British singer/songwriter Maisie Peters discusses her latest singles “Daydreams,” “Sad Girl Summer” and more, how books have informed her songwriting, live shows, lockdown, and more. Catch up with one of our 2020 artists to watch!
There’s hardly any artists like Maisie Peters. It’s almost impossible to attribute her tremendous recent success to any one particular attribute. What is for certain though is that she’s got an unwavering determination to write songs that poignantly capture a mystifying range of entangled emotions. Whether she’s poignantly reflecting on heartache, ruminating on past relationships or reminding listeners to look out for themselves, Maisie Peters’ music is perpetually, unwaveringly comforting and enthralling.
Peters’ debut EP, 2018’s Dressed Too Nice for Nice for a Jacket, is both devilishly catchy and heart-achingly emotional. Then with the release of her brilliant second EP It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral, Maisie Peters firmly solidified herself as a multi-faceted modern-day pop star. Throughout both of her EPs, Peters has beautifully demonstrated that, regardless of production choices, her brutally candid and almost overwhelming resonant lyricism is always at the heart of whatever she does.
Following the release of her sophomore EP last year, Peters has treated her fans to four new songs this year, including the hauntingly beautiful ballad “Daydreams” and her incredible latest release “Sad Girl Summer.” The former sees Peters delve into the all-too-relatable feeling of unrequited love, with her serene vocals beautifully conveying the resonant emotions embodied with the wistful lyricism. Meanwhile, the latter serves as a refreshing reminder to let go of things that aren’t beneficial to your life, leaving more valuable space to celebrate and enjoy things that spark joy.
It’s another sad girl summer
Flowers on the side of the road
Traveling beside each other
No one has to dance on their own
Take my hand and
Lose his number
You don’t have to have another
Sad girl summer
Raise your glass, let it go
One of us is messy
She got dumped by he-who-won’t-be-mentioned
She’s vodka Coke unsteady
So we’re secretly staging an intervention
Change your shoes, get ready
That boy is such a loser
Put your hair up
And she pulls a chair up
Oh, pass your phone to the right (to the right)
Text an ex-love “goodbye”
The monumental difference between the lyrical sentiments embodied in both of those songs is a testament to Peters’ penmanship and willingness to explore the range of multifaceted emotions that we all come to encounter. Through distilling her own personal experiences, Peters manages to interpret her own impactful emotions into authentically honest music that invites the listener to interpret her music in their own way and take away something distinctly unique.
Atwood Magazine caught up with Maisie Peters to discuss her latest singles, what she’s been up to in lockdown, how books have inspired her sensational songwriting, and more!
There’s an analogy of songwriting being like, and bear with me on this, looking for fossils.
Stream: “Sad Girl Summer” – Maisie Peters
CATCHING UP WITH MAISIE PETERS
Atwood Magazine: Hey Maisie, great to catch up with you. To start us off, the video for “Sad Girl Summer” is incredible! What was it like to film and work on?
Maisie Peters: So fun!!!! I worked with the directors Pip and Lib to create this really hilarious, DIY universe where me and my real life best friends got to eat snacks and do face-masks and hate boys together, a.k.a the dream. Obviously, because of COVID we couldn’t actually shoot in the same room, so the directors FaceTimed us all individually to shoot; we then ended up with this big girl gang vibe when in fact we all live in totally different parts of the world! I feel like the video just totally reflects the great time we all had making it, and is the ultimate sad girl summer party!
The track itself is also amazing. What was the creative process like?
Maisie Peters: Also very fun (haha I notice a theme here)!! I did it in LA with Steph Jones and a production duo called AftrHrs, and it was just such an easy, relaxed, fun day of not caring about whether the song was too wild or funny or anything, and just making something we loved. Steph even did a mouth trumpet solo which is still in it to this day!
I also absolutely love “The List”. I’d love to hear about the song’s inception.
Maisie Peters: I wrote it with my friend Sophie, who goes by Frances, and we’ve been friends for ages. We’ve written together a lot and I just love working with her. We work in her flat together, she has such cute cats and there’s an Italian place nearby so I always get loads of pasta.
