Behind the Glass

Seth Glier

Today’s musical showcase is accompanied by a genuine feel-good story of service and activism. No, not political activism, thank God. You won’t see that stuff here.

No, this fantastic type of activism involves autism, and really the entire story of Massachusetts native Seth Glier (pronounced “gleer”, not GLY-er”) is of interest to me. We have a couple things in common, the first of which is autism. Before he opens his mouth to sing with a voice that is pitch perfect and full of nuance, he lets you know what he’s about and why he performs. His actions don’t just do the talking — they do justice to the beautiful tunes he can belt out with a smile.

If, like me, you’ve ever thought about giving spare change to a homeless person and didn’t, or considered offering a seat on a train but instead stayed put, you know that it can be tough to get over the first step and extend a helping hand.

I’m a routine-based creature, and have more hobbies than time. Followers of this hobby (and audiophilia in general) perhaps lean towards being introverted, as the research required to know one’s way around it is a lonely and lengthy endeavor.

With these limitations in mind, I take a look at my busy and eventful life and can still see several opportunities close at hand to serve others, and not even strangers at that.

One in particular has been with me my entire life, and it’s what Seth and I have in common. Seth’s older brother Jamie has severe autism and has been nonverbal Seth’s whole life. My older brother is an autistic savant with a very unique combination of many recognized mental disabilities in a light form.

Both Seth and I know the blessing that being close to an autistic person can be. A brother with a disability can be, for yourself, a grounding rod, a beautiful prism through which to see a unique perspective, and a sharpening stone that hones your character.

As the high functioning brother, Seth and I have the unique opportunity to be the best support for our brothers as long as we both live. And I would imagine that like in my case, Seth’s role has only increased as the years go on.

I have to stop here and remark on something. I just spent Sunday building a DIY quadratic diffuser of my own design and mounted it in a tricky area I’m treating in my room. It’s the fourth piece of the treatment panels I’ve been building for an upcoming DIY series here in Copper.

Holy shit, you guys! I have to tell someone — this is stupid good sound. I think I have enlarged the sweet spot maybe five or sixfold. The stage is much higher now and much clearer in front of me. Oh man. I can’t wait to bang out those articles so you can see what I did to achieve performance that is making my eyes water a little bit.

OK, back to Seth. The actions I alluded to are genuine: He has been the spokesperson for autism awareness group Autism Speaks, and works with ChildFund International to raise funds through his fanbase. His song “Love Is A Language,” video below, is inspired by his life with brother Jamie.

But when he stopped by my studio to play a few tracks, it was clear that music was the focus of the day. It’s funny I use the word focus I suppose because he arrived as a duo, playing with his partner Joe. Joe is in his 60s and has been blind since day 3.

Now, you might think in a highly technical effort like recording a live musical duo I might have noticed that Joe was blind. Call it distraction from the fury of my cable unwinding and mic stand setups and mixer settings, and also the fact that I missed watching them go into the recording studio, but I think it was the second or third song they recorded before I realized Joe was blind.

That’s a pretty high functioning blind guy that can play off the disability entirely. He was playing several difficult instruments like a virtuoso, and was singing right into the mic like any other musician. I thought his sunglasses were for style points until I saw Seth lead him to the keyboard and then it all made sense.

Well, I’m the idiot. Joe is amazing, as you can see in the videos below. Seth is no slouch, I should add, and the USA Today mirrors what we felt in the studio, that his “exquisite tenor echoes Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.”

Seth got points from me for being one of those rare musicians that is so highly trained, his takes were identical except for soloing or improvisation. He’s had extensive musical schooling, and like John Mayer he attended Berklee just long enough to realize he didn’t need it. I also noticed that he was one of the surprising few in our studio that obsessively warmed up his voice before recording, and it shows in the result.

He tours a lot — maybe 200 shows a year — and has collaborated with some big names. If you like what you hear below, be sure to check out his website to see if he’s coming to your area.

I’m not an activist, so I won’t finish by telling you to gaze at your daily routine to see if there’s an opportunity for service. But I will say that what can appear at first glance to be a burden is often an opportunity to witness some of the good stuff in life.

On that note, I need to go spend some time weeping between two speakers — adieu.