Foto-© Olivia Bee
Die Blätter hängen noch grün in den Bäumen und die Sonne scheint über die Spree, als wir Maggie Rogers zum Gespräch über ihr neues Album in Berlin treffen. Mit Heard It In A Past Life scheint diese charismatische, junge Dame wirklich ihre Stimme gefunden zu haben. Sie wollte einfach Ja sagen, erzählt sie. Ja zu sich und zu ihrem eigenen Ding, das sie auf ihre eigene Art und Weise und ohne Zeitdruck durchgezogen hat. Vom Image des Pharrell-Girls hat sie sich mit dieser Platte auf jeden Fall endgültig gelöst..
It’s been a while since you’ve been introduced as the Pharrell-girl and that’s surely not needed any longer. Can you grasp the ride you’ve been on in the last two years?
It’s mostly what my record is about. It’s about change and this giant transition that happened in my life. My private life became public very quickly and very much out of my control. I was really overwhelmed and scared at first, but at the same time was kind of living my dream and figuring out how to do it – in a way that felt like me. It’s been complicated emotions, but I’ve worked through a lot of that in the record and now I feel at peace with it. I always thought about an album as a record of a period of time and used them to catalogue my life in a way. Because of all of that, the record feels like this really special celebration of all the work and all the change.
Holding this big thing, that got you back into a balance point.
Mmh yes! Back in my body, the last song on the record, is about taking some kind of ownership of all this. So much happened to me, that it’s really nice to now feel like I can do it for just myself and enjoy it.
Have you ever felt like it’s all getting too much and you’re losing control? Because if you look at the videos for instance, it looks like you know exactly what you want to do!
All of it! I do though, and I always have known what I wanted to do. But the way it all happened..
Just all a little too fast?
Yeah, you can tell from the video that I like making music. But it’s often alone and quiet or being with my friends.. So much of having a career in music is so little about music. I think that was the biggest surprise of all of this. I didn’t think that if I was to become a professional musician, I’d spend much less time making music. But I’m really grateful to get to do all these things. It’s a process and work doesn’t always have to be fun. But the good news is, that it’s affording this thing that feeds me. And that’s all I can ask for.
You mentioned the album being half done in your documentary and now Heard It In A Past Life, your debut, is out soon via Capitol Records. When did you decide that it was time for a whole album? That you were ready for it?
I was working on the record, writing and recording it, for about four months. I had these songs that I had been working on over the course of a little bit of time. Like Back in my Body I started working my way through, while I was on that trip. But basically, I toured for a whole year after I graduated and then last August decided to take two months off, because I didn’t know what was going on. It takes time to be quiet to be loud, I think. After all this giant change happened, I had to figure out who I was and what I had to say. That’s the thing, I always wanted to be very purposeful with my music. When I listen to music, words are the first thing I hear, always. And I want to mean what I say. After that year, I didn’t really know what to say. I was overwhelmed and coming down from it and trying to take it all in. I also moved all my stuff back to my parent’s house in Maryland, because with all the touring I basically didn’t stay at my apartment in New York any longer. Suddenly I was writing songs and playing the guitar in my childhood bedroom, where I grew up writing. It felt like if I blinked, nothing happened. It was just as easy for all of this to just be a crazy dream as it was for it to be totally real.
Full speed, thrown directly into it. Alongside this new thing called fame?
Everyone talks about my story like this fairy-tale. It’s very idealistic and makes it easier to understand. Everybody wants to believe this Cinderella story, but it’s much more difficult to go through than that.
I was really overwhelmed and scared and I’ve spent a lot of time not knowing if I was gonna do this. It’s crazy, because it was the dream. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is make music and suddenly I have the opportunity to do it. There were so many expectations on who I would be or who I would become. That time graduating from college is hard for everyone, it’s a crazy life transition no matter if you’re suddenly thrown in front of thousands of people or not. I just needed a second to process and make decisions that felt like me. Now that I’ve had a second to regroup, I finally feel like I get to do this in my terms and in my way. Fame and all that stuff, that’s nothing I’ve ever wanted. I still don’t want that part. Well it’s not that I don’t want it, but I want the job you know? Realistically what I get to do is form a community and spend time bringing people together. And that is really special. And every time I get to talk to a fan, they’re just really cool. In music you don’t get to choose your fans, they choose you in a lot of ways and it’s really special, that the people my music is resonating with are people who I would naturally be friends with anyway and get along with. To feel that connected to all these like-minds and using music to do that across the world is really special.
If you look at your social media, it’s super refreshing. Because it’s so natural. And you spread this infectious warmth and positivity. I wonder how that’s got to do with it. Instagram and the likes can be such a perfection selling spiral..
Yes! And thank you! Ha spiral, yes I like that. It’s not reality though..
Yes, but sometimes you get it sold to you as if it was.
