Meg Baird on Sheila Chandra – Quiet!


Meg Baird has long been a favorite around here, from her days in Espers to solo albums, Heron Oblivion, and collaborations with folks like Mary Lattimore, Kurt Vile, Will Oldham, and Steve Gunn. As she embarks on her first solo LP since 2015, I asked Meg to contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series. Dive in below as she explores a record intended to help her sleep that instead awoke a years long fascination.

“Very well over a decade ago, while visiting Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse (Hello, Lea & Hello, Russ–I miss you both dearly!), Russ surfaced a copy of Sheila Chandra’s Quiet! for me to listen to while I was heading off to sleep. My ears and imagination have been absolutely hooked on this work ever since,” reveals Baird. The expansive, playful sounds of this suite of songs sounded flexible, feminine and full of life. They were challenging, but they were fun. This especially struck me during a time and place in which experimental music felt somewhat confined to sounds that were heavy, harsh, abrasive. All deeply thrilling modes that I loved to experience–but a slightly narrow bandwidth, especially if experimenting was the main idea.”

“As a vocalist, there is a bit of built in grappling with the idea of “voice as instrument.” When I first encountered this idea it was my sense that the consensus saw this concept as pretentious, overblown and something to be avoided. But work like Quiet! gave me a much broader, more freeform (and more fun) perspective.” 

“Unfortunately I don’t know that much about Sheila Chandra’s biography and body of work,” laments Baird, “but I do hold an especially strong regard towards incredibly gifted women singers such as Chandra who have had to step away from singing due to aphonia or other similar causes. It’s an unfathomably challenging path to work through and I send my deepest, unending respects to anyone who has managed it. In the case of Sheila Chandra’s sublime musicality, I know that I will be learning from her voice for as long as I’m making music. After so much time spent with Quiet! it’s difficult to not imagine this singular voice returning through time or any other instrument.”

I’d been unfamiliar with Chandra’s work, but that’s why I love this feature. The record is as captivating as Mag makes it out to be, and thankfully it’s fairly easy to get hands on. The record is distributed digitally, still around on CD, and for the intrepid Discogs traveller there are reasonable copies available. Meg’s new album Furling is out this week from Drag City.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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