Eliza M. McLamb has one foot in the real world and one in the spiritual.
A successful singer-songwriter and podcaster, McLamb has taken advantage of the last few years as a time to focus on fostering community with her musical gift. In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, McLamb discussed what music means to herself and her world.
“My music typically resonates with young, sensitive people who have a lot of emotions and think very deeply about their feelings,” said McLamb. “People who traverse through this space between the physical reality and the spiritual, emotional reality.”
This blend of reality and spirituality manifests in her more contemplative songs like “Salt Circle,” the titular track of her most recent EP. Despite creating such pensive music, though, McLamb rejects the label of stereotypical “sad girl music” for her work
“Something that I've noticed when talking with other women who make confessional, deeply-feeling art is that it’s actually hopeful to put all of your emotional rawness out into the ether,” McLamb said, noting the connection-seeking nature of sharing music with the world. “Even if you have the saddest song in the world, if other people are connecting to that, that's fundamentally optimistic.”
McLamb commented that female alternative artists are often the ones that tend to get grouped together in such a reductive manner. “It frustrates me when people call my music ‘sad girl music’ — it’s hopeful girl music. It’s community-building girl music. It's so much more.”
Music-making is nothing new to McLamb, as she’s written songs for as long as she can remember, but her career only started taking off in the last few years.
“I was thinking I was going to go to law school, but then the pandemic hit when I was in my sophomore year at GW,” said McLamb. “That kind of provided an opportunity for me to really question if this path was right for me.”
While her academic world paused, McLamb reflected on the past few years of her life and translated them into art. She began posting songs on TikTok, using commenters’ suggestions as inspiration for new pieces in a feedback loop of collaborative creativity. Ultimately, she wound up living in Los Angeles with a friend, where she has remained for the past two years, developing her music career.
Although she expressed gratitude for the community that initially gave her music exposure on TikTok — “they’re the ones that made me realize I could actually do music as a thing,” she said — McLamb clarified that she no longer uses the platform.
“I think TikTok feeds off of our limited attention span. The artists that I see get success on TikTok have really catchy, hooky pop songs,” McLamb said, contrasting the platform with her goals as an artist. “My songs are kind of like puzzles, lyrically, and you can't fit a puzzle in five seconds. It's not meant to be solved that way.”
Beyond music, McLamb engages with intellectual and socioemotional worlds through her podcast “Binchtopia,” a “guide through our current cultural hellscape” which is co-hosted alongside her friend Julia Hava.
“Come have a laugh with us through the end times of late-stage capitalism!” reads Binchtopia’s bio, and Hava and McLamb do just that, episodically discussing topical themes by providing their own research-driven commentary and personal experiences.
“My favorite episodes are the ones where we connect history to the present moment,” said McLamb, citing an episode where the co-hosts uncovered the origins of the internet phenomenon of boy moms. “We looked into Freudian psychology, we looked into emotional enmeshment, all this academic stuff. And then we were able to create a whole arc of where all of this comes from.”
Much like with her music, in “Binchtopia,” McLamb successfully blends the emotional world she perceives with the tangible realities grounded by her academic background. The artist sees herself as a conduit between these facets of the human experience.
“I feel like if you have the ability to straddle two worlds, it's important to use it to translate from the other side,” she said, explaining why she creates the work that she does. “I'm literally just a conduit. I don't think anything I'm saying is coming from me directly; it's coming through me, but it's not me.”
This same spiritual lens shapes how McLamb views live performance as well.
“It's the most amazing thing when I write a song that I am convinced is just for me, that's so particular and so personal,” McLamb said. “And then I sing it on stage and I have a hundred people singing it back. To me, that's God. God is in the room.”
Although she was initially nervous to first perform live in early 2021, she quickly shed her concerns in favor of enjoying the unique nature of live performance.
“It was so fun to have the performance that I give of a certain song be the only one that exists,” she said, recalling how she first fell in love with performing live. “It's in this whole other space; there are some times where in the recorded version, I'm not able to belt part of a song. But onstage, I can do it easily.”
McLamb is uniquely gifted in recognizing and navigating different spaces with ease. She will be performing live in Cambridge on Mar. 6, at The Sinclair and anticipates releasing a forthcoming album later this year. Her personal musings are available through her Substack.
—Staff writer Stella A. Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.