Bottega Art and Wine
208 North Front Street
March 18th, 9 p.m.
Mix equal parts KT tunstall’s driven lyrics and Sara Bareilles’ melodic stretch of the keys. Bake in the South for about two decades. Glaze with a strong influence of Keith Green and Russian literature. This delicacy is none other than Gloria Spillers, an indie pianist who has established herself as part of Wilmington’s vibrant character.
Spillers was taxied all about the South, surrounded by a musical family unit, until she was eight. Her father served as a pastor at many churches where Gloria was enriched in the style of gospel music. Settling in Brunswick County, she expanded her tastes to include a variety of rock, alternative and eventually an increasing interest in classical. A graduate of UNCW with a degree in music, she has planted herself in the local scene. Taking her writing to the next level, she is exploring different styles, budding with an overall softer edge, where the piano takes center stage accompanied by heartfelt lyrics, resulting in a free-form serene sound. Her brilliant first EP, “Hush,” was released early last year and is available on iTunes.
Gloria Spillers will be performing Friday night at Bottega Art & Wine. Before she takes her place behind the instrument that she calls home, Gloria took a pause to talk with encore about why she and music go together.
e: How did music enter your life?
Gloria Spillers (GS): Music was always a part of my life. My dad used to sing in southern gospel quartets, and I learned how to sing harmony standing beside my mother in church as a kid. All three of my brothers are musical as well, and I remember times as a child when the whole family would just sit around and sing while my dad or older brother played guitar. I can’t remember a time in life without music.
e: How did your Southern Baptist upbringing affect you and your sense of music?
GS: There are things I’m definitely grateful for as a result of my upbringing—learning to sing harmony, learning to play piano by ear, and even my style of songwriting has been influenced by my church music upbringing. On the other hand, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of non-Christian music until I was a bit older. I look back and sometimes think about all the fantastic music I missed out on. And my parents weren’t Puritans, so we did listen to music like the Beatles, Cash, and Dylan. Unfortunately, for example, there wasn’t a lot of Zeppelin in the Spillers’ household growing up!
e: How has your music developed since you were younger?
GS: I listened to a lot of emotional punk and hardcore when I was younger. I tried to write and play with that kind of dark emotional angst. That’s when I started playing guitar a lot more. But it wasn’t me. I’m introspective, but a lot of the angsty emotion was conjured. I had a pretty good childhood; there wasn’t much to be angsty about. I think I liked to feel that my life was worse than it was just so I could play a style of music that wasn’t really me.
So I went backward after that, back to elementary-aged Gloria who just used to sit at a piano and weave words. Especially since going to college, I’ve owned the piano more. So much music uses very simple, chorded piano, and it’s quite sad to me. The piano has tons of potential. So it’s not that I purposefully try to write more complicated music, but I try to utilize its potential to create different textures. Not just chord, chord, chord. I imagine really great guitar finger-pickers feel that way about music comprised of guitars chugging out little else than power chords.
e: Russian writers are one of your many influences. How do they impact you and your music?
GS: One of the things I love about Russian literature is that the stories often don’t rely on a ton of action to make up the plot. There’s a lot of character development and dialogue. It’s very philosophical, very preoccupied with the human condition: life, love, death, redemption. The human condition is the theme underlying a lot of the music I write—very existential. Russian literature feeds that corner of my mind that loves to brood over life’s heady questions.
e: What influences your songs the most?
GS: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I remember being eight, riding my bike, fitting words together. It feels almost biologically necessary sometimes. It gives me an opportunity to address situations I otherwise feel helpless to control—circumstances, interactions, big life questions. Sometimes, I just want to pay tribute to something, so I do it via songwriting. Honestly, writing is pretty easy for me. It’s not so much that I need to be in a certain state of mind, but I do need time and solitude enough to nail down the point that I want a song to communicate, so I’m not all over the place lyrically.
e: Where would you like to see your music career go?
GS: Ideally, my goal is to be able to make a living writing and recording. I’m recording this spring for the first time (besides a home-recorded EP I did last year), and I’m hoping that that record will prove to be a sure step toward making that happen. It’s tough. You can’t just fill out an application to be a successful singer/songwriter. It’s just doing it—meeting people, playing shows, writing, recording, meeting more people, writing more and playing more shows. But I don’t think I’ll be satisfied with anything else. I’ve done other things and can only convince myself that I’m okay with it for so long. I told my mom after my first piano lesson that music and I just go together. I think that’s true and I don’t think it’ll ever change.