MAG­GIE ROGERS

Phar­rell’s new favourite artist might have the dirt on The Strokes and Ryan Adams, but she’s not telling.

Q (UK) - - Contents - CHRIS CATCHPOLE

Phar­rell’s new favourite singer goes for the chicken and chips. Good choice…

When Q ar­rives at the restau­rant in­side Lon­don’s Ace Ho­tel, Mag­gie Rogers is al­ready halfway through a hearty por­tion of roast chicken, mashed potato, gravy and, for good mea­sure, a side or­der of chips. The 24- year-old singer may be able to pol­ish off a chicken din­ner with ad­mirable swift­ness but it turns out gas­tro­nomic ex­ploits aren’t cur­rently very high on Roger’s agenda. “I don’t re­ally care about food,” she chirps, catch­ing the wait­ress’s eye to or­der an al­mond milk cap­puc­cino. “I’m hap­pi­est when some­one else is choos­ing my meal be­cause I’ll eat what­ever.” Rogers has had plenty of other things to fo­cus on re­cently. In Jan­uary, she’ll re­lease her new al­bum – an ef­fer­ves­cent blend of sun-dap­pled pop melodies and bub­bling elec­tron­ica, it caps off a whirl­wind two years. In 2016, a video of NYU mu­sic stu­dent Rogers play­ing her home­work as­sign­ment to sur­prise guest lec­turer Phar­rell Wil­liams went vi­ral. The song, a ping-pong of twin­kling elec­tron­ics and feather-light vo­cals called Alaska, left the hit-maker jaw-agape. “I have zero, zero notes for that,” he mur­mured. “I’ve never heard any­one like you be­fore and I’ve never heard any­thing like that.” Cue a line of record la­bels ea­ger to snap up “Phar­rell’s new favourite singer”. It’s a great story, for sure – un­known stu­dent whisked away for a life of fame af­ter a chance dis­cov­ery by a su­per­star bene­fac­tor – but one that doesn’t tell the whole story. Rogers had al­ready self-re­leased two al­bums un­der her own steam and was play­ing live in New York in var­i­ous guises, in­clud­ing as part of a punk band, a folk group, a freestyling/DJ combo and a “synth French disco” out­fit. “Peo­ple say shit like, ‘Oh, I love that song Phar­rell wrote for you’,” she says, pick­ing off a stray chip. “Peo­ple love these overnight sto­ries, but it’s im­por­tant for kids who want to be­come artists or who are work­ing their way and putting the work in, to know that I worked re­ally hard for this. Yeah, I’m young, but I’ve been work­ing for 10 years for this.” She smiles. “You know, I do have a de­gree in this.” Her forth­com­ing al­bum is the cul­mi­na­tion of a life­time de­voted to mu­sic. Af­ter study­ing banjo and harp as a child in ru­ral Mary­land, Rogers begged her par­ents to send her to ar­tis­ti­cally minded board­ing school St An­drew’s in Delaware. It’s the place that pro­vided the idyl­lic set­ting for Robin Wil­liams’s 1989 com­ing-of-age flick, Dead Po­ets So­ci­ety. “It’s to­tally like that in real life,” she beams. “It’s amaz­ing. It’s like Peter Pan school. There were no cell phones, no in­ter­net, no TV. At 18, I’d be play­ing cards in the din­ing hall on a Satur­day night.” It meant the move to Man­hat­tan to study was a bit of a cul­ture shock. Awed by the mu­si­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties the city had to of­fer, she pro­cured a fake ID to go to as many shows as pos­si­ble. While there, she also landed an in­tern­ship to work on mu­sic jour­nal­ist Lizzy Good­man’s book doc­u­ment­ing the early 2000s New York rock scene, Meet Me In The Bath­room. The gig in­volved three-and-a-half years metic­u­lously tran­scrib­ing in­ter­views with the likes of The Strokes, In­ter­pol and Karen O. “It was the best ed­u­ca­tion I could have re­ceived as a mu­si­cian,” Rogers says. “It also means I’ve got a ton of fuck­ing dirt on them. I got plenty of se­crets about The Strokes and Ryan Adams, but I’m sworn to se­crecy.” Cof­fees cleared away, Q won­ders if Rogers has any in­ter­ests out­side of mu­sic. “I bought my­self a mo­tor­cy­cle and went to mo­tor­cy­cle school last year,” comes the sur­prise an­swer. “Maybe that’s why I haven’t cooked any­thing since I left col­lege. I chose the mo­tor­cy­cle over food!” Cook­ing will have to wait. Right now Mag­gie Rogers has more than enough on her plate.

“I haven’t cooked any­thing since I left col­lege. I chose the mo­tor­cy­cle over food!”

Rea­sons to be cheer­ful: Mag­gie Rogers, Ace Ho­tel, Lon­don, 2018.

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