She propelled into the limelight with the help of a guy you might have heard - he goes by the name of Pharrell Williams. Yes, if you've read or heard anything at all about the 23 year old Maggie Rogers from rural Maryland, it's sure to be that she was plucked from a music school masterclass by the N.E.R.D mastermind himself. But what exactly makes this talented lady so special and why are critics and fans loosing it simultaneously over her?
Said to have started playing the harp from a young age, Rogers seemed to have a knack from the get go for music. She grew her repertoire over the years to include piano, guitar and other instruments but it was the banjo that she would claim was her main form of musical connection. With the banjo as her instrument of choice, she wrote folk songs and made the outdoors, her favourite place, her arena.
Rogers won the Berklee College of Music songwriting contest while she was attending the summer program after her junior year of high school. She got creative in her sophomore year with a broom closet - fashioned one into a make shift recording studio where she recorded her first album The Echo, released May 2012 and followed up with Blood Ballet, released in July. It was these demos that she included in her application to New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
During her masterclass discussion with Pharrell, she described a time after this where she just lost interest in music, was going through some things and had some time to just develop as a person. She studied abroad in France in 2015 for a semester where she discovered electronic music and a love for the art. As described by her, it was a very spiritual experience and something so unnatural and artificial to her became something that gave her that fire again. Her aim from then? To make music, combining the natural sounds she picked up from years hiking the outdoors as a backbone and the energy from dance music.
That defining moment for her was the session where Pharrell was bought in to critique the students at her school. It was the youtube clip of per performance of Alaska, a song she wrote in 15 minutes about walking off a failed romance on a hiking trip, that took her and her first two albums to viral sensation. Rolling Stone Magazine called her "Pharrell's New Folk Pop Protoge" and critics were going nuts. It takes a lot to make a guy like Pharrell speechless.
In a recent interview with Monster Children before her packed afternoon set at Splendour in The Grass, she talked about her journey, her adjustment to touring and how much adrenaline she gets from performing - so much so, she feels the need to do these long runs afterwards to burn off the energy. Seeing her live recently later that weekend I was intrigued as to what exactly everyone was raving about - sure I was hooked from the first listen of her songs late last year, but I'm often cautious of anyone with an instant success in this social media day and age - are they just an overnight wonder or is there more than a great photo or a good clip? Look at some of the other acts on the splendour line up this year for example. As I watched this 23 year old dance around the stage with an exuberant youth, I kind of got it. I'm sure she is aware on a level how good she is but she has this air of naivety which is unassuming these days. She isn't a born pop star in the likes of a Talyor or Britney, I'm not sure if she ever wanted to be, but she has the talent. She also has this awareness of the world that makes her mature and human like - not so unattainable, and incredibly likeable. Someone compared her to Florence and the Machine in those early days which I have to shut down immediately- she is no born stadium filling voice that could bring your grandfather to tears, but she is something special in her own accord. There is nothing artificial about her, no filters, no pretending. It certainly makes her presence so welcoming in the music industry and general society too. Keep and eye on this space because the girl's got wings and she is set to fly!