We caught up with the force of nature that is Maisie Peters as she prepares for the launch of her debut album. Although just approaching her 21st birthday, she describes herself as a ‘veteran of acoustic pop’. Maisie has been performing since she was 15 and is a prolific writer. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, she has been working hard throughout, writing and recording, and looks forward to touring again, which she says is like being on the best school trip ever. She says she would like her songs to be part of people’s lives, and we have no doubt they already are.
Amy MacKenzie: So where did you grow up?
Maisie Peters: I grew up near Brighton, in a couple of different places but primarily in a little village in the countryside with my parents and my twin sister. It was a school of a very small amount of people, all the neighbouring towns everyone goes to the same school and you live a 5 minute walk from all your friends and you drink Glen’s vodka in the field when you’re 15! It was very much that vibe!
AM: And what are your family like? You said you have a twin sister.
MP: I do, Ellen is my twin sister, we are very different, the polar opposites of each other! We get on much better as adults than we did growing up. But who gets on with their siblings when they’re growing up?!
AM: Was there a lot of music in your household growing up?
MP: Yeah, I guess none of my family are musical really. My Dad got kicked out of recorder club as a child, very tone deaf vibes! But they both loved music, my Dad would go to gigs all the time, I would go to gigs with him, he would buy me CDs, both my parents really love music. They were also very cool in letting my sister and I pick the music we listened to so I have a very tenuous grasp on the classics but a very real grasp on ABBA ‘Gold’! That’s how I would describe my musical upbringing… and the Sugababes. A formative memory of mine is going around when I was about 9 or 10. I wrote out the lyrics to ‘About You Now’ by ‘The Sugababes’ and I would show people them and pretend that I had written the song. It’s interesting because I think that song was quite big at the time so I don’t know who was believing me that I wrote it, but I was sticking to it [laughs] I was holding my line with that one!
AM: [laughs] And where would you say your love of music really came from?
MP: I think I loved writing. I was a massive reader as a child, I read so, so much, all the time. I would read illegally, when my parents would send me to bed I would read secretly and my Mum would have to come and take my book away from me! I loved words and stories and I used to write poems, all the terrible things you write as a 9 year old that should never see the light of day! I will die with them!
AM: Do you still have them?
MP: No, this is the thing, in some ways I’m very organised and in some ways I’m not. Everything is in various notebooks, on different laptops, I’m sure I could find everything but also some things are probably best left in the unknown!
AM: It would take you so long to collect everything together
MP: Yeah and no one needs that! I loved words and writing and music as well. I loved Girls Aloud, The Sugababes, I think it was all combined. I was obsessed with Taylor Swift when I was 12 or 13, I still am!
AM: Which re-recording are you most excited for?
MP: Honestly this could be a whole other interview! [laughs] I could do a whole interview as a Taylor Swift fan! Oh my God, Red, but also Speak Now, but also all of them! Every single one! I am the biggest fan! But having Fearless has been so cool because it’s kinda the origin story. But I was writing every day, I would borrow my friend’s guitar. She played and I wanted to learn so she taught me.
AM: That’s so nice
MP: It is so nice! And I accidentally broke the guitar in the school music room cupboard and I promised I would buy her a guitar. So one day when I am really rich and famous, I’m going to buy her a really sick guitar. She can cash it in now but she can also wait.
AM: Oh so it’s just open for whenever she decides?
MP: Yeah so it can be that she asks for a £50,000 guitar.
AM: When that’s pennies to you
MP: Mere pennies! [laughs] I was just obsessed, I would write songs every day for 3 or 4 years.
AM: How would you say that the artists you listened to growing up have influenced your writing, if they have at all?
MP: Yeah they definitely have. I think it was, when I look back, the most formative would be Taylor Swift, Lily Allen – Alright Still, ABBA – Gold, Plan B – Defamation of Strickland Banks, then when I was a little older Arctic Monkeys and I loved My Chemical Romance. I think what all of these artist have in common is they’re story-led and all of their songs, no matter what type of music it is, it is really driven by telling that story. I think that’s what’s important in my music and I got that really early from those artists.