With ‘The List’, we just spent the whole day writing different things and trying lots of different things out. Nothing was really sticking and ironically for a song about loving yourself and self-acceptance for literally two hours before we wrote “The List”, I was like, how do I do this? I’m never going to write anything good again.
Then in the like last hour, Sophie just started playing those chords and then pre-chorus just came super quickly. Then like all of a sudden, we had the song; I don’t even really remember like specifically writing it. It just feels like it wasn’t there and then it was there.
There’s an analogy of songwriting being like, and bear with me on this, looking for fossils. Like you have to dig away, scratch around in the dirt and shift things around then sometimes you unearth a song. I really feel like I’ve maybe got that analogy wrong, and I sort of feel there’s more to it than that.
It sort of works, I think.
Maisie Peters: Yeah, I think often the song is already there and you just have to try a lot of different things and then eventually you kind of find it.
In terms of the reaction, the song has been so well received. What had that reaction meant to you?
Maisie Peters: It’s been amazing. I think people really connected with it, which has been incredible. I get messages still, like every day with someone being like, “Wow, I just heard this song and I really related it to.” I remember writing it and being like, “This is very personal and I’m uncomfortable with that vulnerable and sensitive thing.” But having said that, I feel like lots of people are and it’s really special to get to put out something like that into the world and then see how people respond to it.
So many people responded to it as well, which is surprising because when you’re writing it, it feels like such a specific feeling. Like you think you’re so special and sad then you realise in this really amazing way that we’re all special and sad. So, like our sadness isn’t that special. That’s not really what I mean, but – you know what I mean.
You played Shepherd’s Bush last year after playing Scala the year before and so many smaller London shows/events last year. I think I literally saw you play so many times last year. Like at some MTV thing at Tape in London, Bushstock and so many other things.
Maisie Peters: Oh my god, I love Bushstock. I remember that like MTV thing in Tape and we had a massive technical difficulty. It was for ‘Stay Young’ and you probably won’t even remember this but it’s just so funny in my memory. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and we just ended up doing the chorus of ‘Stay Young’ like seven times.
I do remember that! I think I might actually have it on video.
Maisie Peters: That’s so funny. Sell it for billions later on in my career when I am Beyoncé. (laughs) The whole experience was so funny. It was such an amazing moment because things just kept getting worse. I’m like best friends with all my band and we were just staring at each other being like, where does it end? Like where do we stop? We were literally going forever; it was so good.
Wasn’t it like a super short set too? Like it wasn’t like a long set?
Maisie Peters: No, it wasn’t. So it was so like laser-focused and everyone else was so good. It was Mae Muller and L Devine. Everyone else was so good and so tight. As Hannah Montana says, “Everybody has those days.” I think it was good for people to be watching and see that it doesn’t always go perfectly.
I mean, the chorus of the song is great and the chorus is probably the best thing to repeat.
Maisie Peters: I think so. Although, I think at one point I was singing the middle 8 over pre-chorus music. Then at one point there was no music. Honestly, I think I’ve mentally blocked a lot of it out. But now, thinking about it, it was very iconic. Well done me. (laughs)
It was still such a great performance. Obviously, there were maybe 200 people there or so. How was headlining Shepherd’s Bush, which is nearly 2000 people?
Maisie Peters: It was very surreal. That was last year and I went from playing Omeara in March, which meant I went from like 300 people to 2000 people. I can only really say in that year I went through so much growth. Comparing the performance I did at Omeara to the one I did at Shepherds Bush, I felt like a very different person. Especially as a performer because across the year I learnt so much.
I wasn’t the most confident performer; it wasn’t something I was doing since I was like in the womb. I think it took me like those two years of touring and playing in that world to get to Shepherd’s Bush. Shephard’s Bush really just felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work. At the same, it also really felt like the beginning at the same time because like, even now, looking back at Shephard’s Bush, I’m like “Oh, I wish I could do it again.” I feel like I could bring more. Honestly, I don’t dwell on things that much and I’m also like a hugely emotional person.
