As I played the first track of Glassio’s new album aloud in the office this morning, a moody hump day mood instantly evaporated into an uproar of pure elation and hand-raising energy. See You Shine consists of a total of 17 tracks, each of which being a standout masterpiece packed full of positivity and uplifting introspection. And, if the mere ten seconds I played could spur an office full of zombies into a pack of high-energy ravers, there is no doubt the same cannot be true for every other listener.
From the cool and rhythmic “The Weekend” to the nostalgic tones of “Famous Friends”, Glassio works through every thread of his artistry to complete a body of work that reflects a new aspect of his multifaceted talent at every turn. Yet while the cheery tunes may well satisfy our souls, it also delves into topics of the heart: exploring the ways in which humans process feelings of grief and loss. Dedicating the album to his late father, Glassio blends sombre topics with stratospheric sounds to uplift and inspire generations to embrace the bad while celebrating the good.
To celebrate the release of his album, we sat with Glassio to discuss the making of it, the loss of his father, his development as an artist and what is next to come.
To stream the album and for the full interview, head below now…
Hey Glassio, how are you? How has this past year been?
I’m doing well these days. I made it out of 2021, a very tough year for me, in one piece thankfully. I’m more lucid than I’ve ever been in my entire life now – I never know how long these periods will last, but I hope this one lasts for a while. I’m usually more creative when my body is substance-free, and that’s how things have been since the top of the year for me. I’m starting to write new songs again, and have been cycling around New York City singing them to myself. Witnessing New York flash by you on a bike is a rejuvenating and almost other-worldly experience. I’ve been here 11 years, but biking here for the first time makes me feel like I’ve never been here before. I’m curious to see how it impacts the music I make next.
Looking back on the pandemic, was your creativity affected?
Well, the pandemic took hold whilst I was in the midst of music marketing and release mode with my first album. I was in London with my family that March/April and had 3 singles + a full album release ahead of me. I used to make movies when I was 12/13, and wanted to grow up to be a cinematographer at the time; so I took it upon myself to re-explore that by producing the visuals for that record almost entirely by myself. I’ve since done almost most of my music videos and visuals. It turned out to be a very re-invigorating part of the creative process for me at a time when the world felt very claustrophobic. It’s not uncommon for me to have ideas for visuals right as I start coming up with a song, and having a little make-shift photo studio in my apartment now has made the place feel like a little audio-visual factory, which I love.
How did you first get into music? What sparked the interest?
I grew up in Sharjah in the early 90s when it was basically still the old city around the creek and all desert, essentially, aside from that. My mother is from/grew up in Dublin and my father was from/grew up in Iran. They moved there for work at that time. There wasn’t much western music playing on the radio/being sold at stores over there at that time outside of mainstream pop music– top 40, commercial radio stuff that would make its way over from the U.S./U.K. I would usually gravitate towards a bunch of CDs and VHS concert tapes my mom had brought over from Ireland — specifically Glen Campbell’s 1977 Royal Festival Hall concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. That concert video changed everything for me. I remember just soaking up that tape for years starting from the age of 3. I basically didn’t stop singing or wanting to play guitar after that. I wanted, so badly, to live in the world he was singing about in the song “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Then there was the song “Wichita Lineman.” I still consider it one of the greatest songs ever written. That melody haunted me as a child. I think it was the first song I ever remember hearing.
Looking back on your debut in 2016, would you have done anything differently?
There’s a glass half full and a glass half empty answer to that question, for me haha. There’s no doubt that when you start writing the first songs that you actually like, and you start seeing people you don’t know enjoying them even more than you do, you begin to get a bit ahead of yourself. I was still so young at the time (22), and I hadn’t quite fully developed a sense of self-worth or an ability to decipher between people that mean what they say in the industry, and people that stretch the truth to their advantage/are usually only looking out for themselves. I should have probably said “no” to certain people and situations more often. That being said, I’m a big fan of surrendering myself to fate and the unpredictability of life, and part of that means embracing what has already passed as another crucial part of your story; regardless of how beautiful or bold the situation was.
And now you’ve dropped your second full-length album, talk us through the production process?
I wrote all of these songs (except for three which were a few years older) between August 2020 and January 2021. I was temporarily living with my partner and her family in rural Northeast Ohio working out of her father’s woodshop, which was in a separate garage on their property. It was very, very kind of them to let me bring over my instruments/set up a makeshift studio and to just use that space to create. I remember intentionally imagining a more futuristic, synthesizer-heavy Wilco making an album; a mechanized-Jeff Tweedy producing an album – or if Jackson Browne and Phillipe Zdar made a record. That was the original idea for the production. My partner and I had spent a big part of that year driving back and forth from Ohio to NYC, and I think those drives through Pennsylvania inspired the mood and feeling I wanted to create with this album. I knew this was gonna be a road trip album. I wanted it to mirror and compliment what felt like a mass exodus, if you will, of people I knew from NYC, packing up their things, and moving away due to the pandemic.
