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Maggie Rogers Talks Tokyo, Steinbeck, Style & Songwriting

Maggie Rogers

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Maggie Rogers Talks Tokyo, Steinbeck, Style & Songwriting

'Folktronica' singer/songwriter reveals her next instrument target, Björk's true color, her ideal chill time, and how classic novels can pay off on tour

GRAMMYs/Aug 15, 2017 - 09:50 pm

Maggie Rogers' world is full of color. Her words, her songs and her personality imbue a rare vibrancy. That's why her song "Alaska" stopped Pharrell Williams dead in his tracks — of course, you've seen that video by now. And perhaps that's why she's parlayed that viral video into the picture-perfect opening act of a promising music career, anchored by the inventive folk-meets-electronica sounds on her major label debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, and nine months on the road.

We caught up with the 23-year-old NYU grad to see if she has caught her breath. Plus, we asked about her songwriting, friends, the favorite new city she's traveled to, the last great book she read, and a word or two on her music and style inspirations. 

At this point, you are probably over talking about the whole Pharrell-"Alaska" thing. But at the core of this viral phenomenon is the power of music and the fact that he was moved by your song. Have you ever experienced a similar profound reaction after hearing another artist's song?
That's interesting. Yeah, I remember the first time I heard "Here's Where The Story Ends" by the Sundays. And I was about three seconds into the intro when I heard Harriet Wheeler's voice. I was in my friend's garage in Dallas, Texas, and I sort of stopped everything. I was like, "What is this?" I just loved the way she expresses herself. 

You're quite the multi-instrumentalist. You can play harp, piano, guitar, banjo, harmonica, and even the recorder, among other instruments. 
(laughs) I mean, I don't know if I can play recorder today (laughs). Yeah, I do play a lot of instruments. I started with the harp when I was young and then sort of moved to guitar and piano. Then I actually found a really happy pairing with banjo for a really long time in high school. Something about the banjo — it's an African instrument and the combination of resonance and rhythm really drew me in. But also, as a woman in high school trying to join jam sessions, it was a lot easy to get in with a different instrument instead of the seventh guitar in a circle.

Is there one elusive instrument you'd like to try and tackle?
I've always wanted to play violin.

I'd like to play a game of word association. What's the first thing that comes to mind with each of the following artists? First up, Björk.
I just pictured bright pink. Bright pink against blue. Maybe I'm thinking of her standing in the middle of an iceberg. 

Stevie Nicks.
I just thought of fringe.

Kim Gordon.
I pictured her haircut (laughs). She's just so blunt. She's such a force of power.

I picked these artists because they are artists you've cited as musical influences. Who would you identify as your style influences? 
Probably Patti Smith and Janis Joplin, I think they have amazing style. Björk — she wears really weird stuff and it's amazing. I think the Haim girls are always really well dressed. 

You had an interest in potentially exploring freelance writing after college, before your music career really took off. What's the last great book you read?
I think the last great book I read was East Of Eden by [John] Steinbeck. I never read it before and I heard great things, so I picked it up. I guess I was expecting it to be this sort of like 1800s, California tumbleweed, prairie story, which I wasn't really sure if I sold on. But the storyline is insane. There's prostitution and there's like a whole family lineage — I don't know why prostitution was particularly exciting but I think I just was really not expecting it in a Steinbeck novel.

I've had the amazing experience this summer to play with Mumford & Sons, and they were so inviting and welcoming. I played a song with Marcus Mumford the day I finished East Of Eden this summer. And he was like, "Oh, should we do 'Awake My Soul' or 'Timshel?" And I was like, "Oh, I get it now," because Timshel is the last word of East Of Eden. Anyway, it was like, "My literary background is coming in handy." 

You're from Easton, Maryland. What's the most fun thing to do in your hometown? 
Film music videos! It's beautiful there. It's in the middle of nowhere — it's about two hours south of Washington. D.C., but it's amazing. It's right on Chesapeake Bay and there's a lot of corn and soybean. And so when I had the opportunity to film the music video for "Alaska," immediately the first thing I wanted to do was to invite all of my friends to have a dance party at my house. And we got to.

