been, Margaret admits that she now tries, more than ever, to relax about things. “I've always been a pretty tough critic of my music and of my voice, and now I'm just grateful to do any of it,” she says. “Like the other day, I wrote a song and I sang it through and I was just so happy. I was just like, ‘Wow! I'm so lucky that I get to do this. And I'm so lucky that I'm getting better.’”
Mia Gargaret is released on June 12 via Orindal Records.