Maggie Rogers always pictured herself "making it" in the music world, just not at 22. The self-described "banjo player from rural Maryland" was studying music at NYU when she inexplicably decided to give it all up in order to go hike in France. Rather than pull her away from music, the two years she spent off from music brought her closer to it. Equally in awe of the nature around her and the French dance music she heard in clubs, she returned to NYU with the desire to create something that combined them both. One of the resulting songs, "Alaska,"does just that, weaving an ethereal, earthy sound into a pop-driven, empowering chorus ("I walked off you and I walked off an old me").
Fame came unexpectedly a little less than a year ago, after a video of an emotional Pharrell listening to one of her songs during an NYU master class went viral. "Wow," he says after the song ends. "I have zero notes." He applauds her "singular" sound and raw talent, equating her music to "a drug" and comparing her uniqueness to the Wu-Tang Clan. The Internet, it seems, agreed. The video of that class has since been viewed 2.4 million times — and her independent career has taken off.
Her music video for "Alaska " hasgarnered 3.5 million views and her newest one, "On and Off" — released just two weeks ago — more than half a million. But while Rogers is grateful for the video that catapulted her into the spotlight, she's determined to keep her feet on the ground. "I've seen [that] video once," she says. "But I've been really careful to make sure that my experience does not become one where I'm watching myself from outside of my body."
A day before the release of her initial EP, I talked to Maggie about the very first song she wrote, the power of vulnerability, and the best piece of advice she has thus far: "Don't fuck with the coven." (Plus she's shared some exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the set of her music videos with us!)
ABBY HAGLAGE: You've had an insane couple of months. Almost overnight you went from being a student at NYU to releasing your first EP, performing on The Tonight Show, and launching a world tour. What does it feel like to be Maggie Rogers?
MAGGIE ROGERS: I'm really focused in the moment, so sometimes I have difficulty taking in the big picture. But I've only wanted to make music my entire life, and I guess I always expected there to be a significant amount of change after graduating from college — but I never really expected my life to change this drastically. It has been crazy and wild and unexpected. I'm having a blast.
AH: Now That the Light is Fading is your first EP, but you've been writing songs since you were 13. What was your musical background like?
MR: Nobody in my family is musical, so it's kind of a strange thing. The first song I ever wrote was in second grade to make my brother laugh. He had this thing about the pickle in the middle of the jar, so I wrote two verses and a rap section — it was silly. But I have really incredible, supportive parents, and music was something that felt so urgent for me from such a young age.
AH : So was it through other artists that you became inspired, listening to them?