It’s interesting. As a culture right now, we’re completely obsessed with storytelling. As humans we’ve told stories since the beginning of our time and that’s how music and art got created. But now everyone has a mechanism to do it every day. But how do you tell the story of real life? I don’t know, sometimes there are two sides to Instagram. Super glossy and perfection like you said and then there’s anti Instagram, which is ‘Check out my pimple’ and ‘I so don’t care so much’. We’re being very ironic and in the end they’re both cool in their way. But you can be all those things. I’m just trying to make decisions on a daily basis that feel like me. And that’s enough work for one day.
What I learned with music is that I can be all the things. Because I like it or I’m drawn to it in some way, that inherently makes it me. I don’t have to identify with some greater thing. I think that’s what streaming services are kind of about too. People are no longer defined as listening to punk music and therefore being a punk.
People can like all kinds of music and find their unique diverseness.
It’s probably the coolest thing about our generation. Everyone I know work freelance and everyone I know has like six jobs. We are evolving and life is becoming more important than work and more than anything our work is fueling our life. I’m saying we, because I noticed it hanging out with my friends in Berlin yesterday. And they’re like my friends in LA and New York. People are full of passion and wanting to express everything. I mean I make music, but I also have a motorcycle and I’m really into mechanics.
I’ve got to admit, I didn’t expect that.
Yeah, that’s something I’ve spend loads of my time with this year. I went to motorcycle school and got a bike and I was never more creative than when I was going to motorcycle school. Because it meant that all day I couldn’t think about music and I got home and was craving it and wrote immediately. Someone told me this year, that the brain is like a leather jacket and if you have a hole in the elbow, the best way to fix it is by rubbing the shoulder. Like if you strengthen different parts of your brain, your entire brain gets stronger.
Apart from rewiring the brain, I guess it helps to focus on something else that takes away some pressure too, to keep creativity flowing.
Weather it’s reading or writing or painting or rock climbing, I don’t know. You can be a holistic person, maybe I want to spend a month learning more about math or science or maybe not. I just don’t want to be just one thing, because I’m not and neither are you. But music, that it does, it punctuates life and it’s the way I reflect on my life and understand my life. And that is a constant and consistent practice and something I feel called to do and love doing. And I’m only gonna do it as long as I love doing it. The goal at the end of this is not fame or anything of that stuff, it’s just living a beautiful life. And if I can spend my life’s work creating community and help people connect to each other, then that feels like a really wonderful thing.
Sounds like a beautiful purpose.
Right? That feels awesome.
And that’s fulfilling in the end.
Yes! And I think too, when I think about musicians or figures in politics or history, they stand for something and they’re interested in connecting to something greater than themselves. Those have always been the type of figures I’ve looked up to.
Is the sense of community what you want your listeners to take out of your music?
I mean they can get out of it whatever they want to. I want people to feel welcome and invited. So much of music is kind of exclusive.
Exclusive in what sense?
Let me think about that, that’s not very well articulated. A little bit too cool maybe?
Like a mask?
Yeah. Which also is fun, there’s a lot of freedom in having a persona. I make music under my name, but I’m sure I’ll be in bands again, like I’ve been before.
Let’s go back to the roots of the music you make now. You were a folk musician, when you experienced electronic dance music in a transformative way. In Berlin that was too, right?
I love Berlin, I’m so inspired by the city and the environment. The friends I have here always make me feel very at home. I always jump right into life here. It’s nice to get here and immediately feel like part of life here. The culture in Berlin around dance music is really respectful. People really care about music and they also really respect the experience of dancing. My experience has been too, that people really support each other in that moment. Everyone gives each other the space to dance and to move and there’s quite a lot of freedom and care. Like nobody gets in each others face. No excess whatsoever, just sneakers and a t-shirt and loud music.
It’s about dancing. As simple as that.
It’s really that. It’s the release. Everyone gets to let go and gets supported in letting go and being free. That is just so special. And until then I didn’t know that it could be like that. When I came to Berlin, I finally understood it. And it seriously, seriously changed my life and redirected everything. I realized how important rhythm was. I wanted to play a show where you could move, where people could connect emotionally but also have the space to physically move off some of those things.
And be themselves..
It seems that with every show you’re playing your outfits become more colourful and you’re
wearing more glitter on your face. Is this something you’ve just gotten into or have the outfits been hiding in your wardrobe waiting to be taken out?
It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot and something I think I’m gonna move away from. The whole time I’ve been touring I’ve been wearing these crazy costumes. Since I’ve come out of college and making pop music, I was wearing all these capes and glitter and stuff. It was so much fun at first, but I think it was a little bit of a defence mechanism too. Like a way to have an element of fantasy, becoming this crazy person on stage. Because I played in bands before, I got excited to think about what happens to my body, when I don’t have an instrument attached? And that was a special challenge that also got me focused on entertaining and performing. I don’t know if I’m gonna keep on wearing them, but I’m scared to let people down. Maybe they’ll be disappointed, when I come out in jeans and t-shirt. But then the only thing I can do is really be myself and be present in that process. All I wanna do is be the most authentic and full version of myself.
Maggie Rogers Tour:
27.02. Gloria Theater, Köln
28.02. Kesselhaus, Berlin
02.03. Zoom, Frankfurt
04.03. Mojo Club, Hamburg