Maybe emotional is the wrong word but I like finished the show and came off sage being like “yay, we did it!”. Then everyone was like, “Maisie, how are you not crying or like jumping up and down passing out?” It also felt like right, like I worked really hard and it felt like the right way to end the year.
In your last interview with Atwood, you mentioned that you’re “always focused on what’s next,” and how that can understandably lead to “things can just pass you by.” How has releasing during a pandemic, and having this continual uncertainty, affected you and your perception of releasing and what you’ve achieved?
Maisie Peters: Honestly, as a human being, I’m just not very suited to this type of life. I’m someone who’s focused on what’s next, and I want to be doing things all the time. I want to feel like I’m proactively doing things to further myself or my career. This time has been great in loads of ways and I’m very lucky; no one in my family is really ill and I’m very safe.
I’m in the middle of nowhere and it’s been really great. I really connected again with writing on my own, which is something I haven’t done for ages. I’ve done it before and literally taught myself how to do it, and I’ve written so many songs, which has been great! I think it probably has subconsciously been good in resetting some parts of my brain and my psyche, and it’s been good to reflect and plan. It kind of feels like everyone has stopped spinning so many different plates.
On the touring side, you were heading out on support tour with Niall Horan and Lauv. How did it feel like when you got the news out those tours being like pushed or delayed?
Maisie Peters: Obviously, on one hand, it’s very shit because I was looking forward to doing both of those things this year. They both would have been amazing and I’m such a big fan of both of those artists. Like Lauv is insane; everyone in pop music respects him so much. Then obviously Niall Horan is English royalty. The pure concept of supporting a One Direction member is kind of insane. I can literally recall every part of their career.
I was obviously hugely excited and it’s obviously sad that it’s not happening this year. But, you know, everything happens for a reason and I don’t way to say anything too revealing but it means that I now have more time to focus on my album. That’s obviously a good thing, and if I’d been on tour this year there would have been like a totally different process for writing the album. Like that would’ve lead to a different album and maybe it would’ve been just as good, but I don’t know. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I think you just have to really believe that right now.
I love the way both of your EPs are bookended – with “In My Head” and “Feels Like This,” and then with “This Is On You” and “Personal Best”. For both of the EPs, was deciding their track list a relatively natural process?
Maisie Peters: I would say they both came pretty naturally. Thank you so much by the way; I take great pride in both EPs as like little bodies of work. For both, I had literally exactly the same process. I got to a point where I was like, “Okay, I want to release an EP.” So then I just choose the songs. Like both times I already had all of the songs like in front of me.
I think with track listings, it was a very simple process. I remember with both of them talked to my manager a lot; we’re like super close. We both always just seem to have the same track-listing. They just always happen to match. Some things I just see very clearly and for both of those EPs it was very clear to me.
I love both of them so much, and still listen to them all the time. They’re both so good!
Maisie Peters: That’s so nice to hear. What’s your favourite one?
That’s a good question! I think the first one... It sounds super wanky, but it’s the first time you get to understand someone more as an artist, and I think that’s very special. Then again, the second one is amazing too, especially live as well. Songs like “Adore You” and “This Is On You” – it was like a big bop party.
Maisie Peters: I couldn’t agree more. It definitely was a big bop party. I’m so sad there’s like no shows this year because “Adore You” would’ve gone off at a festival. It’s okay though there’s always next year.
Within your lyricism, there are certain lines that are so impactful, like on 'Details' with “I don’t think I want you to myself, but I don’t want you with anybody else,” or like, “Who cares about star signs? I'm hardwired to be with you.” They’re just so gut-wrenching. At what point during the songwriting process do those lines come to you? Are they often the starting point?
Maisie Peters: I think it changes from song to song. My songwriting is fairly ad-hoc. Like I don’t prepare a lot or go into many sessions with like loads of ideas already in my mind. Although, with the song “Daydreams”, which is super sad, I did go in and was like, “I want to write this song and have the lyric he doesn’t want me.” Because it was something that I came up with like really drunkenly in an Uber, and it was kind of funny – but also true.