What does this album mean to you?
I finished the first draft of the record, and my Dad kept asking to hear it. He and the rest of my family were in London (which has been their home for the past 12 years). This was early December. He immediately told me how much he loved the album, and according to my siblings, just had it on repeat for that whole month leading up to Christmas. My whole family caught COVID that month, right around Christmas. This was before any of them were eligible for their vaccines. My dad was 75, and I had been working my very best, for that entire year, to keep him as safe as possible. He went into the hospital with trouble breathing on January 1st, and fought for his life in the ICU for 11 days. He asked me to send the record to him again and told me that he was listening to it every day in the ICU, while everyone else around him was intubated. I was amazed by his bravery and perseverance through all of that. We all thought he was gonna make it, but things took a bad turn on day 11. Some of his last words to me over the phone were ”whatever happens, get your new music out there.” He, more than anyone, believed in my love for music and wanted the best for me. So, finishing this album (wrapping up production, working on some of the lyrics, performing, and arranging some extra parts) was my next step. It was very difficult to finish, knowing it was the last thing he ever heard me make, and working on it became my way of continuing to have a conversation with him. There’s a part of me that believes writing music is a way to have a conversation with people that are no longer with us – so I went into finishing the album with that mindset. I purposefully crafted the ending of the album to feel like a “return to home” of sorts. The beginning suggests the opposite. I wanted the album to feel like something coming full circle. That’s what this record became for me, despite all of the songs being written before all of this happened.
Comparing this to your first, what do you think is the main difference?
Sonically, this record hits harder. The first is very breathy and light. It’s intentionally very air-y. I wanted this one to hit like the highway strip beneath your tires. Thematically, I think they are meant to go together. I sort of ended the last one with the hopes that this one would pick things up from where the last one left them off. Both are about self-discovery and channeling characters in transitional phases in their lives. The first is more foreboding, but I think this one has more of a resolution to it.
What song means the most to you?
I think “Dynamites” will always mean the most to me. I came up with that one right before finding out that my dad was sick– maybe literally a week before he showed symptoms. It’s always a very strange feeling when a song lands on your lap right before a huge life change like that takes place. I really do see that one as a gift in my life because working on it was a big part of the healing process for me.
What do you hope people take away from it?
I just hope this record can be something people go to when they feel alone or misunderstood, and that they can find some peace in the journey that takes place within it. I hope that people can apply their own meaning to it, and let it live in their life in the way that makes the most sense.
Being so honest and raw throughout your music, what does this feel like? Does it feel overwhelming?
At first, it can feel a little overwhelming, for sure. I am someone that values privacy and not sharing every detail of my life with the world at all times. But, I do believe there’s something very empowering with being vulnerable and open in your music. I also recognize that honesty and transparency with where these ideas come from/what inspired them are an important part of the process of creating and putting things out in the world. I’ve always worried that revealing too much will limit how others interpret and apply your work to their own lives, but I think having the context is important for people who want to build a relationship with the person who made the song vs just having the song on a playlist they run to.
And who inspires you?
Too many figures to name, but as of late I’ve been highly inspired by the work of the director and actor Dennis Hopper. I’m a huge movie person, but didn’t really know about his work outside of Blue Velvet, Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now. I recently watched Out of the Blue (a film he directed in the early 80s with Linda Manz) and The Last Movie. I think they’re both incredibly underrated films and very ahead of their time. Out of the Blue feels like almost a pre-cursor to the film KIDS, or anything Harmony Korine has written, and the latter feels like a pre-cursor to a Spike Jonze film. He really amazes me, and was so versatile – his photography was incredible, and I highly recommend looking up his pictures from the 60s. I think I’m usually inspired by people with careers that shapeshift over time, and with artists who adapt to trends without losing that untouchable quality that makes them unique.
What’s next? What are you most excited for?
I’m heading out on a few tours. Doing a short run of shows in the U.S. and then headed to Europe for a month to play my first shows in the U.K., France, and Spain. I cannot wait for them – it’s been a long time coming. Especially excited for some of the festivals in Spain. I’ve never been to Spain, and am very grateful to be going for the first time for music-related reasons. Then, I’m back in New York to finish what looks like a third album, but too soon to tell. I’ve been collaborating with different artists for each song, so it’s looking like it’ll be something feature-heavy, which I’m very excited about.