Artist Spotlight: Who Is Maggie Rogers

Cover photo by Chris Taylor

Every year there are a few names that you see popping up on all the major festival lineups across the country. This year one of those musicians is the one and only Maggie Rogers! Thrown into the national spotlight three years ago, Maggie is fresh off her first major label record release and backing it with a huge tour performing at iconic venues and festivals across the world. With Coachella already under her belt, Maggie’s summer tour is picking up speed and you’re not going to want to miss seeing her perform!

Early Life

Raised in the rural town of Easton, Maryland along the banks of the Miles River, Maggie Rogers began playing music at the young age of seven when she learned to play the harp followed by the guitar and piano. An early interest in classical and folk music, as well as the banjo, all helped shape Maggie’s early music and songwriting. During the summer after her junior year of high school, Maggie attended a Barkley College of Music program where she won the programs’ songwriting contest turning her focus to writing. During her senior year, she recorded her first folk album titled The Echo in a makeshift broom closet studio which she included in her application to New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. While attending college Maggie interned for a music journalist where she transcribed countless hours of interviews of major artists that would eventually be compiled and published in the 2017 book Meet Me In The Bathroom. In 2014 during her sophomore year in college, Maggie released her second album titled Blood Ballet, another emotion-packed folk album. Her big break would come in 2016 during one of her classes when a video of her playing her song “Alaska” to an emotionally moved Pharrell Williams went viral. A song that she wrote in only fifteen minutes about a month long hiking trip through Alaska. The video quickly reached millions of views launching her into the spotlight and leading to thousands of streams of her first two folk albums and an eventual professional record deal.

Professional Career

One of the biggest moments in Maggie’s career happened in college when she took a trip to Berlin that left her in love with the dance club culture of Europe inspiring her to add a pop twist to her folk banjo music. This helped her create the song “Alaska”, which led to her instant fame and shaped her music from here on out. Once thrown into the spotlight Maggie continued her songwriting, quickly released an EP titled Now That The Light Is Fading including her hit “Alaska”, “On + Off” and three other songs. Maggie also embarked out on a couple of tours across the country including one supporting the band Mumford & Sons. Maggie would continue touring and writing for two years preparing for the musical introduction she has been waiting for. At the start of this year, Maggie released her first major label album at the start of this year titled Heard It In A Past Life which debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard 200. This album features the hit songs from her earlier EP and new hit songs “Light On“ and “Give A Little”. This new album is now being backed by her own headlining tour and performances at some of this country’s biggest music festivals!

Redefining Herself

The transition from college student to hit musician was not necessarily an easy process for Maggie. Shortly after the video of her and Pharrell went viral Maggie moved away from her college apartment and back home then signed a new lease in Brooklyn and a major record deal. This was all going on while she was attempting to introduce these new pop elements into the folk music she knew so well and planning on setting out on tour. Her EP drew some criticism as she worked out how to blend both folk and pop elements into her music. Early interviews tended to focus on the moment with Pharrell which grew frustrating because Maggie had made so much more music than just that one moment. She also noticed a difference in how she was greeted professionally when the men she worked with received hand shakes and she received hugs. Maggie also had a moment during her early touring where she had a panic attack during a sound check and had to run off stage. This is a lot for a musician let alone for someone that wasn’t necessarily looking for it. Despite all the early challenges of adapting to constant touring and music industries high demands, Maggie was able to navigate through all the changes, found herself again, and is now set for the biggest year of her young career. Now after mastering her new sound, Maggie has an album, unlike anything she’s produced before. Her album Heard It In A Past Life is the debut she’s been waiting for. In an Interview with NPR about the release of her latest album Maggie stated,

“Realistically, the album is the introduction to me that I never got to make.”

(Heard It In A Past Life Album Cover)

This album displays her unique sound and is unlike anything ever produced before. She figured out how to blend the folk and pop sounds, cleaned up earlier songs, and put together a beautiful and emotionally packed album that shows the world who Maggie really is. An album that is so much more than the moment with Pharrell and captures who Maggie has become through all the changes she has faced. The album has seen a lot of early success including her song “Light On” displacing Mumford & Sons “Guiding Light” who she supported on tour earlier in her career. The success of this new album is propelling her into a summer tour bigger than anything she’s done before. A tour where she now knows how to handle herself professionally and deal with the demands of life on the road. She’s decided to save her hugs for her friends and family, not for her professional career. She’s coped with the constant touring and has discovered who she is and where she wants to go in life. Below is an elegant letter from Maggie to her fans about who she is and where she’s going.

Dear listening ears/reading eyes,

For a long time, I’ve introduced myself as a banjo player from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’m a hiker and an environmentalist. I’m an optimist. I’m loud.

I’m still all those things, but I went quiet for a few years. I cut my long hair short. I got a cat named Cat Stevens. I fell in love. I moved to New York, to France, and back. 

Inevitably, I found my space in the place between knowing who I was and finding out who I am.  

I’m a songwriter, producer, and performer from Brooklyn. I’m an optimist. I’m a feminist. I’m loud when I laugh. I’m freckled. I love my old jeans. I love pink eye shadow. I cry when I dance sometimes. I feel a lot, maybe too much, but in a song, it always seems to be just enough.

The thing about songs is that no matter how far away I go, or how long I stay away, they always seem to keep coming. And as wild and unpredictable as they are, I’ve learned to trust them. I write to feel and sing ’til I feel a new way.

I love the music most when it makes me feel human. Feet on the ground, soft hair, standing with my friends and, in three parts, singing. Feet off the ground, hair wild, moving to that perfect pulse that mimics your beat and mine. 

Sometimes I think it’s magic – this thing we can’t see, but makes us all feel the same way. When it’s real, it raises hair and makes the air taste sweeter.   

I want to make music forever. I want to tell the truth. I want to know how it feels to make the best art I possibly can. 

I can’t promise I won’t change or that I won’t fall in love with new people or ideas that’ll change the way I see the world, but I can promise to be me.

To be messy. To be flawed.

To be honest. To be open.

To be human. 

And of that, I won’t let you down. 






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