The scenery in your videos is very beautiful and striking.
Thank you. I think that's been one of the most amazing things: doing the music videos and getting to show all of the places that are important to me. "Alaska" was filmed at my family's farm in Maryland; "Dog Years" was filmed at the summer camp I grew up going to in Maine. And then "On + Off" was filmed on a soundstage, but like a block from where I live in Bushwick in Brooklyn. So we hit every spot.

You've admitted that your meteoric rise has been such a whirlwind. So what does the ideal quiet night for Maggie Rogers entail?
The ideal chill night has kind of changed in the last year as my pace has gotten a little crazy. A year ago I probably would have said, "At home, maybe a fireplace and a book, glass of wine." [Now] I would probably say, "Room service and 'The West Wing.'" Yeah, that's my final answer.

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Universal language: Why humans need music

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Universal language: Why humans need music

Learn why music is truly a common language that is key to human development and evolution

GRAMMYs/Jul 3, 2017 - 11:51 pm

There's no doubt music finds a way into nearly every moment of our daily lives, whether it's marking milestones such as a first dance at a wedding, the soundtrack to our favorite movie or singing in the shower for fun. In fact, it's hard to imagine times when we are more than an ear-length away from hearing another song.

But why does music mean so much to us? A powerful form of communication that transcends all barriers — music is our common language, but why?

A composer and educator with a lifelong fascination for music, Adam Ockelford has traced our connection with music back to infants and caregivers. Infants are unable to follow words, but they are developmentally primed to trace patterns in sound, such as through the songs a caretaker sings to them. Therefore, understanding music is intuitive for humans, even at a very young age, and it encourages healthy development.

In addition, there may be another evolutionary purpose for music. Music provides a sense of sameness between humans — if you can copy the sounds someone else makes, you must be an ally. This synergy plays a role in human survival because it evokes empathy and understanding, a lesson we still learn from music in today's culture.

"Music is central to the notion of what it is to be human, and spans cultures, continents and centuries," writes Ockelford. "My music, your music, our music can bind us together as families, as tribes and as societies in a way that nothing else can."

Need a playlist? Check out our favorite songs of summer 2017 

Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Mixcloud Signs Warner Music For Subscriptions Remix

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Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

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Mixcloud Signs Warner Music For Subscriptions Remix

There is more to the Mixcloud difference than just electronic dance music, and now the listening service has signed its first major label deal

GRAMMYs/Oct 10, 2017 - 04:49 am

Among the 1 million curators who have helped build British-based listening service Mixcloud into a destination visited by 17 million listeners each month are GRAMMY winners Erykah Badu, David Byrne, and Tiësto. Limited to streaming-only since its founding in 2008, Mixcloud announced a direct licensing agreement with Warner Music Group this morning, opening the door to offering downloads and new kinds of subscriptions.

Perhaps the standout statistic that describes the Mixcloud difference is that the average length of its user-uploaded programs is 45 minutes. Within the service's general emphasis on DJing, EDM and remix culture, the tendency to drill down and explore narrower listening topics in depth distinguishes the service from competitors such as Spotify or SoundCloud.

Warner Music Group Executive VP for Business Development & Chief Digital Officer Ole Obermann said, "Mixcloud's success is driven by the curiosity and passion of its community, as they engage with new music and rediscover timeless older songs."

Being able to listen to downloads offline seems a natural follow-up to direct licensing deals, but the service hints there's more in store. Mixcloud still hopes to sign indies and the other majors, as its fans have speculated. And with its own proprietary Content ID in place and established relationships with royalty collecting societies, the company has the tech infrastructure to explore new monetization strategies, paying artists and curators in new ways. Launching a new business model for its upcoming approach to paid content and subscriptions is a remix many are anticipating. Not knowing what to expect is part of the excitement.

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