Interview with Maggie Rogers

Inside the mind of NYC's most lovable songstress

By: Jillian Dooley

July 29, 2014

"In [these songs], I find comfort, closure, excitement, peace and hope that those who listen may find some of the same."

On the heels of the release of her new album ‘Blood Ballet,’ I had the opportunity to interview singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers, a quirky 20-something who considers her songs to be creatures and her banjo to be a trusty sidekick. Fueled by movement and loss, Maggie’s music seems to have grown up alongside her, each album more intricate and more sophisticated than the last. Perhaps the Maggie who self-released her debut “The Echo” back in 2012 was less acquainted with heartbreak, the art of profanity, and the “blood ballet” that relationships can often be. However, we’re happy for the life and for the learning between her first record and her latest— ‘Blood Ballet’ is a near-perfect articulation of full-bodied pain, and that pain makes for some lovely sounds. Read on to hear what the folk singer has to say about her inspirations, her experiences, and her latest release:

Tell me about the first song you ever wrote and what inspired you to write it.

My first song actually started as a joke. I was at an all girls summer camp and it was a particularly rainy summer. Stuck in our cabin deep in the woods with no electricity, my friends and I started making up a verse about how the rain was never going to stop and how our cabin would crumble in a big flood.  When I came back to finish the song the next day, I started thinking about a time when it was sunny and thinking about a boy back home that I had been writing letters to that summer. When I started fusing emotion into the song, something just clicked.  

How much of your lyrics are based on real life experiences?

From that day in the cabin, my songwriting continued to grow and become an outlet for my whole bundle of middle school emotions. As I matured, so did my songwriting and the emotions and experiences that I was writing about. I choose not to go by a pseudonym because the music I write stems unwaveringly from personal experience. “James” is a real person that has influenced my life and so is the boy with the “Good Heart.”

How has studying at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU inspired or changed your music?

The biggest thing that the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music has offered me is exposure to new types of music and music makers. I’m from a small farm in Maryland and before NYU, was a self taught musician, producer, and studio engineer.  The past two years have been spent crafting my technical skills and identity as an artist. I have incredible respect for my teachers and peers and will forever be grateful for their influence.

What has been the biggest learning experience in your creative life so far?

I spent my first year in New York City writing and playing in a band. My first time in a band setting, I loved the experience of playing together and the camaraderie that came with touring and writing music collaboratively.  That being said, it also tested my self-awareness, my ability to understand my own creative drive and its fulfillment.

Tell me a little about the process of writing and recording ‘Blood Ballet.’ 

Blood Ballet is comprised of 9 songs, none of which were written together, written with a goal in mind, or written to be released together specifically. This record details my experiences in the two years since I left home for a new life in the city. I made some friends and lost some. I found some love and lost some. These songs document that period of time. In them, I find comfort, closure, excitement, peace and hope that those who listen may find some of the same. My musical feet firmly planted back on the ground, these songs are me moving on. Some songs were recorded at school, some recorded in Brooklyn – one even recorded on an iPhone next to my fireplace on Christmas morning. On “Blood Ballet,” my voice sounds a little older, the arrangements and ideas are fuller – you can hear what I’ve learned and what I’m still learning.