Maggie Miles Walks Us Through Her Soul-Searching New LP “The Lack Thereof,” Shares an Early Stream

The Nashville-based alt-pop songwriter’s sophomore album officially drops tomorrow via Warehouse West/BMG.
First ListenTrack by Track

Maggie Miles Walks Us Through Her Soul-Searching New LP The Lack Thereof, Shares an Early Stream

The Nashville-based alt-pop songwriter’s sophomore album officially drops tomorrow via Warehouse West/BMG.

Words: Kim March

Photo: Jesse Lendzion

May 16, 2023

If the 10 songs on Nashville-based alt-pop songwriter Maggie Miles’ new album The Lack Thereof feel like they take the listener on a particularly winding journey, that’s probably reflective of the fact that they’re the byproducts of Miles’ own winding journey over recent years. Chronicling her relationship with religion and the world around her after growing up in the church before distancing herself from it in her late teens, this sophomore album regularly feels like the work of someone figuring things out, all told from the other, clearer side of things—as if glancing in the rearview mirror while living in the ecstatic moment of self-realization.

That sense of ecstasy certainly comes through in the record’s production, all awash in infectious pop sheen while occasionally channeling hallmarks of ’90s popular rock and pop. In fact the music itself was a crucial component of Miles taking that next step in her personal development, which conveniently, in turn, pushed her creative development further: “Through writing these songs,” she shares, “I feel closer than ever to who I’m made to be. Which is just that: me.”

With the record officially dropping tomorrow, Miles is sharing an early stream of The Lack Thereof with us—check that out below, and find her track-by-track breakdown of the project as well.

1. “Stomach”
This song starts off with a voice memo captured by me in 2017. At this point in time, I was about six months out from high school and feeling a bit lost. There was no college opportunity in sight, and I knew that I loved music but the reality of that dream becoming my life felt distant and, at times, fleeting to imagine. The song and album picks up on a conversation between an elderly woman named Dona and myself. An important character in my  life, Dona was describing her dreams and the importance of humility while chasing them—a theme on this album. There’s a massive purpose in this song being gapless with the next track on the record, as well as the title of the next track—also tackling humility and the inbetweens of finding yourself—“i.”

An important side note about this song: In 2021 I was on a flight to LA when I forgot to download some songs on Spotify to listen to without Wi-Fi. I quickly found myself rummaging through old demos and unfinished voice memo tracks and scrolled all the way to the bottom when I found a voice memo titled “just Dona being Dona.” After listening to the hour-long recorded conversation, I was so inspired that I uploaded the memo to my laptop and immediately started producing the track that later became “Dona.” Many tracks used on that song were recorded via voice memo on that LA trip—a favorite being a swarm of vultures circling over a ridge on the coast. I held my phone up and prayed for a good recording.

2. “i”
I wrote “i” in December of 2020. It was the second track I wrote for the album—the first being “Asleep,” funny enough. As soon as this song starts, it’s clearly picking up right where we left off with the closing track, “Sanitized Things”, off of my debut album Am I Drowning or Am I Just Learning How to Swim. I knew when I wrote it that it was the sounding note for the story, the beginning of my process. I’m learning and vocalizing things within myself I’ve been scared to say out loud. But even as the album progresses in this process, so does the song. The ending of the song, with the bridge vocals pounding above a tribal-like beat, insinuates hopefulness amidst pain. I was desperate for a real sense of hope when I wrote this song, and I wanted someone to practically scream it to my face rather than tell me over and over it was “out there.” 

3. “Indecent”
“Indecent” is a conversation demanding independence. The protagonist wants a moment to be what they want to be, and behave how they want to behave, completely aware of the potential repercussions and consequences. In the verses they’re more determined and bitter, telling the force they’re speaking to that they “don’t wanna reason” with them. But when the chorus crashes in the main character caves, exclaiming that no matter what, they can’t hide from their deep need for this other party; that inside they’re broken, and even go as far to admit there was a point they said they’d die for them. When we enter the bridge the words are extremely internal and reflective: “Who am I lately?” “Indecent” is an odyssey, much like the one experienced when finding who you are. I hope people connect with that.

