Maggie Rogers: Our New VBF

Singer-songwriter has a voice that’s as distinctive on record as it is in real life – it’s about time we properly listened

Maggie Rogers is scheduled to play at The Academy in Dublin on February 15th next.

Maggie Rogers is scheduled to play at The Academy in Dublin on February 15th next.

 

When it comes to Maggie Rogers, Irish fans are currently in a sweet spot. Heard It In A Past Life, her first album to be released on a major label, but her third overall, was released on January 18th, and on February 15th she is scheduled to play at The Academy in Dublin.

This is the ideal amount of time between an album’s release and a headlining gig, because it gives fans enough listens to become acquainted with the new tunes while they’re still so fresh that the live setting can transform their meaning entirely.

Rogers is a 24-year-old singer-songwriter from rural Maryland. While she has a background in folk music with a particular preference for the banjo, she had what she describes as a “spiritual experience” with dance music when she studied abroad in France, and things changed. Heard It In A Past Life is a collection of alt-pop power hits that have the energy to set you up for a gym session or a night in, spent warbling over a bottle of wine with pals as your dinner simmers over the hob. Or, if you need it, her music can accompany you as you cry your eyes out. With such versatility, Rogers has what it takes to be our VBF.

For musicians, going viral can be a blessing that eventually winds up as a curse. That kind of success can be a flash in the pan; good for paying next month’s bills but damning for the next direction you want to take in your career. Three years ago, Rogers went viral when she sat next to Pharrell Williams for a Masterclass session in New York University, where she studied English and Recorded Music at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute.

Maggie Rogers (24) is a singer-songwriter from Maryland. While she has a background in folk music, she had what she describes as a “spiritual experience” with dance music when she studied abroad in France, and things changed.
Maggie Rogers (24) is a singer-songwriter from Maryland. While she has a background in folk music, she had what she describes as a “spiritual experience” with dance music when she studied abroad in France, and things changed.

As she played a demo of her song Alaska, his facial expressions during those few minutes went from impressed to dumbfounded, and he snuck glances at Rogers, as she nodded out her own drum sequences, and then at her classmates in disbelief. To amaze someone who listens to thousands of demos every year and has to answer texts and calls from Justin Timberlake – who I imagine is a divil with emojis – whenever he’s making a new album, is a huge endorsement of her talent.

Big songs

Thankfully, Rogers success isn’t a viral flash in the pan. As lead producer and songwriter on Heard It In A Past Life, she is joined by pop magic makers such as Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Kelly Clarkson, Tegan and Sara, and Beck), Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Kid Harpoon (Jessie Ware, Mabel, Years & Years and Lykke Li) who helped her share her stories by layering folk harmonies with drum machines and synths, creating big songs that you can get lost in. Light On and Back In My Body deal with her sudden push into the limelight, a subject she turns into something more universally experienced.

Along with this new level of fame, she’s had to deal with some unoriginal and sexist questions in the media. When she was in Ireland for Electric Picnic last September, she took justified umbrage with an unnamed radio interviewer who asked her “1) Is Pharrell a cool guy? 2) Will you text an ex-boyfriend on camera for us? 3) Give us a hug”, to which she replied (via Twitter) “f*ck you dude, at least shake my hand while you’re ignoring my music”. This sort of retort proves that Rogers has a voice that’s as distinctive on record as it is in real life and it’s about time that we properly listened.

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