The untold truth of Maggie Rogers

If the name Maggie Rogers doesn't ring a bell, the story of Pharrell Williams nearly being moved to tears while listening to a song from an NYU masterclass student probably does. That student was Maggie Rogers, and the song that so visibly moved Pharrell was "Alaska." After hearing an unfinished version of the song, Pharrell said to a nervous Rogers: "I've never heard anything that sounds like that. ...That's a drug for me."

Since the video of her chance encounter with Pharrell went viral in 2016, the banjo-playing NYU grad has been steadily rising to fame. After releasing her EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, in February 2017, Rogers disappeared from her newfound spotlight for a while and devoted the majority of her time to writing a full-length album. That album, Heard It in a Past Life, was released in January 2019 to positive reviews, solidifying Rogers as not only an artist to watch, but an artist from whom we can expect great things. Here's everything you should know about Maggie Rogers. 

She "blacked out" while meeting Pharrell

Maggie Rogers rose to fame thanks to a chance encounter with Pharrell, which was captured in a now-viral video. And considering the star claims she "blacked out" while talking to the "Happy" singer, it's a good thing their meeting was recorded.

In an interview with NME, Rogers recalled the day in early 2016 that would go on to change everything for her. "It was really weird. I felt like I was showing my homework," Rogers revealed. "It was very uncomfortable listening to my music in front of my peers, then you add a camera crew and one of the most powerful music influencers. I pretty much picked a spot on the floor and stared at it."

Though Pharrell can barely contain his adoration for Rogers' song, "Alaska," in the video, the singer-songwriter said she didn't realize just how much he loved her song until she saw the video herself.

An intern turned internet sensation

While attending New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Maggie Rogers interned at Spin magazine before assisting music journalist Lizzy Goodman with her New York rock scene oral history, Meet Me in the Bathroom. Goodman was also a contributing editor at Elle, so she connected Rogers with assistant Elle editor Keziah Weir, kicking off the last internship she would hold before music became her full-time gig.

In a feature for Elle, Weir wrote about Rogers' tenure as an Elle intern, noting that she was one of the "most competent interns [...] as well as one of the most distracted." When Rogers came to Weir to ask that she be allowed to cut her internship short by a month, the assistant editor admitted she was a bit insulted. However, when Rogers sent her a link to the famous Pharrell video, Weir understood that her intern's passion wasn't writing about music, but making the music. While she initially felt a tinge of jealousy that fame and success had so easily fallen into Rogers' lap, Weir says she was "impressed" and "a little inspired" by her success.

She's synesthetic

If you've watched the viral video of Pharrell being completely blown away by Maggie Rogers' ethereal song, "Alaska," you probably heard her mention that she's synesthetic. Rogers' revelation comes after Pharrell mentions how excited he is to see the visuals for her song, as she seems to know the direction she wants to take with the video. "I have [the visuals]," Rogers replies. "I'm excited. I'm synesthetic, so, colors... they're there." Pharrell's response? "Well, those were like some awesome colors." He then revealed that he, too, is synesthetic.

To be synesthetic is to experience synesthesia, which Psychology Today says may "take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color." In other words, Rogers sees the music she makes as colors, which she then incorporates into her accompanying music videos. In an interview with W magazine, Rogers explained that each song on Now That the Light Is Fading, her EP, is a different sonic color. The song that made such an impact on Pharrell is a "light blue," which is certainly prominent in the "Alaska" music video.

She's BFFs with this Riverdale star

There must be something in the water at New York University. Dozens of your favorite celebrities have attended the prestigious school, including Lady Gaga, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Melissa Joan Hart, Dakota Fanning, Anne Hathaway, and many more. Now that Maggie Rogers is well on her way to becoming a household name, you can add her to that list, as well. But the "Light On" songstress isn't the only NYU graduate who has only recently risen to stardom. Riverdale star Camila Mendes is a fellow NYU alum — and just so happens to be one of Rogers' best buds.

"She and I have a unique friendship," Mendes explained to Refinery 29. "When I booked Riverdale, it was right when that Pharrell video went viral. Both of our lives transformed very quickly... and it was nice to have this person to experience that with in college." Mendes and Rogers have remained close throughout their respective journeys, with Mendes even appearing in the singer's girl power music video for "Give A Little."