AM: What inspires you to write now? Is it personal experience or…?
MP: No, it’s so many things. I think because I started writing so young, and I love it, I wrote so much, every day sometimes depending on the time period. But because I started so young and I wrote so much, I learnt really early on that I was just inspired by so many things. I was 12, what am I going to write about? What am I doing in my life? Nothing! [laughs] Going to school! Maybe crushing from someone in science! And don’t worry, I wrote plenty of songs about that! [laughs] True love! But yeah, I think I write all the time, random words I see that are nice that I will riff off. Or my friends’ lives, just anything I see around me. I think because of that when I was younger I looked outward, and especially at the rate I write at, I do write a lot about my own life but I write about a lot of things. I think it’s nice, I give a lot away in my music but when talking about it, I feel like I try and keep it so the listener doesn’t know as much. I like to leave it up to people, what they think that’s from.
AM: You talked about books earlier, would you say you take inspiration from the literature you’re reading or has it moved on more to real life now?
MP: Yeah I would say it’s more reality in the music I write these days. But also 100%, I am very inspired by the books I read, I have a folder on my phone of ideas, words, things other people say to me. Maybe a friend could text me something and I think that’s such a nice sentence and I will write about it as if a guy said it to me, but it’s not, it’s been magpie-d from someone and put into something else. I think it is a mix but definitely more reality now, as more things have happened in my life!
AM: With your process of writing, it sounds like you start with the story, is that something you stick to or does it vary?
MP: I would say the story really is the most important part. I do try, sometimes I will start a melody and see where it takes me. I would say they usually come simultaneously, it’s quite hand in hand. I’m not really a planner, I tend to just do. I’m quite impatient with music, I would never spend 5 months writing two songs. I will write the verse and the chorus and then I want to move on to the next one, and then I will finish it the next day. I have so many songs on my phone and my laptop that I’ve never even recorded, but I just move on.
AM: Do you let go of songs quite easily then?
MP: I think once I’ve done it, I’ve done it. I think it’s two different things, the writing of the song and the what do I want this song to do, where do I see it going, will I release it. I think I am quite ruthless also, I’ll just be done with it, and move onto something else. I would be interested in talking to other artists about this. I find that singing the song is so different once it’s out. I don’t think I have ever sung a song and been so transported back to that place, because you’re in such a different place and your feelings are so different from when you wrote it.
AM: How would you describe your sound now, and how has it changed, I guess since you were 12?
MP: Since I was 12 [laughs] I am a veteran of acoustic pop!
AM: How old are you now?
MP: I am 20, I’m 21 relatively soon
Maisie wears playsuit and sunglasses THE HIPPIE SHAKE
AM: Happy Birthday for relatively soon!
MP: Thank you! I relatively soon-ly say thank you [laughs] I don’t think there has been any dramatic change of road, I guess it has really evolved and developed, which is a really basic answer but it is still the root of what it was, it just has more estuaries to it. I would say the music that I love, maybe this is more interesting. I was asked the other day in an interview ‘what did you grow up hating that you now love’ and I said nothing, I think I have always been, I just really wholeheartedly loved things and I still love them. I loved Taylor Swift, and I still love Taylor Swift; I loved ABBA, and I still love ABBA. A lot of the music that I made when I started out, especially the music I released, at its root is very much what I love and that hasn’t changed. The music I wanted to make is the music I made and is the music I’m making now. Obviously, you grow up so you gain more knowledge in how to make that. You gain other experiences and other influences, and you experiment more but ultimately it is still the same person who loves the same things and wants to achieve the same things that I wanted to achieve when I was 15, I still want to achieve those things. I still love Taylor Swift and I still want to play stadiums. We are 5 years on but it’s still the same thing.
AM: You currently have two EPs out, so I wanted to chat a bit about those, go through a few of the songs. I think what stood out to me when I first heard your music is how delicate and specific your lyrics are, but how such a broad range of people can still relate to them. So, I wanted to talk about ‘Details’, can you tell me a bit more about that song?
