Maggie Rogers interview: ‘I’ve learnt tips on how to make noise’

Whenever Maggie Rogers had a overwhelm on any individual at school, she’d inform them to their face. “I felt like if they knew everything,” the 28-year-old musician says, “then they couldn’t hurt me. I’ve always been that way in my songwriting, too. When you wear your heart on the outside, no one can hurt it. Because I’m in control of giving it up.”

Rogers radiates regulate, wielding it identical to another tool. It’s in her wailing harmonies, which ricochet into lush, surprising contours but by no means as soon as turn out to be erratic. It’s how, in a fame-making video from 2016, her gaze stayed locked determinedly to the ground when she performed her tune “Alaska” for an awestruck Pharrell Williams, who noticed within the then-22-year-old NYU scholar a long term famous person. And it’s there in individual, too, Rogers guidance the dialog with authority and straightforwardness. She is each affable and protected right away. Earnest and cynical. Wide open and withholding. A grasp of suspense.

It’s June, and we’re within the busy front room of a central London resort. Rogers is tucking right into a bowl of hen salad, and insisting I take a look at the squash and feta. We’re speaking about God. “Studying religion is just studying power,” she explains. “It’s how people create meaning. How we come together.” When she toured in 2019, she spotted her fanatics saved asking her large, unanswerable questions on lifestyles and morality. “I was like… whoa, I trained to be an artist. I worked really hard to be good at writing and producing records. I didn’t think about that other stuff.” Critics would name her reside presentations virtually divine in nature: Rogers wild and airy, her target market stuck up in Elysian rapture. “There’s plenty of data on young people turning away from traditional religion, because it hasn’t kept up with social progress. But people still want to be part of something bigger than themselves. For me, I’ve always found that in music, so I’m not shocked other people find that in music, too. I just wanted to know more about what’s happening there. What is that relationship?”

Adrift within the pandemic, Rogers enrolled in Harvard Divinity School. She graduated in May with a grasp’s level in faith and public lifestyles, her paintings revolving across the spirituality of public gatherings – like concert events – and the ethics of energy in popular culture. “I really believe my job is to feel as strongly and as powerfully as I can,” she says. “And to report back on what that experience was like for me. If I can do that, I can maybe help someone else feel their way through life, or make art to help them make sense of something.”

Relatable issues have at all times underpinned Rogers’s paintings – her 2019 major-label debut Heard It in a Past Life housed stories of romantic denial and crying in the toilet – however are speeded up on her new report. Surrender is tight, swaggering, attractive, playful, regretful and sentimental. At instances it feels trapped, in step with its mid-pandemic recording. Rogers ruminates on buddies, fans and previous scars all of sudden picked at once more. Then it erupts into superb euphoria. The manufacturing turns into a wall of noise. Rogers’s vocals are all wealthy exhortations and cathartic abandon.

It additionally feels autobiographical. Vulnerable. “I’ve got all this anger trapped so deep inside that started burning the summer my heroes died,” she sings at the glossy, Bowie-referencing “Shatter”. “I told you I loved you when we were just friends” – she admits at the roaring unmarried “That’s Where I Am” – “You kept me waiting and I hated you then.” On the pleading “Symphony,” she turns out to grapple together with her personal flaws: “I know there’s times when I can be a lot to handle and I’m working with a therapist to take care of it.”

I spent a very long time having to persuade other folks I in reality wrote my very own tune … I imply, the volume of instances I were given [told], ‘I love that song Pharrell made for you!’

I wish to ask her about a few of these. Is she in treatment? Her expression shifts. “Isn’t everyone?” Yeah, numerous other folks, I say. How has treatment helped her, even though? “I think therapy’s a good thing for everyone,” she says. “And so much of my therapy is art. It’s really the way that I think and move through the world.” But does she have a real individual she talks to? “Can I ask why you’re pushing me so hard about whether or not I have a therapist? It feels pretty personal.”

