“The solo record is an interesting thing, when you have these people who are normally heavy collaborators. But every once in a while you have to let out the steam a little bit, which is I think what solo albums do,” says Macie Stewart, best known as one-half of Chicago experimental pop duo OHMME (alongside Sima Cunningham). In addition to OHMME, Stewart was also a co-founder of Chicago bands Kids These Days and Marrow and a member of Ken Vandermark’s Marker ensemble, improvisational act The Few, and violin/cello duo Macie Stewart & Lia Kohl (She’s also created arrangements for artists like Whitney, SZA, and Knox Fortune.) However, last year Stewart released her solo debut, Mouth Full of Glass, on Orindal Records. “The whole purpose of this record was to see what would happen if I just tried to make these songs by myself. It’s all about personal revelations and other things I was going through and I really didn’t want to collaborate,” she tells me during a recent phone chat. She does, however, admit that, in the end, a lot of her musical friends did wind up contributing their playing to Mouth Full of Glass: “I ended up just sending a bunch of my dear friends the tracks to finish them up… I am primarily a collaborator.”
The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection has had the pleasure of seeing Macie Stewart a handful of times in recent history, and she tells me that she’s definitely a fan of the city: “I really like Philly… I feel like a kinship with Philly, being from Chicago. I feel like the music scenes are similar, with a lot of experimental stuff.” OHMME headlined Boot & Saddle in 2018 and shared the stage of Johnny Brenda’s with Wye Oak in February of 2020, just before the whole touring industry shut down. And more recently she accompanied Michelle Zauner and appeared in Japanese Breakfast’s live band for their record 5 sold-out nights at Union Transfer last August, the city’s unofficial return of live music. However, Friday, February 18th, Philly will get to see Macie Stewart in a new form when she comes to The Lounge at World Café Live for one of just a handful of upcoming solo performances, where she’ll be joined by keys and cello player. “I’m gonna play all the songs that are on the record and a couple extras… It’ll be very lush and comforting. The record for me felt like a balm and I wanna bring some beauty and calm to people in a time like this,” she tells me when I ask what can be expected of the live experience.
As far as reactions to Mouth Full of Glass, Stewart tells me that it’s been really nice to hear that the album has been resonating with people, which she didn’t necessarily count on: “It came from a really internal place and people relate to it.” She also tells me that it fulfilled a very specific lifelong goal of hers: “Some of my favorite reactions are people who put in on as their morning music. I always hoped to make a record people put on when they wake up and have coffee, so it’s nice to have that come to fruition [laughs].” In addition to Macie Stewart’s solo shows, OHMME – who just played Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky festival last month – have quite a bit planned for 2022 (A few festival dates and a handful of June shows are already on the books, including a June 19th stop at The Queen in Wilmington.): “I think there are a lot of things in the works for this year, but we’re also taking it one step at a time. We’re thinking of maybe making so new music and doing some runs, hopefully in the fall. During the spring we’ll do more compositional stuff.”
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