If you do a quick scan of Maggie Rogers’ past interviews from the last two years, you may find a lot of the same content — and not of her own accord. She’s relentlessly asked about her stint with Pharrell in 2016, some even asking about “that song Pharrell wrote for her.” Granted, Rogers did have a run-in with the music mogul that helped boost her to stardom, but let’s get her story straight.
Rogers has been working tirelessly towards her success for years. At the time she met Pharrell, she had already written the tracks that would make up her debut EP. She was studying at the prestigious NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and knew how to play the harp. Pharrell was astounded by her innovative and captivating sound — as most of us are — and the video of their encounter went viral months after it was recorded.
That was the extent of their interaction. They’re not pen pals, they don’t text all the time, and he definitely didn’t write “Alaska” for her. Rogers has had, however, an extraordinary past few years touring the world, playing festivals and sold-out solo gigs alike. Oh, and also, she just turned 24.
It’s been said that Rogers radiates cool, which she does, but more so, she radiates control. Her musings are well thought out but not stiff. She’s serene and calm but doesn’t hold back the truth. Not to mention she’s remarkably nice; on the day we spoke, she had back-to-back interviews but began our conversation by thanking me for making time to talk to her. So check out our conversation about motorcycles and solo dance parties to see her likability for yourself.
Hey Maggie, what’s one question you’re completely sick of answering?
Many people ask me “about that song Pharrell wrote for me,” and I then have to explain that actually I write and produce all my own music…
That’s so annoying. One thing that actually really impressed me is your effort to stray from being “that Pharrell girl.” So how did you balance being appreciative of him and also making your own path?
I think the biggest thing is speaking honestly. It’s usually the first thing journalists ask me but I was a journalist for two years. So I get it, and I think part of that is I just haven’t given them a ton to talk about yet because I haven’t put out a full album yet. But I’ve been writing and producing my own music for 10 to 12 years, and I didn’t just start doing this over night.
I’m curious: Since you had such an explosive start via a video on Reddit, what is your relationship like with/your feelings on social media?
That’s a great question. I don’t actually know how to use social media properly. If you look at my social media followers versus ticket sales, it doesn’t actually add up. I just don’t really care about it or know why I should. But I’m also lucky that I’m alive during this always-evolving time when people are interested in storytelling, whether that’s visual or verbal.
But it’s also great because I have direct access to my fans. I can get more fans into the show, or if I see someone who couldn’t get a ticket, and maybe I have an extra spot on the guest list, I can do something about it. As musicians, we have this strange power to make someone’s moment really special, whether that’s just telling someone “happy birthday” or “happy anniversary” or whatever. I just like to do as much good as possible with it.
I feel like because of your boho vibe, people underestimate how incredibly hard you work. So what is one way you unwind?
I throw a lot of solo dance parties. I like to read, but that sort of fits in to my “nature girl aesthetic” I guess.” I don’t have a ton of free time, and when I do, I’m usually making music. Oh, wait! This fall, I had two months to kind of hang, and I got my license and bought a motorcycle.
That’s amazing. Your tracks are layers and layers of samples and vocals, so where does it all begin?
A lot of it comes from playing around and working on a digital station, something I make on a plane or something I hear. A lot of creativity is just being playful and openminded.
What makes a good crowd at a show for you?
General open mindedness. I just got back from opening for HAIM, and they have amazing crowds and fans who, even if they didn’t know my music, were so open to receiving it. Also, just people who are nice to each other and respectful of each other. Sometimes crowds for giant popstars are so stressed about getting as close as possible to the person, you know? They almost become a commodity, and people aren’t as nice then.
Do you prefer festivals or intimate gigs?
They’re so different! Festivals feel like adult summer camp; they were so cool for me because I got to make friends with other artists, which came slower for me as a solo artist. People are always really open there, but it’s kind of weird because people float in and out. Their engagement is way different. Maybe they’re just curious about your music or they’re a fan. The better thing is you’re with you’re friends. And festivals really bring people together and create a temporary community.
At a regular gig though, you know everyone is there to see you. There’s a different intension; you have this relationship that feels so intimate, and it’s a really controlled environment.
What’s the last great record you listened to?
I’ve been obsessed with Kacey Musgraves’ album. That’s how I usually am with new music; I tend to find a record and obsess over it.
What’s something you’re looking forward to this summer?
Oh! I’m going to make a ton of new music videos because I have a lot of new music. I just love it; these are going to be so much fun, too, because I have some friends in them.
Any advice for young girls who want to make it in music?
I’d say my tips are not just for women but anyone who’s young: Educate yourself because knowledge is power.
Rogers’ is releasing a new single on July 27th, but until then, you’ve got some homework to do. Devour her EP and most recent track, ‘Give A Little’