MP: Yes, I love that song! I haven’t spoken about that first EP in a while but that was always a favourite. I love that song. I wrote it with a friend of mine called Jon [Green] which is funny because a lot of the people I wrote that first EP with, I also wrote this album with. I’ve worked with so many people and I’ve had the best time doing it but this album feels very full circle, because it is with a lot of the people I worked with when I was 15. Me and Jon wrote ‘Details’ really quickly. A lot of that first EP feels a bit like a fever dream because I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just collecting songs. In a really lovely way, it was very unknowing. I had just been signed and it was a time of like… shall we just do this, pulling some songs out.
AM: That’s so interesting because it really sounds like you wrote an EP as one
MP: See but I didn’t! For neither EP did I sit down and think I was writing an EP. I just write songs all the time. Even with this album, I sat down a bit last Summer to write for the album and I went away for a month, but I didn’t write it all then. Some songs on this album are from 4 years ago, I kept writing from Summer 2020 to literally two weeks ago is the last song that made the album. I think it’s because I’m too impatient. I just don’t work in that way, it’s too slow, I will write, write, write and then pick and go! That’s worked well for me so far. Maybe one day I will have a more systematic approach, and it would be really interesting to do an album when you only work for a month and that’s it. I would be totally up for doing that. I think especially with these EPs, they were very much thrown together without too much wider consideration but I do agree with these EPs, especially the first, it does feel cohesive.
AM: It was probably written around a similar enough time, around similar experiences
MP: Yeah, you’re right. They were written in those little eras which is fun.
AM: So then your second EP, also love it! Could you talk me through ‘Take Care of Yourself’ which one of my favourite songs of yours.
MP: Aw, thank you!
AM: I go for the sad ones, can you tell
MP: You do! I remember saying to someone that this second EP really isn’t that sad and they were like Maisie are you joking?! Yes it is!
AM: I listen to such sad songs!
MP: I am on the same page! Really fun story! I went out and I got really drunk with somebody and I was living in Brixton at the time, was lodging with people I didn’t really know very well. I went back to Brixton and I got an Uber which dropped me off slightly further down the street and I was so confused about where I was I got another Uber from my street to my front door! Hilarious! I would never do this now. I think it was quite a chaotic time! I woke up and was super hungover, it was really hot and I went to Maida Vale to write with a friend of mine James [Earp], who I hadn’t seen for years and I just remember being so fragile and then I wrote this song. We played around with a couple of things and then landed on this song. It’s relatively simple, but we did it over two days which is quite unlike me. It was really a song to myself which is nice, it’s really to everyone but at the time it was for me. There are a few lyrics “you don’t get a medal for the last one awake” and “the world won’t fall if you’re not holding it up” and I think those were things I needed to hear. It’s a really simple song and I’m really glad it came out.
AM: Another song I also wanted to talk about is ‘Look At Me Now’. Could you talk to me a bit about that track? And also, is the “out of the woods” lyric a Taylor Swift reference?!
MP: [laughs] No!!! It’s actually not but that’s amazing! I obviously loved that song so maybe subconsciously it was there but that was not a direct reference, I think that would be pushing it too much! That song I wrote with friends of mine Rory [Adams] and Steve [Robson]. I was thinking about that song the other day because it’s a bit of a fan favourite and I really didn’t want to put it out, I just didn’t think it was good enough. Then some of the people close to me said they really loved it and now it’s good!
AM: Is it more of a favourite of yours now because of that or not?
MP: Yeah, I never really disliked it. Another thing about me is truly, hand on heart, I do love all my own music. I think that’s quite abnormal. A lot of my artist friends hate songs they have put out, but I really don’t. I can listen to stuff and still love it, maybe I wouldn’t make it like that now but at the core of it I still think it’s really good. With Look At Me Now, I never disliked it. There’s a lyric in that song where it says I pull over my car and it’s well known now that I can’t drive, so obviously that was not from real life, personal experience. I have changed as a writer and probably wouldn’t say that now. It’s not that I only write things that are absolutely true, I just think I pay more attention to the universe of Maisie Peters and that doesn’t really fit in the universe of Maisie Peters because I can’t drive! I’m trying to pass my test now, I’ve already failed once but I have another one booked, if I pass, I’ll let you know! I probably won’t! [laughs]
AM: Let’s talk about some current music now! ‘John Hughes Movie’ was released recently – can you talk to me about the story of this song?