I think that sometimes you bring those lines with you and then everything else falls around it. Other times I have these lines that I don’t think are like super cutting or I don’t think anyone is going to relate to will be lines that people are like, “oh my god, this hurts so bad.”
Like with “The List”, the lines that I find really emotional I don’t think other people do. I think people love like “I should stumble in love, instead of runnin’ and hiding” and the middle eight, and I never thought those were going to the ones that people relate to the most.
Off-topic, but I’d love to hear about how you had an idea to start the book club? I’m just finishing up “Conversations with Friends,” but “Exciting Times” is next on my list!
Maisie Peters: I love “Exciting Times”; I’m literally so excited for you. I’ve just always been a big reader and books have been like probably one of the most influential things for my music. A fan suggested that I should do a book club and I just thought that was the best idea. I started it and I didn’t know what to expect. Then so many people joined!
I think it’s got like 5000 followers now, which is mental!
Maisie Peters: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m doing it with a friend of mine called Abby who’s in publishing, and we’ve been friends for like 5 years now. So that’s really special because we get to work together. She’s in the world of publishing, so she’s been able to suggest books. For example, with “Exciting Times,” that’s Naoise Dolan’s debut novel and she’d heard about it before it came out and suggested that I’d be great for the book club. I loved it and it’s literally one of my favourite books now.
Naoise is amazing, and we’ve now become really good friends so it just feels like a really kismet situation, where I get to share these books. There’s such a great community. We all love books and love reading, but we’re all just like friends. I’m really keen to make sure that it feels inclusive.
I’m so excited to read “Exciting Times”!
Maisie Peters: I’m reading so many books. I just finished a book called “A Handful of Dust” by Evelyn Waugh. It’s super old; I think it literally came out in thirty. It’s honestly amazing. I was kind of unconvinced for the first third then the last two-thirds are wild. Honestly, the ending is like one of the most disturbing and chilling things I’ve ever read. If you read it, you’ll read the first third and be like why the f**k did Maisie recommend this? Then you’ll to the end and but like oh god, this is really insane. But now, I’ve got to choose what to read next and I’ve four different ones to pick. It’s so stressful.
I’m so close to finishing “Conversations with Friends” and I’m literally loving it so much.
Maisie Peters: It’s so good. I’m such a quick reader but I’m also terrible at like absorbing things. I can’t really what happens apart from there are two best friends and one of them has a shit boyfriend. It’s such a good book though.
Two of my favorite songs that you’ve released are “You To You” and “This Is On You.” With both of those songs, especially the latter, they’re written from a position of power and sort of finding that sense of finality in a relationship. When you’re writing, how do you manage to encompass that type of very specific and complex feeling?
Maisie Peters: That’s a good question. Probably the reason I maybe manage to do that is because I’m a fast worker and I don’t tend to think a lot while I make. Everyone single song I’ve released have been written in a day, probably in like four hours. I think you should just write however you feel it should be written. I think put the song first and do things that benefit the song only. Like you shouldn’t initially think about people are going to feel, how you’re going to feel about it or even like what your mum will say when she hears it.
If I’m writing about situations that have happened to me, I tend to write about them about like 6 months later. I find that detachment useful otherwise if I’m in the moment I’m like is that completely accurate to how it went down or whatever. Like is this person going to feel like I’ve unfairly portrayed them? That’s not useful because, you know, at the end of the day I make music and I want a song to be the best it can possibly be regardless of feelings or even the truth. I know that sounds weird, but I think it’s best to just put the song first and make everything else secondary.
Reflecting back to the start of your career, has anything changed for you knowing that there’s going to be a big audience for your music? Like your perception and feelings surrounding releasing something?
Maisie Peters: Not really, because I think from the beginning, even though I’ve got a much larger fan base, it’s always the same feeling of like, I hope people like this. I’d be interested, but I don’t know anyone that puts out music just to please their audience. Regardless of the scale, I think everyone who puts out music just hopes people like it. Nowadays it’s all just numbers too and they don’t physically mean anything, and I think we’ve got very desensitized anyway.
Even if my fan base shrinks or grows, I think I’ll always be nervous and just hope people like it. I don’t think those core feelings will ever change.
