Seth Glier to make Aspen debut at Wheeler Opera House
If You Go …
Who: Seth Glier
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Sunday, Jan. 10, 8 p.m.
How much: Free
More info: http://www.wheeleroperahouse.com
Seth Glier wrote about 100 songs before going into the studio to make his most recent album. The prolific 27-year-old singer-songwriter ended up recording just the dozen best of them for last year’s “If I Could Change One Thing.”
“Oftentimes, by the time I’m done with a record, I’m looking on to the next thing,” Glier said in a recent phone interview. “This is the first one where I’ve been able to sit still and enjoy it. I’m really enjoying playing these songs.”
Glier, who has been releasing albums since he was 20 years old, has earned an audience with an old-school road warrior approach. Early on, he played as many as 250 shows a year — in 2015, it was about 160. His songs grow and evolve with repeated live performances, as Glier identifies what works and what doesn’t.
“A song really has to learn how to stand up on its own in front of an audience in a different way than you can fake it with production in the studio,” he said. “There’s a real nakedness about it in front of an audience.”
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Glier is the centerpiece of the Wheeler Opera House’s grand reopening weekend, performing a free community concert this evening. It marks Glier’s Aspen debut, though he’s previously made it as far as Carbondale — the Massachusetts-bred musician performed at Steve’s Guitars last February.
“If I Could Change One Thing” is a personal record with songs about heartbreak, his parents’ divorce and about his autistic brother, for whom Glier was legal guardian until his brother’s death in the fall.
As a teen, Glier mostly wrote such personal songs. He drifted away from it during his time at the Berklee College of Music when he discovered Randy Newman and the art of less confessional songwriting.
“It blew me wide open,” he said. “It was liberating to write about something that I didn’t have to go through. My life got better when I didn’t have to create the drama for me to write about.”
But, when his parents broke up after 30 years of marriage and his brother’s health struggled, Glier turned to music as a release.
“There’s been no shortage of things for me to work through,” he said. “With the good songs, when I sit down to write them I don’t know what I’m writing about — I’m writing to figure out how to put words to an emotion that I don’t have a name for yet.”
As he culled songs for the record, the best of them happened to be some of the most personal.
The record also showcases Glier moving into more full-bodied pop songs and somewhat away from the bare-bones acoustic compositions of his earlier work, which earned him acclaim and a 2011 Grammy nomination for “The Next Right Thing.” It was a conscious choice, he said, to aim for a poppier sound — but it wasn’t much of a leap to get there.
“I’ve always been writing pop songs, but just in more acoustic clothing,” he said. “So this was an experiment to embrace that and see what would happen.”
What’s happened so far is getting booked at bigger venues — theaters instead of small clubs — and a global reach. Glier recently finished his first European tour, on which he opened for Ronnie Spector, and will be back overseas for another tour this year.
This weekend, Glier will be performing a mix of songs from his four albums with a trio rounded out by bass player Marc Seedorf and saxophonist Joe Nerny.
“He’s just remarkable,” Glier said of Nerny, who is blind and, at 63, provides an experienced balance to Glier’s youth onstage. “We’re heavily influenced by a lot of the ’70s songwriters and their dense vocal harmonies, so it’s three-piece harmonies throughout the set.”
They predominantly play original songs, but have gained a reputation for mixing covers into their sets.
“I’m a total sucker for the Great American Songbook,” Glier said.
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