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Sidney Gish is going to master the jazz guitar if it’s the last thing she does.

“I’ll make my debut when I’m literally about to die,” cracks the 20-year-old indie-pop musician, pulling her feet up to rest on a chair as she nibbles at a grain bowl, snagged moments ago from a vendor in Northeastern University’s student dining center.

“I’ll spend my whole life training for one performance,” she adds. “I’m going to book a show in 2097 and just wait until then. It will be a very hot-ticket show, though; I’ll be amping it up for a long time.”

Gish is joking, but she’s got enough on her plate at the moment to back up her theory that jazz guitar may have to wait a few decades down the line.


A third-year music industry major at Northeastern, the New Jersey native self-released her feature-length debut “Ed Buys Houses” on Bandcamp in December, making a strong impression on local tastemakers like Allston Pudding and DigBoston.

“That was super cool, to see it extending beyond my friends,” she recalls. “To see it be received positively by people I wasn’t friends with, who didn’t have to tell me they liked it.”

Gish has since cemented her celebrity in Boston’s indie scene with a Boston Music Award nomination for new artist of the year, announced last week, as well as a steady stream of live performances at local venues. Her biggest yet is Thursday at The Sinclair in Cambridge, where she’ll open for singer Margaret Glaspy alongside Melbourne import Slow Dancer.

It’s not hard to see why Allston Pudding, presenting the concert, thought to pair Gish with Glaspy, a folkish former Berklee student known for heart-on-sleeve romanticism and quirky real-world observations. Especially on “Ed Buys Houses,” named for a sign she glimpsed in New Jersey, Gish’s lyricism reveals a worldview that, like Glaspy’s, is wise beyond her years with a touch of the absurd.


Christine Varriale, editor-in-chief for Allston Pudding, describes Gish’s music, which she discovered through mutual friends, as “humorous pop that millennials can understand but that sounds timeless.”

“I thought [her album] was incredible,” adds Varriale, 27. “It gave me feelings of when I first discovered Regina Spektor, but it was also something different from what a lot of people in Boston were doing.”

For a debut album, “Ed Buys Houses” is remarkably tight, filled with witty wordplay and frank self-reflection that flows evenly across Gish’s warm harmonies and guitar strings. Listening to it evokes childhood memories of sprawling out on fresh-cut grass and letting imagination turn slow-moving clouds into animals. That Gish says her lyrics often came to her in iambic couplets, striking at random amid casual conversations or quiet solitary moments, isn’t surprising.

In person, Gish is modest but exudes quiet confidence, especially when discussing her music. She started young, writing her own songs through middle and high school, honing her voice in choir and gleaning inspiration from musicians like Vampire Weekend, of Montreal, and (yes) Regina Spektor — all performers noted for idiosyncratic lyricism and innovative instrumentation.

Like those influences, Gish is a polymath, having added piano, ukulele, and guitar to a skillset that also boasts what’s called “perfect pitch,” the ability to recognize and recreate musical notes without reference tones (though she stresses she’s not always completely correct).


“If you see the color red, you can’t give the hex code for it, but you know that it’s red — it’s kind of like that,” she explains. “If a car beeps in an F sharp, then I’ll know it’s an F sharp.”

Such a gift is rare even among musicians; it’s aided Gish’s career from her involvement in Northeastern’s a cappella scene (she briefly beatboxed for all-female group Pitch, Please!) to recording solo music by “Frankensteining” melodies she records on the go as voice memos with scraps of lyrics that crowd her iPhone’s Notes app.

“I’ll get an idea for a melody and then lyrical ideas, and I have to put them together on my own,” she explains. “I wish I got into a state of flow where both are happening at the same time; that would be really cool, but that never happens.”

Gish was initially more comfortable composing in her bedroom than playing live.

“I really liked doing theater in middle school, because I got to pretend to be somebody else, and whenever I was playing a character, I was fine,” she says. “But to do singer-songwriter stuff on stage didn’t really come naturally.”

And so Gish doubled down on performing this year, booking gigs at ONCE Somerville, Elks Lodge, Great Scott, and O’Briens, among others. While improving her live sets, she’s also been testing out new songs and plans to release an album shortly. Turning 20, she says, influenced her new material.

“The world makes more sense for me to be in,” she explains cheerily. “When you’re a teenager, nobody wants you to be wherever you are. And that realization just causes you to freak out and worsen the problem by just being terrible. When I turned 20, literally at the crack of midnight, I sat up and said, ‘I am immediately better. Everything is immediately fine.’ ”



Opening for Margaret Glaspy. At The Sinclair, Cambridge, Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets $17-$20, www.axs.com

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at isaac.feldberg@globe.com, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.