IN CONVERSATION WITH: Maggie Rogers
It is tempting to imagine how Maggie Rogers’ career would have rolled out, had she not found viral fame from Pharrell’s patronage. This student at the Clive Davis Institute had just started incorporating electronica into her folky songwriting when the visiting producer poured lavish praise on her class project, “Alaska.”
It is ironic that a song about a recent personal reclamation (“And I walked off you/And I walked off an old me”) led to a renewed loss of control in Rogers’ life, one that she has likened to a violation, or, in the naturalistic songwriting she prefers, a bout of freak weather. Now in the twisting and turning world of her career, Rogers is meeting the demand for her. Sold out shows popping up all over the globe and a social following that skyrockets on the daily, there’s no stopping her. Luckily for you though, we managed to catch her for a few minutes…
Are you excited for your show?
Yes, I’m super excited. These are the first shows I’m gonna play with my album out and so it’s cool cause it is the first time the audience has the chance to know the words like I’ve been touring for the past two and a half years it feels like I’m throwing a party now.
What’s been your favourite show on the tour so far?
Every night seems to just get better and better but we did get to play Dublin on a Friday night which is just pretty awesome. I was playing my song ‘Falling Water’ and for anyone who doesn’t know this song it is kinda like an intense emotional ballad and some girl got on her friend’s shoulders and took her top off it was proper rock n roll nothing that I’d expect to see.
When did you first realise that you were gonna become a musician?
I think that’s something you decide for yourself. I started writing songs when I was 13/14 but I think I decided I really wanted to be a musician when I was 17.
Which artists did you listen to when you were growing up?
When I was really young I listened to a lot of classical music as my first instrument was the harp. So I listened to lots of Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi. In high school, I got into listening to mid-2000s Indie music Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and then I discovered Nick Drake and The Talking Heads.
How would you describe your musical development as you are known for your original sound of folk infused with electronic influences?
It has always been about my own experimentation with production cause I feel like I’ve been writing songs the same way since I was thirteen. It’s just like really narrative and me just in my bedroom trying to understand the world and trying to produce them in ways that keep me creatively challenged. So at first it was folk music then I played in a few rock bands and then I was playing bass in a Punk band for a while and did some DJ stuff. On my EP I did some folk – electronic hybrid but now it feels good cause I feel like I’ve come round to something that feels more true to my background. It’s really nice to have these real instruments back in the mix.
Would you say dance influences your music?
I don’t think so it is just something I do really naturally. I’ve always loved to move and if you don’t move when listening to music I think you’re subconsciously holding yourself back. My favourite type of music is kinda like dancing while crying it is something you can move to and feel to and I think that is what I’m always trying to do with my music. I think in doing that you can give people different ways in.
What would you say ‘Heard It In The Past Life’ is about and why did you decide to call it that?
I had the title before I had anything else. It is mainly about the last two years of my life where I graduated from college and had this transition. Basically, my private life became very public and I became a professional musician straight out of college and there is just a lot of change. When that change happens different people have different ways of dealing with it or explaining it and my way has always just been writing music.
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How would you describe your process of making music as a songwriter and as a producer?
It depends what I am creating on if it is on my guitar. Back In My Body happened that way I wrote it on guitar in my childhood bedroom in Maryland then went to the studio that I had in my parent’s barn and sorta decided what I wanted the sonic architecture to look like. But sometimes like ‘Falling Water’ I’ll just start making a beat or making a track on my computer and then write on top of it so it can happen in a couple of different ways but I think no matter what I always go back to guitar and piano where I really check on the structure of the song because the song is the most important thing.
What’s your favourite song on your new album?
It depends on what kinda mood you’re in. I don’t know if I have an answer to that honestly. Falling Water is the song that took the longest but that’s not always a sheer sign. It really taught me to edit in a new way that I hadn’t before and musically I am probably the proudest of it but lyrically I really love Past Life and from a production standpoint I’m really proud of Overnight. If I wanna dance Say It is probably my favourite. I spent a lot of time with the track listing, thinking about the way I wanted the songs to run into each other. I really love the way the record flows.
What made you want to write Alaska? What headspace were you in at that point?
Alaska was the first song I wrote two years after writer’s block and the last thing I had done when I stopped writing was to go on a hiking trip to Alaska the song isn’t really about the place as much as I was processing the things as I was walking in the place.
How was your experience performing on Saturday Night Live?
It was insane. I just walked in and started crying like I was just really overwhelmed that that was even happening. Even you asking me that question I guess I still can’t believe that even happened. I feel like it is in the realm of dreams you don’t say out loud. It is just like crazy. I grew up watching this TV show and I never thought it was a possibility that I could be on it one day. It was really an honour to be a part of that.
Who are your favourite up and coming artists?
I really love Rosalía and Phoebe Bridgers and this band Big Thief the lead singer in that band Adrianne Linker is one of my favourite songwriters. Phoebe is a friend of mine… I don’t know Rosalía but I think her music is amazing.
Are there any artists that you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
I really love James Blake and am constantly drawn in by his production. I’m a giant Brockhampton fan and would love to work with them but I don’t know if they are open to that cause I know they’re such a collective and I have so much admiration for that. I don’t know maybe Dolly Parton if I’m really dreaming I think that’d be cool.