Do the nerves you feel change across songs? Like with “Daydreams,” you mentioned it’s a very vulnerable song.
Maisie Peters: I think it does depend on the song and sometimes whether the feelings are still relevant to you. I think it depends on the song but I pour so much into every song and I’m so proud of them. I work so hard to make sure that I think they’re really heard. It’s always nerve-wracking to put out something that you think is really good because you want other people to see that too.
Like all good pop music, your music is effortlessly intimate and accessible. When you’re writing, do you ever think about the potential interpretations that listeners might have when they hear your songs? Is there ever a challenge of striking a balance between something that’s so personal yet accessible?
Maisie Peters: I’m focused on just making the song the best it can be, regardless of other factors. It’s really interesting to even consider if people will relate to the emotion but normally they will because as I said we’re really not special as human beings. But then again, I do have more niche songs. I also write songs all the time on my own and they’re often so specific to moments in my life.
They’re like extraordinarily specific, and maybe I wouldn’t share them. I often say to my friends that I’m an absolute queen of writing songs with no point. They’re just describing a situation or emotion but there’s no point; they’re not even like proper songs. I think that it is interesting and I actually would love to release some of them at some point.
I think there is amazing music that is like that and I do know the point. Like Phoebe Bridgers’ music is amazing; I think she’s one of the best songwriters around right now. I’m not trying to say this in the wrong way but I think with “Scott Street”, she’s really just narrating herself walking down the street. I’m sure for lots of people they’d be like nothing happened but I’m like on the line “anyway, don’t be a stranger”, I’m like maybe she was on the phone or talking to somebody. Then with like “do you feel ashamed when you hear my name?”, there is so much to unpack from that line but it also feels like very rambling.
Yeah, she’s insane. When I saw her live, she blew my mind. Are there any new artists that you’d recommend? And following on from that, when you first hear a song what are you drawn to?
Maisie Peters: Personally, I just love lyrics – so that’s a huge thing for me. On the subject of Phoebe Bridgers, there’s an artist called Christian Lee Hutson who put out an album called Beginners, and Phoebe produced it. It’s my favourite album this year. If you like Phoebe Bridgers, then you’ll love this album. It’s kind of like Paul Simon and kind of like Phoebe Bridgers; it’s just insane.
I also love Lizzy McAlpine, who put out a song called “Means Something” recently and it’s just so beautiful and pure. I’m also really obsessed right now with a Britney Spears song called “If You Speak Amy”. I was speaking about it to someone the other day and it’s just all I’ve been listening to. Who else is really good right now?
I saw you tweeted about Navvy and Naaz; and they’re two of my favourite artists.
Maisie Peters: I love them both. Actually, Navvy has a new song out now called “Pieces”, which is a major bop. They’re both amazing and they were both so inspiring. They both deserve thousands of more people at their shows, because they’re both incredible. I saw Naaz at Camden Assembly, and it was literally the best performance I saw all year.
I was there too; she’s just so incredible. I could talk about them both all day, but my last question is: What are you most excited about for the future?
Maisie Peters: I think the main thing right now is my album. You’re going to find this hilarious because I’ve been saying this for three years, but I think next month I’m going to start writing my album, which is very intimidating and scary. I’m just pretending that I’m not, but I’ve been talking to some people and figuring out safe ways to collaborate again.
I don’t know what my album will look like, really. I’m so interested; it’s almost like I’m an outside observer, even though I am me.
I lied about my last question being the last question. This is very niche, but both of your EP titles have come from lyrics within the songs. Is that a trend you think you’ll continue?
Maisie Peters: I don’t know, and I wouldn’t tell you if I did know. It’ll be interesting though. You can ask me in a year’s time or something when the album’s out. Obviously a big thing with debut albums is to just call it your name. But then I don’t know if that’s for me. I mean, Taylor Swift’s debut is just Taylor Swift. I’m trying to think who else has good debut album title names… Lily Allen’s Alright, Still has a great name. They’re both two large inspirations of mine, and I don’t know which way I shall lean. You’ll find out!
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📸 © Tom Van Schelven
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