MP: It’s the first song of this album, and it’s also the oldest song on this album so it’s fun that it came first. I did it 3 or 4 years ago, in 2017. It was written about a house party I went to and it brings me so much joy because… I’m 20, almost 21, I’m by no means a full formed adult but the song is so unadulteratedly youthful and dramatic and full of teenage, adolescent melodrama. I just think there’s no way you could write that song unless you were 17. It was so fun to put it out and make the video for it, to re-enter that world and start the album with that world because it just feels so of a moment. It was probably a year out from when 1989 came out which was probably fuelling it, I also think Melodrama [Lorde] came out around that time too, looking back and piecing it together. It’s just a really dramatic song about your crush not liking you back at a party. But I always loved it!
AM: I do really love the music video! Can you talk to me a bit about the process of that?
MP: So fun! I did it with a guy called Louis Bhose. We worked together on it really collaboratively. I knew I wanted to do something that was very John Hughes movie-esque, obviously! But I wanted to do something a bit different and kinda shocking. We shot it in a day in Peckham.
AM: Wow, one day!
MP: One day! And it was so cold, I can’t even explain to you. It was February, in this hall, and it was just freezing and then we shot outside which was even colder and I was in a tank top in mid-February. But it was just so fun, I became friends with all the cast, we are still good friends. I loved creating that universe and starting the album off with that.
AM: So you have mentioned the album a bit already. Have you got new music coming soon?
MP: I have! May is going to be a very hilarious, fun month to be a Maisie Peters fan! I have done another project, I have done a soundtrack which is coming out.
AM: Oh wow!
MP: It’s coming out in May. Nobody has any idea about it which is funny because people keeping asking about MP1 and I’m like it’s coming but first I have a whole other body of work! Because why not! I just enjoy chaos! I did both at the same time, with the same person so it has been chaos but so fun. The album, I have just been finishing the next single. Very chaotically – chaotic is the word of my life at the moment! [laughs] I just changed the next single so I think that will be finished as of today, and the music video is going to be amazing. It’s going to be a great Summer to be a Maisie Peters fan, to be a person in general, and the album will come this year. I feel like people don’t believe me because I always taunt them about it on Twitter but it is, and it’s really good, I’m proud of it.
AM: Is it finished?
MP: The album? Very close! There’s a song I am finishing today, final notes and there’s another song; they both need to be mixed. But those are the last two for sure. Once they are done then the album is done – that will be this week!
AM: Have you got track listing done?
AM: How do you work that out?
MP: I’m not really an insane person about that. I know that some people are. With the EPs and this album also, I’ve not spent hours and hours on it. I think things quite naturally fall into place and then I’m like these two fit together, let’s put that there… I don’t tend to think about it too insanely! If someone suggests something else I will think about it too. I wrote a song for the beginning, intentionally, I needed a song to start it and that was it. I’ve had the song for the end for years so that’s the hardest bit and I got that out the way. Top and tail it then shift things around in the middle.
Maisie wears dress GOLDSMITH VINTAGE; cowboy boots and cap STYLISTS OWN
AM: That makes sense! So what would you say is something you have learnt about yourself through writing songs?
MP: Oh my God! Let me have a think. Why is that such a hard question?
AM: Probably because it’s so in your being…
MP: Yeah I feel like I don’t know because I’ve done it for so long and it’s so second nature to me. I don’t really think about it, I just do it all the time and I always have done. I think it took me ages to realise when I was growing up that people weren’t writing songs all the time.
AM: It’s so intertwined for you, rather than side by side
MP: Yeah. I’ll always do it and I get told that I work a lot and I do but I do it because I like it. No one is making me write songs every day. I go to the studio all the time and it’s become a bit of a joke because my manager has to ban me! He’ll tell me to go home! But I just like being there, I like making music and I don’t do it for a purpose; I guess I do now a bit more because I have a plan and a strategy and goals I want to achieve. But I don’t know what I’ve learnt about myself because I just think I have done it always and forever so I can’t really answer that, sorry!
