Mouth Full of Glass is the debut album by Chicago singer, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Macie Stewart (She/They). Their story is one of finding solace and strength in solitude, where lush arrangements search for the meaning of self, both within and without partnership. Exploring loneliness, as well as the growth and beauty blooming from it, Macie’s inner meditations reassess their own relationships in a singular voice that could ring true to anyone.
“Life is a perpetual discovery of your own habits and perceptions,” Macie explains. “This record is about digging into and embracing those less favourable parts of yourself in order to shed them. The hope is always to find the most authentic self while honouring who you once were, and who you could be.”
Written during a period of solitude between long walks in the forest preserve by their home, noticing habitual patterns within the pages of their journal, and documenting their dreams, Macie’s experiences capture those which any one of us could feel. Inwardly forming but outwardly extending, their otherworldly observations command attention from where improvisation and composition meet. Just ask The Weather Station, Clare Rousay, or Japanese Breakfast, with whom she has toured as a multi-instrumentalist, or Iron & Wine after co-producing and performing on their EP of Laurie McKenna songs. As a string arranger, Macie draws upon years of performing classical, jazz, and Irish folk, since beginning their musical career aged 3 (as daughter of pianist Sami Scot, learning to talk was punctuated by becoming proficient on piano and violin) and she has even crafted unique arrangements for the band Whitney, SZA, V.V. Lightbody, and Knox Fortune among many others.
“I have always been drawn to working in partnership,” she says. “My creative world thrives when I am able to glance inside someone else’s brain and lock into a rhythm with them.” After co-founding Chicago bands Kids These Days and Marrow, Macie spent time in the avant-garde jazz scene, performing regularly at the city’s respected musical institutions Constellation and The Hungry Brain. There Macie joined with Sima Cunningham to form OHMME, and performed with Ken Vandermark’s Marker ensemble, improvised act The Few (with guitar player Steve Marquette and bassist Charlie Kirchen) and the violin/cello duo Macie Stewart & Lia Kohl. Mouth Full of Glass is the product of adopting a brave new perspective; to take a closer look in the mirror and craft an album of their very own.
Opening with the bright acoustic flourishes of ‘Finally’ Macie confronts themself from the very first lines (“Finally, finally, finally I learn to tell the truth to myself”) as cascading layers of intricate strings and synthesisers highlight effortless composition skills. Take the cherubic string arrangements of ‘Maya, Please’ – an internal monologue about seeking forgiveness – or ‘Defeat’ as flourishes of V.V. Lightbody’s flute dance about Macie’s stylish exploration of self-improvement, despite, she says, the lies we may tell ourselves; “Sometimes you have to know when to admit defeat.”
On ‘Garter Snake’ Sen Morimoto’s saxophone wraps around finger-picked guitar, organ and violins as Macie’s lofty vocal reflects upon adapting to make room for a ‘new self’ and the potentially paralysing nature of one’s own choices (“I am addicted to indecision,” she sings). Alongside the changing seasons of ‘Tone Pome’ which allude to the thematic single movement “tone poems” of landscape and nature, inspiration also comes from the beautifully surreal imagery of a dream (captured by their OHMME bandmate’s accompanying visuals) on alternately spelled title track ‘Mouthful of Glass’ which bares the inner workings of Macie’s mind alongside the enchanting worlds and imagined futures of ‘Where We Live’. Meanwhile ‘Wash It Away’ (featuring expertly crafted horn arrangements from Ayanna Woods) does precisely what the title suggests – it clears the slate clean and encourages another listen with a fresh approach. “I wanted the song to physically feel like it was washing away, morphing into and leaving behind this beautiful orchestral ghost,” she says.
Sometimes the truth is hard to admit, especially when it comes to admitting it to yourself. But by reflecting hard truths through a transitional dream-like state, Macie Stewart’s Mouth Full of Glass is cut with immediate relatability; self-discovery from having been there before, and yet, capturing the sound of a brand-new start.