Sarah Magill has been playing in bands, singing jazz and other genres, and writing music for several years, putting out her first EP, Ahem., under the name MYRY in 2018. This year, after noticing another artist releasing music as Myry and growing frustrated with people thinking it was her real name, she’s back under a different moniker, Quiet Takes, which not only references the production process of layering soft vocal takes on top of each other but also provides a subtle critique of our fast-paced internet culture full of “hot takes.”
On “Wanted,” her first single as Quiet Takes and part of an upcoming EP, Magill sings what much of the world is thinking right now: “There better be better days.” With strikingly clear, crisp audio production, the focus of the song is on Magill’s vocals, the lyrics highly audible amid the slow tempo, in the vein of acts like Azure Ray and Bat for Lashes. Magill also filmed a stunning, meditative lyric video for the song while on a trip across the country.
We talked to Magill about the inspiration behind her new music and her creative process.
AF: What is the song “Wanted” about?
SM: To me, “Wanted” is about the space between acknowledging you want something you can’t have… and letting that desire go. The track lives in those ellipses, that gap. I had planned to put out this stripped down version after the release of an upcoming EP (which has a more produced version of “Wanted” on it), but then everything changed. Beyond the pandemic’s catastrophic casualties, we are all grappling with lesser losses: plans, jobs, dreams, relationships, routines, shows, savings, physical touch. Sometimes we only realize what we want when it’s absent. That’s the gift in the grief, but it stings.
AF: Did something in particular inspire it?
SM: I’m very attuned to the feeling of longing. Overly attuned. (Other Enneagram 4s will be able to relate.) I’ve been learning to not be scared or ashamed of that longing, but to be curious about it instead. I’ve learned so much by examining desire instead of ignoring it: Why did I want that job, that experience, that attention, that connection, that relationship, that affirmation? Often, there’s a deeper hunger under the surface longing. The song is inspired by that realization: There’s power in simply stating what you want—or wanted! There’s also power in knowing your worth isn’t attached to whether or not you get what you want. There’s value in examining the longing itself.
AF: What was the concept behind the video?
SM: At least once a year, I take a road trip out west to sing to myself while I drive and gather melodies for new songs. I feel creatively alive but a little untethered during these trips, which usually involve spending days on end alone. Quarantining solo is unearthing similar emotions, as well as a longing for the lost freedom of long drives. So, I went through my old roadtrip footage (all shot on highways between Kansas City and Los Angeles) and edited together some of my favorite clips to create this lyric video. It’s a tribute to those outside-of-time road trips I hope to be able to take again soon.
AF: What was behind the decision to make it black and white? I appreciated the contrast between these visuals and the line, “Starting to buy colors again / Wearing cherries, drinking late gin.”
SM: The decision came from a combination of nostalgia and self-doubt — and it did create a nice paradox with the “colors” line. Nostalgia: I grew up loving black-and-white photography. I shot a lot of Tri-X Pan film for 4-H photography projects! My grandpa had a hobby darkroom at home, and I learned to process black-and-white film as part of high school journalism classes. Self-doubt: I’ve worked with extremely talented visual artists who track color trends and have a deep knowledge of color theory. I admire their command of color, and I don’t trust myself to do color well! So when I’m creating my own visual content, I stick to what I know: black-and-white.
AF: Tell me about the EP you’re working on. What do you sing about on it?
SM: It’s a six-song EP that expands on the theme of longing in “Wanted.” I wrote several of the songs a few years ago, but about half emerged from those road-trip car-singing sessions depicted in “Wanted”’s lyric video. David Bennett (Akkilles) produced the EP. He plays on it, as does [his bandmates in Akkilles] keyboardist Ian Thompson [and] percussionist Bryan Koehler, and [Shy Boys] drummer Kyle Rausch.
AF: How has the quarantine affected how you make music?
SM: Fortunately, all the tracking on the EP is done, with the exception of a few small vocal fixes. David is also mixing the album, which he’s able to do in isolation. My mastering engineer, Zach Hanson, also has a home studio, so we’ll be able to finish this project while quarantining. I’m really grateful for that.
As far as new music goes, I’ve been talking with David about possible isolation recording workflows. I’ve been learning ProTools and Luna and practicing my home recording skills. But I’m also trying to be gentle with myself and not expect too much productivity out of this season. I’ve got a bunch of song starts that I’ll finish eventually, as long as I stay healthy (mentally and physically) during this strange season. I’m prioritizing health!
AF: What are your next plans?
SM: I’m starting to plot the release of that upcoming EP. I’m really excited to share that work, but plans have definitely shifted post-pandemic. I’m currently looking at late summer, but we’ll see. I also have a growing stack of stream-of-consciousness lyric notes and late-night voice notes to go through to see where the next songs will be coming from.
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