AM: That’s alright, that makes sense. What would you say is the most honest lyric you have ever written?
MP: Ahh! Ahhhh! I think the most honest lyric… hmm let me think. The most honest lyric. Immediately I thought of my song The List and also Maybe Don’t but The List primarily. I think the lyric… that whole song I would say is my most vulnerable song and it mainly talks about me, and a lot of my music is about other people, so that’s interesting. Really all of that song. “I have a problem looking people in the eye” in that song is very true; I remember writing “I need to shut up and listen, stop trying to fill every silence” and being like oh my God [laughs], that truly changed the way I interacted with people for a while. I really learnt…
AM: There you go, that’s something you’ve learnt about yourself!
MP: Yes, there we go! I am such a person to fill the silence, I just put the words into someone else’s mouth and I do it before I even give them a chance to speak themselves. Yeah, that whole song, that middle 8 “I know I called you but I hate the sound of my own voice…” that is all a very honest song. I don’t think I thought I was going to release it when I did.
AM: Why did you decide to release it then?
MP: I don’t know. I wrote it with my friend Sophie [Cooke] and I sent it to my manager and he said he loved it and that it was so me! And it is! It’s funny, I remember at the time wanting to save it for the album and I was adamant I didn’t want it to come out then. My manager was like ‘I promise you are going to write so much more music and you won’t want it any more’ and he was totally right and I am very glad I listened to him. I wouldn’t have put it on this album; it doesn’t actually feel like this album either. I’m really glad it came out when it did. It also came out mid-pandemic which I think is good, it could have been useful for people. ‘Daydreams’ I was actually singing this morning and that came out beginning of the pandemic and I was like oof, that’s a rough one! [laughs] That was a rough time for anyone…pandemic…Daydreams…he doesn’t want you…bang…have that!! [laughs] I am so sorry! For the damage I did! [laughs] It was so unnecessary. Everyone in the worst month of their lives and I was like you can dress it up but he doesn’t want you!! [laughs]
AM: [laughs] What would you like your listeners to take away from your music?
MP: Whatever they want! I would like my songs to be part of people’s lives. There’s songs I have that I always listen to and I always will. Every time I sit at a piano I will play the same songs because they are so integral to me and my life, so engrained, and I would love my music to be that for someone else
AM: Yeah, that’s lovely. In the last year you started a book club, why did you decide to do this?
MP: I love a book! In the pandemic I was looking for things to do, as was everybody. I think a fan suggested it and I thought it would be fun and I read so much anyway. I thought I would just try it out and see what happened. I run it with a friend of mine called Abby who is in publishing and is super smart and a literary genius. It has ended up being this really cool thing where I can speak to authors every month. I’m actually doing one tonight.
AM: Who’s that?
MP: I am interviewing a woman called Julia Samuels who wrote this book called ‘This Too Shall Pass’. She is a therapist, it’s really interesting. I mainly read fiction so this has been a very different thing for me to do. The whole Book Club is fun, I interview people live, they are obviously very intelligent, mature people who have spent years writing and then there’s me trying to ask eloquent, interesting questions live in front of people! [laughs] It’s quite nerve wracking and it’s a very different skill set but it has been really cool to learn and it kinda feels like being back at school in a really fun way! A lot of the stuff I do is very wishy washy and it’s no less important but for this I do study and make notes. I was obviously a try hard in school if you couldn’t tell! [laughs]
AM: What’s one book you think everyone should read?
MP: I was just about to tell you! There’s two I always give so I’m going to have to start giving new answers. ‘Exciting Times’ by Naoise Dolan who is actually now a friend of mine and it’s just so good! I can’t really tell you more than it’s a woman who lives in Hong Kong and it’s about the two relationships that she has with two different people. It’s just so masterfully written, and I am just obsessed with it. I have connected to no book like I connected to that book. Also, I feel like I haven’t read this book in like 4 years but I think about it a lot. I bought it recently again to read again! ‘The Rules Do Not Apply’ by Ariel Levy, it’s a short autobiography. There’s just a lot of parts in that that I think are very important. There’s one specific exert that has stuck with me, I’ve written songs about it, it’s become my life manifesto. She talks to this woman who has never had children and asks if she is sad that that never happened and the woman just smiles and says you can’t get everything, it’s impossible, you can’t get everything you want and I know that’s really obvious but there’s something so glass half empty but in a really hopeful way about that. I feel like that has been really helpful to me and continues to be really helpful for me.
