The lovely, witty, and mega-talented Maisie Peters offers a deep dive into her carefully crafted, timely yet timeless debut album, ‘You Signed Up for This’.
There is a questioning to it, there is a bitterness to it and there is a real heartbreak to it. Being like – well I’m not happy, are you happy? And I think that’s a cool thing when you manage to do that in songs.
Maisie Peters is one-of-a-kind, with her ability to write songs that pierce through your heart and bring you levity at the same time.
With her debut album, You Signed Up for This, set to release August 27th, the English artist reaches new heights. It captures the confusion, heartbreak, self-awareness, and reflection that is inevitable when you are growing up and trying your best to be happy and have fun whilst falling in and out of love. While it is not a John Hughes movie, it is perhaps a coming-of-age mixed with an early 20s rom-com in the most realistic and relatable of ways. It is an album that will be played through houses of friends to commiserate and commemorate. It is the perfect introduction, for those who do not already know and love her, to the mega-talented Maisie Peters.
I am twenty and probably upset right now
I still haven’t got my driver’s licence
And I am sorry to make it about myself again
But you, you signed up for this, you, you signed up for
this, you, you signed up for this
Shout if you want my heart, it is an open invitation
Shout if the lines gone dark, oh if I’ve called you
from the station
Shout if we grew apart, actually don’t, it’s my narration
Shouting for me is hard, hard, hard
Please don’t give up on me yet
I know I’ll get better, I’m just not better yet
Can you tell I’m trying, running out of breath
I know I’ll get better, I’m just not better yet
You signed up for this
Although catapulted to a new level of success and having shuffled through dozens of interviews since, Peters remembers her phone conversation with Atwood Magazine in 2019 discussing the intricacies of “Details” and the rest of her EP Dressed Too Nice for a Jacket. Friendly as ever, although fully admitting her life is an overwhelming schedule of 15-minute increments, she more than kindly gives Atwood the time to do a similar deep-dive into the specific moments of her carefully crafted, timely yet timeless debut album, You Signed Up for This.
We comb over almost each lyric and the clever reasoning behind them as this is an artist who has a gift for songwriting that most strive for their whole lives. We start at the beginning.
A CONVERSATION WITH MAISIE PETERS
Let’s start with the title track one, “You Signed Up for This.” Track one’s are sort of a lost art, but you really nail this as a perfect introduction to the album. From the very first line and on, was it intentionally written this way?
Maisie Peters: Yes, it was written intentionally as a track one. I went to suffix for a month last summer and this was the last song we did on the very last day. Me and Joe Rubel (Producer/Engineer) were talking about what was going to be track one and that’s when I knew I didn’t have one. So, we decided to make one. We listened to a couple other track ones on albums that we love. It’s a big thing, you know? It’s track one of your debut album. I knew I wanted to make one really clearly.
Joe already had the synth part you hear in the opening, and we knew we liked that, and then I just sort of sang that first verse in a really train of thought sort of way.
I am 20 and probably upset right now
I sang it almost as a joke, but Joe thought it was good, so we just went with it and the whole song followed. What I think is great about this song is, and this is because I knew I was writing a track one, it is so self-aware because I knew I was trying to make a time stamp. It was like making the opening chapter to a book. I was setting the scene, introducing the narrator, introducing where we are. It is quite literally like – I’m 20, I don’t have a drivers license, this is all of my narration, I’m moving to London with six girls, I don’t go outside there are too many bugs, I’m 5’1 and Ellen is right. It really is just a nonstop bullet pointed list of where I was in my life. It was cool to do because I knew I was doing it for that specific point in my life and when the album comes out and beyond that, it will be the past, but it will always be where I was in that moment.
Absolutely. I think people have started to listen to albums the way they are supposed to be listened to again, so it is going to be the perfect introduction. Let’s talk about “I’m Trying (Not Friends).” From our last conversation I remember we have a mutual love for iconic bridges – this song has an iconic bridge.
Maisie Peters: It is! This is my favorite bridge on the album.
