i-Q: maggie rogers shares her hopes, dreams, and fears
She shot to fame as the girl who made Pharrell lose it to her song 'Alaska,' but the Maggie Rogers story is just beginning. As she readies her debut EP, we sit down with the 22-year-old singer-songwriter to ask her questions that make her think, laugh...
"I feel like this is my popstar day, it's just ridiculous," says Maggie Rogers, hunched over a cortado in a trendy East London hotel. Ferried from interview to interview by a group of iCal wielding label reps, it's little wonder the 22-year-old hasn't managed to catch her breath. "It's all happened so fast and crazy. It's like something you see in movies, you know?"
Of course, Maggie's path to burgeoning international stardom — sold out shows, the "new Lorde" tag, a slot in the BBC's much coveted Sound of Poll — wasn't the usual schlepping your demo around open mic nights. Rising to fame after footage of a visibly moved Pharrell Williams listening to her song "Alaska" went viral earlier this year, she is the girl weaving a highly-idiosyncratic blend of folk and electronica — a marriage that stems from her rural upbringing in The Eastern Shore of Maryland and a love of dance music, triggered following a "really spiritual experience" with the genre in France.
"I'm excited to be releasing my music," she tells us. "I've been sitting on it for-ev-er and now it's finally time." Not so fast, Maggie. We have a few questions to ask you first.
If you were to be abandoned on a desert island, what three things would you take with you?
I would take… Wait. Are these fun things or survival things?
It would probably be wise to take both.
Alright, I'll bring a guitar so I have something to do. I'd bring a flint, for fire. And I would bring rope.
It's just important for building shelter. I'm a hiker! I'm like, 'okay, what are my practical things I always have?' I would bring rope. Or maybe a canteen bag, because you can't carry water. No, I'd bring an iron pot. Flint, an iron pot, and a guitar. Final answer.
Do you keep a diary?
Yes. I've been trying to write as much as possible these days. I always write my dreams down. They kind of reflect what's going on in my mind anyway, but consciously trying to remember them every night has made me a lot better at it. I get excited to go to sleep. Anything could happen!
What's the last dream that you can remember?
I was just going for a run. I've been in airplanes and cars so much that I got to go on my favorite running trip and I was just at steady state the whole time. It was real nice.
What would you most like to change about the world?
That's such a big question!
I wish people believed in the good in each other. I think that would take care of a lot of different problems. People would be nicer, people would probably have a lot more respect for the environment, people would probably feed people who were hungry, we would have a lot more equality.
What would you most like to change about yourself?
What do I want to change… No! I'm trying this new thing where I just accept who I am. So, no! No!
Have you ever pretended to be someone else in the mirror?
I used to stand in the mirror and pretend to have conversations with people I was thinking about. I would get really deep into this fake conversation I was having in the mirror and then think, "What the fuck am I doing?" But I think that inevitably leads into songwriting because it's like living in a story, a little bit. It's not a real conversation.
When was the last time you had a row?
That's a good question. I dunno... I'm pretty peaceful.
Do you meditate?
I'm really into meditation. I think that's how I connect hiking and dance music.
Yeah! I feel like my music weaves together folk and dance. Or at least that was my intention. So I grew up hiking and I love being outside and I can answer your desert island question very practically. But then there's a part of me that loves to dance and loves to go out and loves the electricity of being in a city. I find hiking to be very meditative because when you're walking, you find a consistent rhythm. Same thing with dance music. For so long I never really understood why anyone would listen to a ten minute house song and then I sort of was able to find the mantra in it and the meditation within the rhythmic pattern. It's just the coolest thing. When I'm hiking my rhythm is matching the terrain and when I'm dancing it's matching the beat. They're both very much meditation for me.
Would you look like if you were an alien?
I would be green. I initially pictured that sort of silicone, glow in the dark texture. And my head would be kind of wider and I would have four or five eyes. And maybe pink hair. Or blue hair! No, I want it to be pink. And I'd have six fingers. But I would wear sneakers.
If it wasn't for music, what on earth would you be doing with your time?
I would probably either be working on a farm or teaching English.
What sort of farm would you work on?
There are all of these sorts of programs where you can just like go and work or volunteer. I dunno what specific crop I'd be working in but I know that I would be outside.
What's your greatest ambition?
I want to tell the truth. And I want to make music forever.
Do you have any phobias?
You're not scared of anything?
I'm fearless! No, I'm scared of time passing. That's the only thing that consistently freaks me out. Then I realize I can't do anything about it. But snakes, spiders, I like those things! I think they're just cool.
Is Pharrell as nice as he looks or is it all an act?
That's such a weird question! You have literally seen my entire interaction with Pharrell. That's it. He has perfect skin!
What do you think he puts on it? Do you think there's some sort of dark magic going on?
No, he seems very pure. Probably something very organic.
What was going through your head when you were playing him "Alaska"?
Well, first of all there's nothing more uncomfortable than listening to your music in front of your peers. One of the most important influences on my left. A camera crew in front. It was fucking terrifying! Listening to your own music with your friends there's this whole internal monologue like, "Don't be too into it. Act like you like it a little. Be kind of into it but not too into it." So I pretty much just picked a spot on the floor and was like, there's my spot. Then I started to see his foot tap and I could sort of feel the energy from my classmates and I was like, "What's happening?" I've only seen the video once and I was shocked when I saw it because I wasn't looking at him, I was looking at the floor. It was strangely uncomfortable but also strangely comfortable.
How about your new single "Dog Years." What's all that about?
I sort of decided the afterlife was a metaphor for what happens after you graduate. Like, when school's over, suddenly there's this void when life happens. So, it's kind of like the afterlife in that you hear all these rumors about what's going to happen to you but you're not really sure till you get there. So I wrote it for a friend, for a roommate, everyone I knew who had this fear.
What do you think happens when you die?
I think I believe in reincarnation. It's like a principal in science, right? That energy is neither destroyed nor created. I find that a comforting idea. That you've had past lives and been to other places and are constantly improving on yourself.
What would you like to be reincarnated as?
Probably a bird. I just think that it would be so different from human. Hollow bones, you know?
If you could do anything without fear of repercussion, what would you do?
Woah! That's the best question yet.
We were saving it.
I don't know. I'm going to think about it.
We're near the end, you don't have very long.
I'm trying to think of what repercussions I'm scared of. Or what repercussions hold me back. Like, what repercussion do I wish I were not there? Maybe, I'd steal a plane. I'd have to know how to drive it but I was just trying to think what would be so fun to do by myself.
John Travolta can do it, it's probably not that hard.
Well, you can learn how, you can go to flying school. But the repercussion would be, she doesn't know how to fly, she crashes. And I'd get in trouble for stealing the plane. Maybe I'd just like to borrow a plane.
Where would you fly to?
I'd just fly around. Or maybe I'd sneak into the Met at night.
You could fly to the Met. And be alone with Degas.
Finally, can you describe yourself in four words?
Text Matthew Whitehouse