Ambient tones and ghostly “oohs” greet listeners before hypnotizing them to “Move” to downtempo rhythms and gripping guitars on Maggie Miles’ lush debut album, Am I Drowning or Am I Just Learning How to Swim?.
The album – released on Aug. 26 via Warehouse West Entertainment Records – encapsulates the heightened emotions erupting from the growing pains of adulthood. With inviting instrumentation evoking joy at first listen, each repeat play reveals ever-more poignant lyrics about the heart and hurts of the human condition.
“I’m feeling an overwhelming amount of gratefulness and I’ve tried to message everybody who was involved with the project, which is a lot of people, to tell them how grateful I am. I in no way could have released this album alone,” said 21-year-old Miles by phone from Nashville on the morning of Am I Drowning or Am I Just Learning How to Swim‘s release. “I feel like I gave birth or something – not that I would actually know what giving birth feels like – but it’s out there now. It’s super cool that it’s not really mine any more.”
The album is full of standouts, from the late add “Hilary Duff” – complete with sonic nods to the early aughts – to “Shiver,” which concludes with Miles singing of loneliness a capella. “Move” is that perfect blend of pop and rock anchored by a funky bassline and highlighted by a clean, cool guitar solo reminiscent of Prince.
“Compared to the rest of the guitars on the record it’s really different because the other solos are super grungy and really rock, where as this one is groovy and clean,” said Miles of “Move.” “That was such a blast to record.”
When it comes to songwriting, Miles finds inspiration in every step of the process. Sometimes, like with “Move,” she starts with a bassline, while elsewhere the process begins with a lyric. She’s even been known to fall in love with the aura of a soundscape before conceptualizing a theme or story.
“Piano is usually where everything starts for me,” explained Miles. “If I’m alone, in my room, writing, I get a Logic session going, find a patch that is inspiring and I start writing. When I’m alone, I write very differently than when I’m with someone else. When I’m with a producer, I’m so excited about the soundscaping that I feel like that tells me more what the song is about because of the way it’s making me feel. It evokes out of me the things I’ve been pushing down or what I’ve kept inside.”
Miles wrote and recorded the bulk of the album before March and the era of COVID-19 quarantines. She has been coming up with creative ways to connect with fans in the wake of its release. She recently hosted a small listening party, and Hellooo TV is sharing her full band record release show – recorded last weekend – via YouTube at 8 p.m. CT on Aug. 28.
“The production is awesome. There’s smoke and lights. It was super cool and I can’t wait for people to see it,” said Miles. “I miss being on the road so much, and this definitely gave me that bug back.”