AM: That sounds amazing! So let’s talk about the last year…
MP: Yay! Fun, so fun and fresh!
AM: What have you been doing to fill your time? Have you still been able to be inspired or did you find lockdown hard for that part?
MP: To answer the second part first, no, I was really inspired. I kinda worked throughout the whole thing. I was especially inspired the first lockdown because I wrote on my own again for the first time in so long. I just totally fell back in love with and enwrapped with writing on my own, which I hadn’t done really properly in a few years. I write with people now which I love, I enjoy both but I do both for different reasons. I started writing on my own a bunch and there was a lot going on in my life, as there was with everyone, simultaneously nothing but a lot! [laughs] I wrote so much and I’m really grateful, I feel like it was so important for me to do that and I don’t know how I would have done that otherwise.
AM: Have any of those songs made it onto the album or the other project?
MP: Umm, no but the only reason is because I have so many songs. I could totally make an album of those songs and it would still be great it’s just not the right thing. There were a couple that nearly made it but…if you’re a Maisie Peters song it’s a savage world you live in because you just constantly get booted off for something else! But I think a lot of those songs I would love to have a life at some point. I don’t want to be another person doing an isolation mixtape but maybe I’ll do one! A lot of those songs feel so of that era. In terms of filling my time I worked a lot, did this album, did a few other things. Also now I live with the girls I’ve learnt to cook a bit better, spoke to a lot of people, I actually wrote a piece for ‘Bustle’, the online magazine, about friendships in lockdown. I have friends in other places, Australia, Indonesia, America, it was important to realise people and relationships are what you give them and I guess what you get given back and I’ve learnt that very strongly in the last year. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, people that are important, you can keep them around if you want to and if you don’t then that’s when it falls apart
AM: How much have you missed performing live?
MP: So much. I love writing and being in the studio but I’ve been playing live since I was 15 in pub circuits, and I love my band, we are so close and touring was like being on the best school trip ever. You’re with all your friends and you’re travelling and playing shows. I’m someone if you can’t work out, I like being busy. I like being productive and I like working and it was this dream world for me where I can do that but also live life more presently. You’re in new places, experiencing new things and making real memories. The point of making music is playing songs. As much of the point for me is making it but playing it to people, having that experience, and it’s so strange that most of the stuff I’ve released in the last year I haven’t played live. ‘The List’, ‘Daydreams’, ‘Maybe Don’t’, I’ve not played those songs and I’m going to release an album and I’m going to tour and I wonder if some of those songs won’t get played. They will eventually but it is strange, it’s missed a whole era.
AM: I went to your Shepherd’s Bush show and had a great time! I was most struck by how much power your audience sings your lyrics back to you
MP: With their whole chest! [laughs]
AM: How does that feel? And I guess that is probably something you have noticed in the last year is that thing missing
MP: Yeah, I feel like in a way I’m a pack it up and shelf it and move on kind of person, I don’t dwell. In a way I’ve almost forcefully forgotten it. I haven’t played a show in a year and a half. I can’t really miss it because it just feels like another world. I think when it comes back it will just feel so affirming, I might just die! I’m not a crier but I might…
AM: What are your plans for the year then?
MP: Release the album and the soundtrack and hope they do what I want them to do, reach as many people as possible. Then probably start working on the next one! I’ve kinda already started, I’ve been working still. I just really want to do as much as possible so… MP2 is beginning! [laughs]
AM: Amazing! And then finally, what is your favourite F Word?
MP: It’s a two part answer… Fun and Fresh! I say that a lot about so many situations, even if it’s not, it’s objectively bad… fun and fresh! Everything at the end of the day is fun and fresh if you want it to be! [laughs]
AM: That’s us done, thank you!
MP: Thank you!