A new view: Songwriter Seth Glier says the pandemic has moved him beyond songs that tell a story

  • Songwriter Seth Glier at his home and studio in Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Songwriter Seth Glier at his home and studio in Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Songwriter Seth Glier at his home and studio in Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Songwriter Seth Glier at his home and studio in Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer 
Published: 8/3/2021 7:24:52 PM

HOLYOKE — The past year has changed how Seth Glier approaches songwriting. For his upcoming sixth album, he decided to be more than simply a storyteller — he wanted to share his vision for a better future.

“I would say the pandemic, more than anything, changed my vantage point of what my job was,” Glier said in a recent interview at his home in Holyoke.

For the past 15 years, he said he emulated folk heroes like Woody Guthrie who told stories through their songs about contemporary events.

“Throughout the pandemic, documenting the problems in the world was no longer enough,” Glier said. “It felt like my job became much more focused around imagining the world that we are trying to build.”

Glier’s new album, “The Coronation,” the sixth on MPress Records, is a 13-track album that does not shy away from complicated subjects. While it offers hope and optimism in songs like the title track, “The Coronation,” the album also delves into topics such as dealing with trauma in “Stages,” being gaslit in personal relationships in “A Gift,” and capturing the feelings of uncertainty early in the pandemic in “Til Further Notice.”

Songs on the album showcase Glier’s ability to take a single phrase or an idea, and let it grow into a full-fledged song. “Stages” started out when a friend remarked “trauma, it happens in stages.” For “A Gift,” he knew he had written the focal line by the time he went into the studio to record the music, “Somebody taught it to you, you learned it from them.” Even “Til Further Notice” draws its name and refrain from real-life notices last year.

Glier is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who grew up in Shelburne Falls. He’s participated in a U.S. State Department-sponsored cultural diplomacy tour as international ambassador. The cross-cultural program has taken Glier to Ukraine, Mongolia and China to share his music and learn about music from other nations.

In the months leading up to March 2020 when lockdown measures began shutting down businesses and live performances, Glier had already began working on his new album. A tour Glier had planned for Mexico was suddenly canceled. Instead of playing live shows to hundreds of fans, Glier ended up renovating the house in Holyoke he moved into with his wife last February.

“I flew back home and I wrote ‘Till Further Notice’ within the first couple of weeks of being home in the basement,” Glier said. “We had started unpacking boxes in the basement and I wrote a couple songs there.”

Parallels began to emerge for Glier while writing songs for the album and working on fixing up the house. In between remodeling the stairs and patching up drywall, Glier would sit down and attempt to write.

“The home was really anchoring for me,” Glier said. “Working on something as fundamental as the attic or the bathroom was a way of containing much larger questions that I was asking in my music making as well.”

He compared knocking down walls and figuring out what parts of the house were worth saving to what society itself began to ponder in the early months of lockdown. People were asking many questions about the kind of world they wanted to live in post-pandemic, and Glier wanted to create music that reflected a new type of world.

“It’s going to be art and artists working within communities that help us imagine that new world,” Glier said.

In the song, “The Coronation,” Glier sings, “When this storm is over/And there’s no risk of exposure/ Will we still stand where we stood/ Will it be back to business as usual?/ Or can we build a world more beautiful/ Than we ever thought we could?

“We were seeing people fundamentally question their attachment to capitalism in a new way,” Glier said about early in the pandemic. Through his music, Glier is hoping to offer glimpses of compassion for people who have experienced a year unlike any other.

“There is so much loss in this country and in the world,” Glier said. “Music — more than any other art form — has the ability to have other people pull their car over, both literally and metaphorically. Three and a half minutes changes everything.”

He says that although he is not sure there will be a monumental change in collective consciousness, he hopes to reach listeners on an individual level.

“Part of my work is to create a moment for people to grieve because that has not happened and no one has led that charge,” he said. “It really hasn’t happened in this country. It’s business as usual.”

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