VIDEO: Oakland’s Maggie Y/O forges her own way

Four years ago, Maggie Osburn cut her mother out of her life. Her mom, who Osburn described as bipolar and self-medicating her illness with alcohol, had created a toxic environment for Osburn until she moved to live with her father at 14. Her sister continued to live with their mother for several years.

Maggie Y/O
7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 19; Nov. 7
Stow Lake Boathouse, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Tickets: $25.

“She was, at best, negligent and at worst, abusive,” said Osburn, who hasn’t yet gotten over her grief. Holidays are still difficult; Mother’s Day presents its own contradictions. The 26-year-old eventually turned to music to begin a healing process.

Osburn records and performs as Maggie Y/O. While her band’s brand of beach pop jangles along with the breeze, much of her lyrical content focuses on heartbreak and alienation, she said. Music is not only an art form for her, but also a way of reaching out and breaking through the feelings of isolation.

Osburn’s parents were both in the military. She was born in England, but her parents soon moved to Virginia and finally Pennsylvania. While she sang in choirs growing up, it was not until she went to college at Tulane in New Orleans that she fell in love with singing, through a capella. After graduating, she and a friend packed up everything that would fit into a car and moved to San Francisco to try their hand at a music career. What started as a duo is now a quintet.

“It’s not quite my full-time job yet, but I’ve been slowly getting to the point where I’m regularly making music,” she said. “If I’m going to a headspace where I’m able to be really honest with myself about what I’m feeling, usually I’m pretty happy with what comes out.”

Once she writes lyrics and melody, her bandmates—Simon Hochberg, Phil Thorneycroft, Alex Rosenblatt and Jake Shamash—fill in the rhythm and riffs. The group is currently working on its debut EP, which Osburn hopes to release next spring. She’s also playing shows in San Francisco and working on a foodie podcast. She moved to Oakland not too long ago and lives around the corner from Lake Merritt, which hosts a farmer’s market on Saturdays.

“I love being close to the ingredients of my food,” she said. “I love coming back and cooking with the stuff that I just got from the farmer’s market, maybe packing it up to a picnic and heading to the lake, and maybe meeting some friends in the evening for a show.”

— Roman Gokhman

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