She wrote her debut hit in 15 minutes

Unfortunately for aspiring musicians, there's no definite answer on how long it takes to make a hit song. Some songwriters spend years perfecting their creations, while others are able to crank out a viral hit in virtually no time at all — much like Maggie Rogers. The 'About' section on Rogers' Apple Music profile indicates that she wrote "Alaska," a song about a hiking trip, in about 15 minutes. 

So, how did it all come together in such a short amount of time? Rogers provided some insight on her process in an interview with the podcast Song Exploder, revealing that, while hanging out in the studio with her friend, Doug, a drum loop suddenly started playing in her head. She stopped the conversation, began drumming her hands on her Levi's 501 jeans. Then, Doug started another track, and Rogers began snapping. Doug added in a congo drum sample, Rogers added lyrics and melody — and in just 15 minutes, "Alaska" was born.

She gave fans a BTS look at her life in this 2018 documentary

In 2018, Maggie Rogers released a 12 minute long documentary detailing her life since becoming an overnight success. Titled Back In My Body, the documentary starts with Rogers making what could very well be the understatement of the century. "This year has been pretty overwhelming," her voice can be heard saying over footage of the singer running onstage to greet hoards of cheering fans.

As the documentary rolls on, Rogers explains that it's only been a year and a half since she graduated college; however, she often seems to be a seasoned star. Back In My Body follows the songstress as she travels to Alaska — the state that inspired her first hit — to play two university shows. It's a beautiful documentary, both for the incredible shots of the Alaskan wilderness and the heartwarming way Rogers reacts to her fans knowing every word to her songs. "There's just nothing I love more than making music," Rogers says as the film comes to a close. "And I hope that will always come through."

"One of the most important things for creativity is boredom"

While Maggie Rogers' time as a student at New York University and a trailblazer in Alaska certainly influenced the artist she is today, there's another place dear to the singer's heart that she credits with making her who she is — Easton, Maryland.

Located on the eastern shore of Maryland, Rogers revealed to Entertainment Weekly that her small, sleepy hometown was instrumental in cultivating a healthy sense of imagination and creativity, telling EW, "I think that one of the most important things for creativity is boredom." Explaining that Easton is "kind of in the middle of nowhere," Rogers recalled how growing up in a place with little to do forced her to think outside the box. 

"I was definitely bored. But in the best way. It forces you to create your own fun," Rogers told EW. "And for me, that was playing guitar for hours in my room, and learning to write songs." 

You can still listen to her very first albums online

Maggie Rogers may have burst onto the scene with a song she wrote for a masterclass, but "Alaska" was far from the first piece of music she'd released for the world to hear. After the video of Rogers leaving Pharrell speechless went viral in 2016, new fans of the singer-songwriter began to seek and find her earlier music — albums she'd written in high school and later released on the website Bandcamp. In June 2016, Pitchfork reported that two "traditional folk albums" Rogers had penned in high school — The Echo (2012) and Blood Ballet (2014) — had each been streamed over 300,000 times. 

While Rogers hadn't been searching for fame, in a way, she'd been preparing to be discovered for quite some time. "I come from such a small place and I've always really thought that if you make good music, then people will find it," the songstress told Pitchfork. "[People finding my music] kind of reaffirms my belief that if you make what you want to make, maybe somebody will find it, even if it takes four years."

Her songs are pretty straightforward

If you're listening to Maggie Rogers' music and searching for a deeper meaning underneath her lyrics, you should relax. According to Rogers herself, her lyrics are taken from her life and experiences, pretty much verbatim. 

In an interview with the Song Exploder podcast, Rogers provides an example of this life-to-paper lyric writing technique by revealing how she penned the lyrics to "Alaska," explaining, "For me, songwriting is about storytelling. And I knew that I had a couple years to cover. So, I started where I left off — in Alaska. I was walking in this place." And thus, "Alaska" begins with Rogers' voice singing, "I was walking through icy streams/that took my breath away." 

Rogers also explained on the podcast that she'd often describe her time in Alaska to friends by saying, "This happened to me, and this happened to me, and then I went to Alaska and I just walked it all off." That's how the pre-chorus line ("And I walked off you/And I walked off an old me") came to be. Art may imitate life, but life inspires art — at least where Rogers is concerned.