Yes, the way it builds and goes up an entire octave is so, so good. Tell me a little more about this one.
Maisie Peters: Yes, so this song was written entirely over WhatsApp and FaceTime, again with Joe Rubel, because it was in the lockdown, so we were sending things back and forth. I have a video actually – I’ll have to put the whole thing on YouTube. It’s a video of me writing a lot of that middle eight. That middle eight is really just me flexing on my song writer muscles. It’s so quick and rhythmic and pocketed. The concepts are so close – it runs all over the place. Lyrically you’re over here and then over there.
Yes, you almost have to listen to it a couple times to figure out what’s going on – people are going to love to learn it and then sing it back.
Maisie Peters: For sure. I’m really excited to do that live. But yeah, I love (she rattles off lyrics as if there in a perfectly preserved lock box in her mind)
You’re awful and I missed you and I killed you in my dreams
last night even then you didn’t care,
it’s a low when even in my dreams you still don’t want me there
I always thought was very funny. Again, with this song it’s very self-aware its very. It’s sort of self-mockery – Like I say,
Some people think I’m funny baby don’t look so surprised
Yes, and I love the line about giving so many blank slates you can build a whole fucking house.
Maisie Peters: (laughs) Yep, a whole fuckin’ house. Yeah, and even that second verse that goes,
Three shots lemon drops, one for being lost and alone in your 20’s, one for being obsessed with someone who puts you secondary, one for calling guys with guitars in the cemetery
That’s really it. It’s really a song for people who are lost and alone in their early 20s. What I think is so funny about the song is that there is no conclusive point to it. It’s like I miss someone, but I resent them, but we’re trying again, but they’re terrible. And then at the end I give a perfect summary,
I might be bitter and twisted and broken and lying
You might be awful like all of the time yeah, it’s almost inspiring
It feels so perfect for being in London, or whatever city you’re in, in your early 20s with your roommates and your weird house and a guy that you’re talking to who you don’t even – like you’re both awful.
That is exactly what dating in your 20s is like and people will relate to it so much. “Love Him I Don’t” is so good. The cadences of the song and the way you sing it is memorizing. The lyrics paint a perfect picture, like the line about meeting him through your favorite cousin. tell me more about this one.
Maisie Peters: Yeah, cool. So that’s my favorite song on the album so it’s cool that you picked it out. It feels like a perfect song for me. Every so often you write a song that feels like you’ve been spending a long time trying to write, or it feels like a combination of all of the hundreds of other songs that you’ve written. And that was this song for me. It’s very sad but it’s also very strong to me. There are a lot of gut punching lines in it, but it also has a strength to it and feels like a sort of a statement of intent. Like,
Love him I don’t, love him I won’t – love him I did for a minute but I’m finished cause I’ve learned
It has some lines that really hit you round the face,
I can see a blood bath coming
Playing checkers as the flat was flooding
I wasn’t eating and you still said nothing
That’s like oh god, but then you also have,
Met you through my favorite cousin, lighting cigarettes off an oven
and then the pre-chorus which feels so dramatic and building and then says,
What a state what a waste of your twenties,
couple lies couple times that’s plenty,
oh, you’re bad in the bones so I’m just going home
don’t text me.
I just love that it’s like you’re bad in the bones so don’t text me. It’s just a perfect juxtaposition of being young and trying to move on from something and knowing you haven’t really moved on from it. Yeah, I guess a whirlwind of those feelings, but also has a really hopeful souring melody to it and lyric that I really love.
It’s such a great one. “Psycho” and “Boy” are the bops of the album. Congratulations on the success of “Psycho” who I know Ed Sheeran worked with you on. Was he involved in “Boy” as well? It is so different for you, but it works so well.
Maisie Peters: “Boy” was so fun – it was me and Joe and Ed. I wrote “Hollow” and “Boy” on the same day.
Wow, very different songs!
