Mia Gargaret is an ambient, (mostly) instrumental album by Chicago, IL singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist & producer Gia Margaret.
Mia Gargaret was not the follow-up album that Gia intended to release after the critical success of her 2018 debut, There’s Always Glimmer. But after she suddenly found herself without use of her primary instrument, she had to rethink her methods, at least temporarily.
“After having to cancel tours because of illness, I was unable to sing for nearly half of the year. This left me feeling like a shell of myself, so I turned to my synthesizer for comfort. These compositions helped me hold onto my identity as a music maker. At times this music helped soothe my anxiety more than therapy or anything else could.”
Without singing or lyrics to steal the focus, the instrumental tracks on Mia Gargaret shine a light on Gia Margaret’s skills as a musician, composer & producer. Spare but immersive arrangements of synthesizer, piano & acoustic guitar simultaneously ache & soothe, building emotional landscapes that rise & recede like scenery through a train window.
“I wanted to make something that sounded hopeful, which is a little ironic because I felt essentially hopeless during the entire process. I was making music to self-soothe. I had synth loops going while I walked around my apartment, forming my own daily soundtrack.”
Mia Gargaret documents Gia Margaret’s self-healing. Album opener “apathy” includes an excerpt from her actual vocal therapy exercises. “body” samples a lecture from British philosopher Alan Watts, a continuous source of comfort & perspective for Gia in times of confusion. (Permission to use the sample was personally granted by Mark Watts, son of the late lecturer, in exchange for the use of “body” in his documentary film about his father.) Other tracks feature the sounds of footsteps, church bells, crackling fires, lake waves & other field recordings from Gia’s day-to-day.
“I wanted to capture the feeling of a truly strange time in my life, even though I would prefer to forget it altogether. This process helped me understand something about myself, & hopefully it can help others, too.”
Mia Gargaret ends with “lesson,” the album’s only track to feature Gia’s singing voice. The short song teases at what we can expect from the next Gia Margaret album, a return to more traditional forms of songwriting, due in 2021. In the meantime, Mia Gargaret stands as a gorgeous experiment & a memorable meditation on the healing power of music.
Mia Gargaret was composed, performed & recorded at home by Gia Margaret during the summer & fall of 2019, with guest performances by Emily Cross (clarinet on “ash”), Stephen Steinbrink (vocals, organ & guitar on “lesson”) & There’s Always Glimmer collaborator Doug Saltzman (electronic drum production to on “body” & “lesson”).