4. “Asthma”
“Asthma” is an allegory. There are some things that are better left unsaid, and I think I want this song to stay my secret in that way. I wrote it from a place of one perspective, but the moment I first performed it, that changed drastically. Even still, some days it means one thing and others it means another. But if there’s one line you take from it, it’s “I want it to be free.” 

5. “7” 
I grew up in a small town in Northern Virginia called Round Hill where there was a main highway, Route 7. On this road, I contemplated a lot for the first time…“Why am I here?” “What am I going to do with my life?” “Why do things happen this way?” I was unhappy with the state of the world around me, and felt as though I was waking up for the first time. I would drive this road and think about the way I seemed to float through experiencing it all without flinching emotionally. 

The chorus of this song sort of takes it away for me in laying out the theme of the track: “Quiet, passive, I wait for something to change / I’m done with it.” Seventeen is an interesting age, I wanted to tap into that again with these lyrics. Something that’s insistent on this record is the parallels between me in late high school and me in my early twenties. Sure, the challenges are very different, but mental health and my place in this world are still rather present. Through writing these songs, I feel closer than ever to who I’m made to be. Which is just that: me.

6. “BeNice”
“BeNice” is the first track on the record that pulls from a human relationship. I was feeling unseen and maybe a bit scared of myself at this time in my life. The chorus is me requesting grace regarding my mental health and the tumultuousness it can toss at me—and at times, because of proximity to them, those I love. Be nice to me, because I’m certainly not. I don’t believe it’s all hopeless in the end, either. The song becomes an anthem that I’m singing to myself, because speaking kindness enough over yourself can truly shift your mindset. I think it turns from the other party to an internal song as well. A personal anthem, if you will.

7. “Close”
This song, to be transparent, is an open letter to God. I’m expressing that I’m not the same me from when I first was born. Which, to be fair, who is? I’m asking for a new story, a new song. I want to feel belonged and loved no matter what. I’m asking God, if He’s real, to show me that, and in a way I understand. It’s really very spiritual and personal. But I hope that even if people are without faith or religion that it will meet them wherever they’re at. 

8. “Momentum”
“Momentum” was written at a time when I was feeling stuck. Nothing was moving professionally, and I felt like I was just writing the same songs over and over. I was in a rather negative mindset the week I penned these lyrics. I remember I was considering stepping back from doing music and feeling like I really didn’t have anything to say. COVID had truly wiped away any hope I received when I played shows and interacted with real people, and I couldn’t for the life of me get out of a rut of apathy. So I was stuck. But when I wrote this chorus, it not only pulled me out of that, but I meant every single word. “Losing sight of my purpose / Hoping I can reach the surface / Gravity is such a burden / You told me my life is worth it.”

9. “Dona”
Dona is a frequent character in the TLT universe. She’s a dear friend of mine, her age being mid-80s. I met her when I was 18. She was a space of safety and mentorship. I knew when I embarked on this album that I wanted a track titled her name because of her importance to my spiritual journey, as well as my later adolescence. However, I didn’t know how to go about the track for so long that my team started to question if the song even existed. It quickly became the bottleneck for the record as I attempted to convert the song living in my mind to living tangibly in front of me. Dona taught me a lot about the real love of God. I go back to her words often—recording them, at times, as you hear in this song. “Stomach” records a conversation taking place in 2017, whereas “Dona” has one dated February 10, 2023, marking it the final song produced for the album.

10. “Asleep”
“Asleep” was the first song I wrote intentionally for The Lack Thereof. I knew as soon as it happened I had to end the story there. It’s about apathy and running from it. It’s about love. It’s about growing. It’s about fear. It’s about starting over, even when you don’t know how. My absolute favorite part of this song is the gang vocals in the bridge. We tracked them over Christmas 2020 in the very basement I spent my teenage years in. In the gang vocals are my two best friends from my hometown, their little sisters, and my own little sister. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.