INTERVIEW: Diving Into The Magic Behind Maggie Roger's Overnight Success
    • FRIDAY, MARCH 03, 2017

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

    It's not often that a truly special artist comes along. One that captures your full attention. One that makes the world shake with a single song. One that completely embodies a free-spirited energy and defines artistry. But Maggie Rogers is one of those rarities.

    After presenting her self-produced pop song "Alaska," AKA a homework assignment, to her NYU class and guest Pharrell Williams, Pharrell freaked out over how good it was and it went viral on the internet. Because of Pharrell's reaction? Well, yeah. But also because the song really was just that good.

    It was good enough to have people stick around. Her fan base grew rapidly overnight, as they crazily dug up her old folk material in desperate need for more. The song garnered millions of listens. And then with the smooth release of her second song, "Dog Years," Rogers proved she's here to stay, with a cohesive and exciting new sound. And then with the release of her third single, "On + Off," she somehow managed to raise the bar for herself even higher. Her strong falsetto over a bed of slick synths matches her imagery that rolls off the tongue - it's a whimsical dream. Everything she does seems effortless - and although she seems pretty much perfect, she's a different kind of perfect. Inspiring young women everywhere, her work is tangible and relatable. "This didn't happen because I put on some tight dress or made the song I thought everybody wanted to hear. It literally just happened because I did my homework," the humble singer-songwriter told Baeble. Her debut EP Now That The Light Is Fading is officially out now and features her three beloved singles, plus two more.

    We had the opportunity to chat with Rogers and we covered everything from making it big right out of college, experiencing year-long creative droughts, and bringing women together. Read below.

    KIRSTEN SPRUCH: You jumped into the spotlight pretty quickly this year. Have you seen a big change in your personal life?

    MAGGIE ROGERS: I just graduated from college so I'm trying to accept a lot of change regardless. A lot of change that I've been preparing for a long time. This is just what I've always wanted to do. Definitely not what I was planning for, but it hasn't been so wild.

    KS: Is it weird that your career now is the same thing that you started doing in middle school for fun?

    MR: No, it's really exciting. It's not like it's business versus pleasure. I get to do exactly what I love every day so me doing it in middle school and doing it now feels like the same thing.

    KS: If the whole Pharrell thing didn't happen, what would've been your plan after college?

    MR: All of the music I'm putting out right now is actually made in college. I can't totally say what I'd be doing if that didn't happen but I definitely know that I'd still be making music. I don't think the Pharrell thing affected my creative process. It's just really affected my other platforms.

    KS: Because you wrote "Alaska" way before all that happened.

    MR: Yeah, I wrote the whole EP pretty much before that happened.

    KS: You've also had a lengthy education in music besides NYU. You went to the Berklee School of Music five week summer program and you were into classical music before that. Has all of that technical training helped you creatively as an artist?

    MR: I honestly don't think so. When I'm creating and writing songs or even producing, I never ever think about music theory. It's a lot more instinctual than that. I try to think as little as possible and do what feels good. I think people overthink music a lot and I just think you should just listen to your intuition. The goal has always been to make music that feels as human as possible. Filtering it as little as possible is a big part of that for me.

    KS: How did you get into producing?

    MR: I've always been producing. As soon as you want to create and write and record songs, it's really natural to then want to embellish them. I've always engineered and produced my own music.

    KS: Did you feel overwhelmed when you moved from Maryland to New York? Was it a total culture shock for you?

    MR: Yes and no. The cool thing about Maryland is that it's geographically really close to a lot of different cities. It's not like I'm here and never got out. I went to the city a lot and went to New York a couple of times. But the biggest thing for me about moving to New York is that my whole life, I've been fighting to get to live shows because it would take so many hours just to go to a concert and someone would have to drive me. So when I got to New York, the biggest thing was just being able to see live music and expose myself to so many different kinds of music.

    KS: What was it like being surrounded by so many other awesome musicians?

    MR: It was really exciting. There were some musicians I knew in high school but it was like cello and violin. I was never really surrounded by people who were in bands where there was like bass or drums or even just making production at a higher level, like track work or beat-based production. For me, it was just really exciting because it offered a lot of collaboration and finally I was around people who were like me who wanted to talk about music and think about music.

