Oakland-based musician Margaret Stutt understands the dynamic relationship between music and healing, having discovered its propensity for hopeful inspiration and the comfort it can offer for those struggling with everyday life through her own turbulent personal experiences. She grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, where she was classically trained in piano while attending a convent and eventually joined a local band by applying through a Craiglist ad for a drummer (even though she didn’t know how to play the drums). She eventually settled on an accordion they had but left the band after only a few months following a single live performance in a gym.
She released her first record in 2008, a collection of songs recorded through her laptop with a $10 microphone, and it was quickly embraced by Milwaukee radio and press, which gave her the confidence to tour around the region and develop close ties to the Midwest indie musical scene. Knowing that she needed a larger musical perspective then Wisconsin could provide, she moved to Brooklyn in 2010 looking for both a challenge and a chance to explore her own melodic instincts. She settled in as a barista at Wyckoff Starr in Bushwick and subsequently ingratiated herself into the local music community through interactions with some of her customers.
During the next two and a half years, she started making stop-motion music videos using the coffee shop and thrift magazine clippings and found inspiration in the expansive arts scene. But she began having trouble making ends meet, as she was trying to set up some part-time touring and pay for studio time to record a new album, which was called “Pedestrian Drama” and inspired by the Milwaukee public art installation of the same name by New York artist Janet Zweig and by what Stutt called “dark fear.”
Eventually, she took what she expected to be a short trip back home but which culminated in a 6-week stay at a psychiatric hospital to deal with her declining mental health. It took some time for her to regain her physical and mental health, and she moved out to California to be near her brother, a stabilizing force in her life. Now, she no longer sees her art as some insurmountable creative impulse but as way she can reflect upon her own experiences and refine her understanding of the world around her. Using this newfound stability as a guiding energy, she has released numerous recordings in recent years under the names of ZETI and Pezzettino, the latter of which was inspired by the illustrated Leo Lionni children’s book of the same name.
She will release her latest collection of songs under the Pezzettino moniker on Feb. 8. “Resin” is a series of 9 songs which looks at resilience, hope and struggle through the lens of personal ache and emotional darkness. Constructed over two years in scattered studio sessions, the album acknowledges the harsh realities of the world while also holding tightly on to hope and that sense of light at the end of the tunnel. It was recorded at Tiny Telephone Oakland, and engineered and mixed by Jacob Winik and mastered by Justin Perkins.
On recent single, “How To,” she blends intimate narration with melodic piano lines and rumbling percussive reverberations to create an affecting rhythmic experience. The whole concoction rises in intensity before spilling out in a wave of catharsis and emotional resonance. Balancing pop arrangements and more muscular indie rock rhythms, she finds an equilibrium between the desire to turn everything up to 11 and a need for a kind of musical intimacy. The song quickly and effortlessly draws you in to its rollicking folk-tinged atmosphere and allows Stutt the opportunity to share a deeper awareness of herself with her audience for just a few minutes.