The air is going out of the room. I feel we’ve crossed wires. I inform her it used to be simply one of the vital strains at the report that struck me, that felt specifically human and fair. I learn the lyric again to her. Does she really feel like she’s so much to take care of? “I don’t feel the need to explain the lyric.” That’s completely honest, I say. “It’s super vulnerable,” she consents. “I’m trying to think. What can I tell you about that lyric? Do I think I’m a lot to handle? Like… sort of? But not more than anyone else. I’m not trying to be a diplomat either, I just think everyone went through a lot in the pandemic. I would tell you that any of the people I’ve lived with during a traumatic crisis were a lot to handle. And I’m sure I was, too.”

I say that asking about her lyrics can have been the unsuitable means. “I’m happy to elaborate on lyrics,” she says, “but I don’t know if the right thing for me is to be, like, ‘this is specifically about this one conversation with this person’. That doesn’t feel interesting to me as a listener.”

She explains that Surrender is a report about “that sense of being alive”. It has no fastened narrator. No secure topic. “The ‘I’ is usually me, but the ‘you’ is always different,” she says. It’s why she writes in the second one individual (“You”) and infrequently – if ever – within the 3rd (“He”, “She”, “They”). “First of all, because I don’t want gender to be a part of the conversation, but also it means that the ‘you’ of it can shift for me all the time. Like this record is about a relationship, but it’s also about myself, and about my relationship to New York City. Sometimes I’m singing to a person, sometimes I’m singing to me.” Often she doesn’t have general readability about her paintings till she plays it reside. “Every night on tour, something else comes up [in it]. I’ll catch it and be, like, whoa – I didn’t even know that was in the song.”

We go back to our squash and feta. I ask if good fortune modified her. “I feel pretty similar to who I was,” she says. “As much as I could. I still feel pretty chill. My best friends are still my best friends from college.” Were they stunned when she blew up like she did? “I don’t think so. I think I was the most surprised. The way that it happened was surprising. But I’m a goal-oriented person. I always knew what I wanted.”

Her occupation, even though, is “so much bigger, weirder and cooler” than she ever can have imagined. “Success has given me a level of creative freedom where now I just get to make music and focus on art and have conversations with people in nice hotels.” She scans her atmosphere, respiring it in. “I’m really f***ing grateful that this is my life, and sort of shocked by how it all turned out. I’m 28, and when I was thinking about what I wanted for my life when I was starting my twenties, this is just kind of unfathomable. I’m trying to just enjoy it. I’ve watched so many people I love die over the last couple of years. It could be over tomorrow. I don’t want to sweat the small s***. Like, it doesn’t matter. I just want to enjoy the fact that I get to eat this beautiful f***ing squash and that someone wants to talk to me about my art.”

She shuffles in her seat and says she’s much more comfy than she was. When that Pharrell video used to be all over the place, she struggled. Record labels relentlessly courted her, and Heard It in a Past Life used to be recorded in simply two weeks. “It really stressed me out,” she recalls. “I found joy in it, but I was also knotted up in it. I spent a long time having to convince people I actually wrote my own music. Or that I actually was a producer. I mean, the amount of times I got [told], ‘I love that song Pharrell made for you!’ I have a f***ing college degree in music engineering and production. I started my career before #MeToo. It was sh***y.”

‘I felt on the defensive a lot of the time. I was ready to fight’

(Olivia Bee)

What did all of that spark in her? “I felt on the defensive a lot of the time. I was ready to fight, because I felt really backed into a corner. The whole thing was so sensational, and I didn’t feel like a person inside of it. My fists were up.”

And as of late? “Now I’m like…” She we could out a dramatic exhale. “It can’t hurt me. I mean, I’m sure it will again. I’m not saying I know how to do this perfectly. I’m just saying my approach is different. You can hear that in the music. My voice is bigger. I’ve learnt how to make noise. I figured out how to use my instrument.”

It’s just about time to wrap up. We speak about her vaguely surreal look on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch 3 days sooner than, and the compelled intimacy of interviews. Sensing there used to be just a little of hysteria previous, I say that I perceive the tangle of deciding what to proportion with the arena, and what to stay on the subject of your chest. “Totally,” she says. “But I also met you halfway, you know? It’s all good.” She hovers a second. “And isn’t it so much more interesting that way?”

‘Surrender’ is launched on 29 July

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