Maggie Rogers writes her songs, plays her songs, produces her songs. On her terms. In her time.
This should not be a surprise, even without hearing her confident, slightly sinuous electro-pop songs which position her somewhere between Lorde and The xx.
Yes, she may be 23, has only released a handful of EPs, that began as banjo-led folk, and only recently started racking up the gigs after being chased by major labels through 2016, but there’s something straightforward and without any rancour about her approach: Rogers stays in control.
“I don’t know if my role as a producer make sense all not but it’s just what I do. I just a very strong vision about what I want to create and the work I do to create it,” says Rogers, who grew up in Maryland, studied in New York and Paris, and is about to tour Australia for the first time.
“I don’t think I ever took control; I just think I never gave it to anybody else. I think inevitably, that’s what separates performers and artists.”
It’s this attitude, more than the much viewed approbation from Pharrell Williams when he visited NYU and heard her song Alaska, which marks Rogers as likely to survive this first flush of attention.
In that video, watched more than two million times on Youtube, Williams is stunned by the quality of the song but also the emotion. Getting both of those elements – the mechanical and the human – right has been an obsession of Rogers for some time.
She grew up she says without much TV or access to the Internet, letting “the beauty of boredom”, and craft and focus fire her creativity.
“I started writing songs in middle school [years 7-9] as a way to cope with my emotions and it became a part of my mental health, and that’s exactly what art is and does,” Rogers says.
She wrote poetry and prose outside music as well but “music is so good” as a way of saying “I’m here”. And that declaration was not necessarily about shouting this to the world, but at least as much about affirming it to herself.
Without planning it says Rogers, her creative process sees “producing” happening while she’s “writing”: the arrangements and sounds developing as the song is constructed. It’s “one complete idea” that inevitably is driven all the way by her, which probably explains why she finds questions of her being in control, or not letting go of control, odd.
“I also went to college for it,” she points out. “I put a lot of time and effort into my education into this exactly. I studied the music industry, I studied engineering, I did production, I have a degree in English literature. I’ve been very focused on doing this and I’ve also worked very hard two getting better at it.”
If you’re a 22-year-old walking into a room with a bunch of 40-year-olds, probably all men, who are bidding for your talent and your future, it pays to come in with more behind you than starry eyed dreams.
“The thing is, I really care. I really care about my work, I really care about my craft. And I think what it comes down to is being able to speak the language of the industry I’m in and make informed choices.”
And then, just as it all seems practical, Rogers adds that “I kind of feel like I’ve been trying to do this for 200 lifetimes, and this is just the one it wound up”.
Wait. What? How would she know though? The series of bizarre coincidences and good fortune that have fallen her way - “too many things have gone to exactly right” - she reckons suggest something else at play.
“Well, this is my way of trying to understand it anyway.”