Maisie Peters: Yes, very different songs – “Hollow” was first and then we had dinner and some wine and then went back to the studio. We were all just kind of talking and joking around. We started talking about fuck boys and I was explaining what that was to the men above thirty in the room (we both laugh) and they were basically like ok let’s write a song about a fuck boy and I was like.. ok! So then I just started throwing out things that guys do. I was explaining the whole phenomenon of guys punching holes in their walls and then showing you. They were like “oh really?” And then I was like “well have you ever punched a wall?” and there was a silence in the room. I was like “mmhmm.” (Again, we both laugh).
Writing with Ed is amazing. One thing I really love with him is to just go with it in the moment. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you do things that aren’t as you normally would – “Psycho” and “Boy” are not maybe what you would expect from me, but it comes from a full commitment to an idea in the moment and if it works it works. With “Boy” we sort of ended up with this fun 90’s R&B bop and once we had that we really leaned into it. We finished it and then this year we sent it to After Hours, a producer in LA, and I re-wrote some sections. I added more lyrics to be petty cause I had more things to say now, which I actually think is really iconic for me (We laugh). A line I added that was really last minute, but I think is really great and it feels very right for a lot of this album quite frankly,
Could be a grownup but baby you know what,
maybe I’ll release this song instead
If you have it, write it! I love that. So, “Hollow,” lyrically and specifically from a songwriting standpoint this song is so strong. Tell me about this one.
Maisie Peters: Thank you. I love it too. That was me, Joe, Ed, and Johnny McDade – they’re all amazing writers. It came together quickly. Ed played that chorus chord about feeling hollow and we felt it was great. It was really simple, almost too simple like – is this it? With the lyric,
You left me hollow, are you happy now, I hope you’re happy now
It is so simple, but immediately I felt it was so cool because depending on the way I sing it throughout the song I feel like it means so many different things. There is a questioning to it, there is a bitterness to it and there is a real heartbreak to it. Being like – well I’m not happy, are you happy? And I think that’s a cool thing when you manage to do that in songs.
This song feels really nice. It’s almost like a mid-album return to your root’s moment for me and Ed I think. Both of us – a lot of that song is how we started out making music so it’s cool that it comes in the middle. Ed sings harmonies on that and plays guitar as well. It also has one of my favorite lyrics on the album,
You’re the one that got away and you got away with a lot.
So strong. Alright, so I said I wasn’t going to ask you about every song, but I’ve asked you about almost every song.
Maisie Peters: All good, I’m living.
“Brooklyn” is incredible. It is one of those songs that makes you really feel the experience. I think your fans are going to love this one.
Maisie Peters: It’s coming out next week! (At the time of the interview) I love “Brooklyn” too. I wrote it with Francis who is a really good friend and an amazing songwriter and producer. I wrote it about when me and my sister went to New York on holiday in 2019 for a weekend. It was the first holiday we’d been on without our parents, and it was maybe the first time she’d been to America – definitely New York. I love New York. It’s one of my favorite places. It was really just a whirlwind of a time and that song literally – it’s not even like skill that I wrote it because it was just me narrating what happened.
**We’ll interject here and say that it was skill. When a songwriter manages to capture a true feeling of a specific moment of time into three-minutes, it is magic. And it’s not easy to do.**
Maisie Peters: Everything is true, we went to Gatwick, Ellen booked us terrible tickets at 2 AM, and she has this track suit that I hate. I have a friend there who we went out with, and we used fake IDs. I took a picture of my sister holding the fake ID at the time, so I actually went back and found the name when I was writing the song and it was Katie and she was from Michigan. She’s a real person, I think she’s one of my friends, friends. When this song comes out I should probably reach out and try to find her because I’m pretty sure she exists.
That is amazing and amazing you will have that song to remember that trip forever. The whole album is incredible, and we are so excited for all that is in store for you, Maisie. Thank you so much for your time. Congratulations and good luck with everything!
Maisie Peters: Thank you so much! This has been so fun.
— —Maisie Peters’ debut album You Signed Up for This comes out August 27th. It is an incredible album that no doubt will receive the credit it deserves. Listen once, then twice, then ten times; you won’t want to stop.
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