    KS: Do you ever suffer from writer's block? Because it seems like you're constantly putting out music.

    MR: I've stopped writing music for two and a half years. When I started writing again, I picked up from where I left off. I stopped writing music right before I went to Alaska and was just really frustrated and would cry in class and I was just really upset, because I didn't have anything to say. I think music - a song - is the best direct representation of the self within the moment. The issue for me was that I was changing so rapidly that I couldn't create what I sounded like. I was just changing a lot. I was 20 and I wasn't really sure who I was and so because I wasn't sure who I was, I wasn't sure of what kind of music I wanted to make. I couldn't find my voice. It was really difficult. And so I've actually worked in journalism for a couple of years and declared a second major in English and stopped with music for a little while.

    KS: I mean, as a journalist who makes my own music on the weekends, I totally relate to that. With life rapidly changing, it's kind of like musical ADD. Too many ideas can result in nothing. And it is so frustrating.

    MR: It's miserable. It's so painful. For me it was always so hard because my identity was always like "I'm a musician." That's just who I am. And the one thing that had designed me for my entire life - I wasn't able to do. It was really hard but inevitably now I sort of come out on the other side and more than anything I trust my creativity. I started putting pressure on myself and started getting so stressed and worked up about it. Now I trust my creativity and I know that even if a song doesn't work today I will always write songs and they will always just come.

    KS: Yeah, I wonder that too. Like, "even though I haven't written in a year, am I still an artist?"

    MR: I think it's just trusting that it's a part of you and that you need space. It's a lot easier said than done. Even for me, it did come back but even right now, I try to write four lines before bed every night. It takes time to allow yourself space for creativity because it takes being bored for a second to figure out how you're feeling. And if you don't schedule your time to breathe, it's also really hard to write.

    KS: Yeah, my mom's always like, "Oh, why don't you write a song right now since you have free time? and I'm like, "that's not how it works, mom!"

    MR: Yeah, "Mom that's not how it works!" My mom's like "Just write a song about it." Like mom, you don't get it.

    KS: Are your parents supportive on that note?

    MR: So supportive, they've been incredible. I'm also a college graduate with a job so they're chilling.

    KS: One of the reasons why you're so likable, at least this is what Baeble thinks, is because you're so down-to-earth and real. Young women feel like they're your friend and even fathers are cheering for you because you provide such a positive example for their daughters. What's it like being such a huge inspiration now?

    MR: Oh, I don't know, I don't really think about it. It's crazy that you just asked me that question. It's been so fast that it's actually been incredible because nothing about what I'm doing or how I'm doing it has changed. Everything surrounding me has changed. This didn't happen because I put on some tight dress or made the song I thought everybody wanted to hear. It literally just happened because I did my homework. That's what happened. I tripped and fell into this trap in an alternate universe where I get to wake up and do exactly what I want to do every day. I'm not thinking about it. I'm just trying to make music.

    KS: And even in your video for "Alaska," you're just wearing mom jeans and prancing around with your friends. You didn't suddenly change once you got the attention from the world.

    MR: That outfit is just what I wear. That's what I was comfortable in. The other half of the video is just me being silly. I spent my entire life inviting my friends over to my house for sleepovers and forcing them to make music videos with me pretty much wearing that same outfit, AKA pink eyeshadow and crimped hair - then I just got to do it for real.

    KS: How important do you think it is for women to come together? Because you briefly touched on that in the behind-the-scenes video for "Alaska."

    MR: I think women coming together is such an incredible thing. I probably need to come up with a better answer than this other than "it just feels the best to me," but I just love lady power. The idea of my friends all being in this video where we're going to strut towards the camera doesn't have anything to do with putting off the male gate. There's no real feminist agenda, I mean I am a feminist, but my real motivation was how close to being in a girl band can I come? Music videos are fantasies, right? So how close to fantasy can I get? And I want to have fun.

    KS: What is your advice to other aspiring musicians like yourself?

    MR: Don't stress about it and keep making stuff. There's a lot of pressure to figure out exactly what your branding is or what your social media strategies are. The rest will take care of itself.

    Now That The Light Is Fading EP is out now.

    © 2019 Baeble Media. All rights reserved.