People love watching someone come into the spotlight. To “make it”. And I think it mainly has to do with the fact that they want to “make it” too, in whatever their profession is. Maggie Rogers is a musician from Maryland who has “made it” by many definitions. She’s currently on a tour that began later last year, and now Is subsequently following her debut studio album Heard it in a Past Life. It’s topped charts, and many “Album of the year” lists throughout 2019. But through all of this success, Maggie Rogers is challenging what “making it” looks like in the modern world.
What is unique about Maggie Rogers success is that it didn’t come from a traditional route, like from a weekly competition show. It came from one of the more difficult routes someone can take. Hard work, a demo, and a chance. And with it was a song so good that it spread across the world, virtually overnight, and into a whirlwind of meetings with record companies and producers. It’s like something out of a movie. Rogers addresses these feelings in “Light on” off Heard it in a Past Life, singing about the vulnerability with being put in the spotlight. “You must be so happy now” she sings at the beginning of the song, and then later in a reprise, she turns the microphone to the crowd, they too singing “You must be so happy now!”
At the Armory tonight, Rogers ended her performance by doing a solo acoustic rendition of “Alaska” saying “It’s the highest privilege to take an idea and develop it. This show feels like what I want it to look like.” With a guitar strapped on, she confided in us, saying “I’m going to play it for you the way I wrote it” While It’s easy to talk about Rogers’s discovery singing “Alaska” in the video, It’s more important to recognize who Maggie Rogers is as an artist. Rogers has a degree in production and music engineering from New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and before her billboard topping debut studio album was released earlier this year, Maggie released two folk records, The Echo (2012) and Blood Ballet (2014) On both albums, Rogers plays banjo – a wildly different sound from Heard it in a Past Life. She’s a multi-instrumentalist, beyond playing banjo, she can play piano, guitar, and her first-learned instrument, the harp. And while she went from Bandcamp to Billboard quickly, she’s taken it in stride. 3 albums can be an accomplishment for any artist. But to play Coachella, Newport Folk Festival, and Hinterland all within the same year, as well as John Mayer’s coveted Sunday night show “Current Mood” all behind a chart topping debut studio album; That’s a degree of success that few artists have achieved.
But even with all these accomplishments under her belt, she still uses her success as a vehicle to do good. Proceeds from her concerts go toward the ACLU. Tonight’s show had booths from Planned Parenthood and Headcount. On stage, she handles it like I think we all would. Walking into the venue that morning she said she “Audibly shrieked” at the size. She steps up to the microphone, stares out at the crowd, and just laughs, waiving “Hi!”she says. At the concert in Minneapolis tonight, She dedicated ‘”Dog Years” To her mother and her mother’s friend, both in attendance. I overheard a fan say to a friend “She’s so cool. Its like, you could totally be friends with Maggie Rogers.” And I think that’s possible with how honest and genuine she is as a person. Many fans see her as an artist, but also see her as a friend. How many other musicians of her success could you say that for?
Maggie Rogers was thrust onto the world’s stage quicker than she ever thought possible, and she didn’t necessarily want to be there. We all dream of making it, but we don’t know really know what “making it” looks like until we get there. But instead of collapsing under pressure, or getting the Land Rover and mansion in L.A., or just turning down what many of our definitions of “making it” are, she stands tall. “I wish I could show myself 3 years ago what this looks like” she said at one point looking out to the crowd. On the world’s stage, she dances, spins, and sings. Her band plays behind her, and they too dance to every beat of her songs, just as much as all her fans, show after sold out show. In this day in age, you have to be a good person beyond having good music. Maggie Rogers does both. If you want to know what the new definition of what “making it” looks like in the 21st century, look to Maggie Rogers.