She's got some famous fans

Pharrell may have been the first big name to take notice of Maggie Rogers' talent, but as the songstress has grown in popularity, her celebrity fan base has grown in number. Rogers is often recommended to fans of fellow singer-songwriters such as Florence Welch and Lorde, and for good reason. Not only do her heartfelt lyrics and alternative pop sound share similarities with the alt-pop queens, but Lorde is also actually quite the fan of Rogers. According to The Independent, the "Green Light" singer once described Rogers' lyrics as "a feather-light sucker punch to the heart." 

Lorde isn't alone in her adoration of Rogers. During her November 2018 knockout performance of "Fallingwater" on Saturday Night Live, John Mayer took to his Instagram story to fanboy over the singer, posting a clip of her performance with the question, "Can you die from getting goosebumps?" In January 2019, Mayer had Rogers as a guest on the second season premiere of his Instagram talk show, Current Mood.

"I kind of need to chill my fangirl"

Before her chance encounter with Pharrell went viral, Maggie Rogers was just your average college student chasing a dream. And since she's still a newbie to this whole fame thing, the singer-songwriter often finds herself starstruck when she meets the artists she's admired all her life — especially when they become her collaborators. 

In an interview with The Ringer, Rogers described getting to work with Rostam Batmanglij, a former member of the band Vampire Weekend, on "Fallingwater." Rogers gushed over her excitement to work with one of her biggest influences, saying, "My first band in high school used to cover Vampire Weekend. They were my favorite band forever. ...I'll sing something and he'll be like, 'I like that,' and I'll be like, 'I learned that from you!'"

Roger continued, saying, "That's a funny thing about being friends now with people I deeply admire, I kind of need to chill my fangirl." Somehow, we have a feeling your favorite artists are fangirling just as hard over you, Maggie. And if they aren't yet, they will be soon. 

"I felt pretty overwhelmed and a little scared for a while"

Plenty of people dream about being catapulted to fame after becoming an overnight success, but for Maggie Rogers, sudden fame introduced a kind of anxiety she hadn't bargained for. In fact, having the spotlight thrust upon her after 21 years of living a relatively normal and private life had the folksy songstress considering walking away from the biggest opportunity of her life — a chance to be in the mainstream music industry. 

In an interview with Billboard, Rogers detailed how this fear of fame and all it entailed inspired her to write "Light On," one of the hit songs from her major-label debut studio album, Heard It in a Past Life. Describing the pre-chorus of the song, in which she sings of trying to "slow it all down" and "crying in the bathroom, had to figure it out," Rogers revealed that she was initially turned off by her mega-popularity, telling Billboard, "I felt pretty overwhelmed and a little scared for a while. My very private life became very public very quickly [...] I didn't feel like I had any control over it."

Taking control of her career

Considering that Maggie Rogers garnered unfathomable attention and hoards of new fans due to the single song she played during her serendipitous meeting with Pharrell, one can imagine the number of record label executives that were waiting to pounce on the college student with an undoubtedly promising future in the music business. Fortunately, Rogers is as business savvy as she is artistically inclined. Instead of allowing herself or her music to be steamrolled by suits hoping to profit from her talent, Rogers took control.

"The reality is my career started with a song that wasn't finished and a video I didn't know was going on the internet. It happened so out of my control," Rogers revealed to Billboard. "Usually you get to take a second and say, 'This is who I am.'" Since Rogers wasn't given the chance to properly introduce herself to the world, the singer claimed her future career by turning a 20-page thesis from college into a business blueprint, which included outlines for brand partnerships, label meetings, and a contract in which she licensed her music, while still retaining ownership of all her masters. Clever girl. 

She wants you to dance

If you've seen a Maggie Rogers video, a televised performance, or if you've been lucky enough to catch this star-on-the-rise in concert, you've no doubt witnessed her affinity for dancing. Rogers dances like nobody's watching — even though millions of people are, in fact, watching — and people on the internet have fallen in love her eccentric dancing style. One fan commented on her debut Saturday Night Live performance, "I just LOVE her dancing. ...I'd rather see someone dancing and performing their music with their whole body than lip synching." 

It's a good thing Rogers' fans love her dancing, because it just so happens to be a central component of who she is as an artist. In an interview with Tidal, the songstress revealed how a night out at a dance club in France changed her entire perspective on music, saying, "I was super inspired by the freedom and connectivity that dance music provided. It made me think of rhythm as something that's actually just super inherent to humans and the way we feel and process music."

So don't be scared to bust that move. It's 100% Maggie Rogers approved.