‘Don’t Forget Me’ Is Maggie Rogers’ Homecoming

maggie rogers interview don't forget me new album

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Maggie Rogers is inviting you to witness a different side of her on Don’t Forget Me. 

“My friends keep telling me that this is the version of me that they know. It’s a little bit sillier and a little bit more southern,” Maggie tells me. “A big part of that is that I just feel way more comfortable doing this.” 

Comfort is the perfect word for Maggie’s new album, Don’t Forget Me. It feels like a warm hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Something familiar yet still slightly foreign. It’s the first time we’re really hearing her let go. “I’m at this real integration phase where I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever wanted to and I’m living in the world of dreams beyond dreams,” Maggie says. “I just love making music.” 

When we first met Maggie Rogers, in 2016 when she was a 22-year-old New York University student. Her song ‘Alaska’ went viral after Pharrell said he had “zero notes” for it. Now, as she’s turning 30, Don’t Forget Me is her way of paying homage to a version of her younger self that was swept up in success. To a life she didn’t get to live. “This record feels like this incredibly woven tapestry of all of these memories from different parts of my life, but particularly from my 20s,” Maggie says. “I think the early years of my career happened so quickly. I was so young. I was just figuring it out and I think this is sort of an arrival moment as I’m turning 30. There’s a timing and an alignment to it that just makes a lot of sense.” 

Pharrell told Maggie what made ‘Alaska’ perfect was that she was “doing her own thing”. She’s been doing just that ever since. It’s part of the reason why I’ve always connected to her music. Her EP Now That The Light Is Fading was the soundtrack of my final year of high school. Specifically ‘Dog Years’, I tell her. “That’s so special,” Maggie says. “That song was about me leaving college so it’s a lot of the same feelings in both spaces. I’m so happy it found you. That’s so cool.” 

Even though Maggie’s first album Heard It in a Past Life was released in 2019, Maggie’s been writing music since 2011. That’s a long time to be creating music in a world that’s constantly changing. Listening to Don’t Forget Me, I wondered if Maggie’s process has changed throughout the years. “It’s funny, it has both massively changed and not changed at all,” she says. “At the centre is just how much I love doing this. My songwriting has always been really consistent and the kind of songs I write and the tone, lyrics, and imagery feels like a really constant throughline.” Maggie’s 2022 album Surrender was a slight departure from what people had come to expect from her. It was loud, bold, and full of simmering rage. But Don’t Forget Me feels like a return to her roots. “This new record, in so many ways, feels like coming home,” Maggie says. “I made it really without thinking and I wasn’t trying to experiment with anything. I was just having fun. This is sort of what I sound like in my most unguarded, easy moments.” 

It makes perfect sense for Don’t Forget Me to be Maggie’s homecoming. She grew up playing banjo and making folk music and there’s smatterings of that in the new album. The thing about homecomings is that they happen naturally. As if your soul is being pulled back to its home. That’s exactly what happened for Maggie. “I made this record in five days and I hadn’t even really toured Surrender yet when I made it. So there was no pressure to make anything,” she says. “Ian Fitchuk, my co-writer and co-producer, and I… were just having a blast. There was something really fundamentally childlike about it. I think you can also hear on the record how much fun we’re having.” Being so unguarded, Maggie tells me, is why there’s “so much truth and so much personality” in the album. “I’m a deeply introspective, quiet, serious person but I’m also like a silly weirdo and it’s nice to get to share that side of myself as well,” she says. 

Even though there’s a lot of truth in the album, the story isn’t entirely truthful. “I felt like I was writing fiction in a way. I developed a character that felt like an early to mid 20s version of myself on a road trip through the American Southwest,” Maggie says. “But there are so many stories that feel like I’ve lived them on this record. ‘Never Going Home’, I can picture exactly which friend would have come into my room and been like, ‘We’re going out, get dressed’. I can picture the whole scenario in my head, but it never happened.” 

Sometimes it’s fun to just create a story that feels wholly realistic but doesn’t necessarily reflect actual events. Somewhere in that story lies the truth. “By writing fiction and by telling stories, I was able to, in some ways, tell some of the greatest truths about my life,” Maggie says. “I think you can hear that self knowledge because I feel so grounded. I feel like I could share a little bit more. Even if it’s both my story and not.”

Perhaps that’s the reason why some people believe that Maggie Rogers makes music “for main characters”. Creating a narrative to live out a life you want to is, after all, a very main character trait. However, that’s not really what Maggie had in mind. “That quote got taken out of context and turned into a headline, which is why I hate interviews,” she says. (I make a note of it — nothing out of context.) “That was a joke! I was jokingly saying, I made music for the main character. Yeah, I said that. But I was joking. I want somebody listening to my music to feel like they’re the main character in their life because that means that they feel loved and essential and important.” 

Maybe the main character that Maggie was more envisioning is more specifically for the rom-com heroine: “Whether it’s Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You or Clueless for ‘So Sick Of Dreaming’ or I’m a big Meg Ryan girl — my fellow MR. Maybe I write music for a rom-com cutie?” 

Whatever character she chooses to channel, each of Maggie’s albums are set in a very specific place. Whether that be in the middle of a concert in Surrender or on a mountain hike in Heard It in a Past Life or on a sweeping country landscape in Don’t Forget Me. Not only does she create a place in her music, she also knows where she wants you to listen to it. For Don’t Forget Me, she wants to be the soundtrack to your Sunday afternoon drive. “That concept came from really thinking about how the albums [you sing along to alone in the car] are some of the most intimate relationships you ever have,” Maggie says. “Getting to be there for somebody in those moments of their life and soundtrack, that is one of the greatest privileges of what I get to do.” 

But what are those albums for Maggie Rogers? “The first thing that comes to mind is Graceland by Paul Simon. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams is a record I only put on when I’m alone in the car and it’s exactly what I want to hear every time,” she says. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Bonnie Raitt recently, so I put her in that category. I also have really, really powerful memories of listening to Erykah Badu in the car with my mom as a kid. I would put Baduizm in that bank as well.” 

I tell her that my driving playlist is actually filled with her music. “This is everything I ever wanted,” she says. “That means so much.” 

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and Multimedia Reporter at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image: Supplied