Sometimes you just need to put an album on and disassociate from everything around you, and Maisie Peters is an artist who’s growing discography has always been the perfect soundtrack to those introspective moments. Never holding back on her honest thoughts, she’s created a safe space within her music for listeners to reflect on their feelings and really own their emotions.
With the release of her debut album ‘You Signed Up For This’ after recently signing to Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Records, she boldly steps into the pop arena and delivers a fully realised embodiment of the coming-of-age moments in her life. With a big pop production shining throughout the albums tracklisting, there is still a heavy vulnerability that lays at the foundations of each song. Experimenting with her storytelling, there are songs that are bluntly honest while there are also others that play on the idea of “what if’s”.
The British singer-songwriter has created a really special body of work that feels like a time capsule of supercuts from her life. From heartbreak, to young love, to sisterhood, and growing up, she opens her heart and her diary pages to the world to give everyone her own unique perspective. With a good dose of wit intertwined with some of the heartbreakingly vulnerable moments, it does feel like an emotional rollercoaster ride that you may just need to have.
I recently chatted to Maisie Peters about finding the balance in her songwriting between vulnerable honesty and vivid storytelling, explored the contrast of emotions behind her debut album ‘You Signed Up For This’, and discussed the creative processes behind songs like ‘Love Him I Don’t’, ‘Hollow’ and ‘Talking To Strangers’. Check it out HERE;
THOMAS BLEACH: We’ve known each other for a little while now, and you know that I absolutely love your songwriting. So I want to firstly see if you can guess what my favourite song is off ‘You Signed Up For This’?
MAISIE PETERS: Oh god, that is such a good question! I’m just going to give it a go, so I don’t know if I will get it. But is it track 5, ‘Love Him I Don’t’?
TB: Yes it is! Oh my god, you actually got it right *laughs*.
MP: No way! Well, it’s because you have taste. ‘Love Him I Don’t’ is my favourite too.
TB: Yes! I love that! Well it stood out to me with its beautiful honesty of admitting that a relationship didn’t work, and while you did love him that you can no longer love him anymore. So can you explain the creative process behind this track?
MP: I wrote this song last summer and it came about very organically. I was sort of playing those chords on a Nashville guitar while Jon Green who I wrote it with was playing the piano. I sort of just sang out “love him I don’t, love him I won’t, love him I did for a minute but I’m finished cause I’ve learnt” in like a full moment of fate. It never happens like that, but it did for this song. From there the rest of the song came really easily.
It’s funny as this half of this song is like one of those moments where you write something and then it comes true. There’s a lot of wishful thinking in my writing, so it happens quite a bit for me *laughs*. It’s a really sad song, but it’s also a really hopeful song as there’s a lot of strength in it. I think that’s really cool as you don’t usually feel strong in those situations, but I like that this song has courage to it. It also has a bit of wit and a nice edge of humour to it. For me it’s a song that perfectly encapsulates what I’m trying to make, and it felt like the perfect coming together of myself.
TB: It feels like a bit of a sister song to ‘Volcano’ in that sense too.
MP: They were actually written only a few days apart, so it’s definitely a sister song to ‘Volcano’. Those feelings were definitely circulating at that time, and I’m not someone to be like “Im going to write about this today”, but I think when you feel a certain way it infiltrates into everything you do. So I think that’s why those songs feel so connected.
TB: Lyrically ‘Talking To Strangers’ really stood out with this cinematic imagery of you sharing intimate stories of someone with strangers in a melancholic way. What triggered this realisation in the studio that you were doing this about someone? And do you look at this song as an emotional one or a romantic one?
MP: I wrote this with Brad Ellis and Jez Ashurst who I did ‘Volcano’ with, and it was the last day of writing together at like 11pm. It was very much a “hail Mary” let’s do one more song. We didn’t really know what we were writing about and it all feels like a fever dream looking back at it now. But I loved the idea of not knowing why you are talking about this person all the time, or not even knowing what you’re talking to all those strangers about until you realise it was them.
I’m so pleased it exists for so many reasons. It reminds me of the music that I started out writing like ‘Place We Were Made’, ‘Favourite Ex’, and that whole world. But it also is this weird romantic moment on the album which there isn’t a lot of. But it’s a part of it it all, as it’s this weird sweet infatuation, and I love that. There is such a truth to liking someone so much that you can’t stop talking about them. I’m not usually that person as I’m definitely more of a private person but I definitely realised from other people I was talking to that it can be very true.
TB: Talking about sad lyrics, ‘Hollow’ is a heartbreaking track that actually feels quite comforting with the sentiment “I just feel hollow” echoing through the lyrics. How long did this track take to master the right contrast of production and intimacy that the lyrics needed?
MP: SO SAD! We did this song in March 2020, and it was actually the first song that Ed Sheeran and I wrote together. And we finished Joe Rubel and Jonny McDaid as well. The song came together really quickly as Ed just picked up the guitar and played those chords. It all formed around that. It’s such a special song to me as it reminds me again of the original form of me and Ed as artists, and the music we started writing as it has a lot of that style in it.
The demo was really rough and really basic for ages, and as we got really close to the deadline for the album we actually ended up finishing ‘Hollow’, ‘Boy’ and then wrote ‘Psycho’ all in one stretch. Ed Sheeran really crept his way onto the album at the end of it *laughs*.
Joe and I did another version of ‘Hollow’ that was a little bit more restrained, and we were trying to go for some Kacey Musgraves sort of shit, but I don’t think we got quite there. Ed then came in and was like you need some drums like this, and you need to add this and this. Ed and Joe doctored it and then it came out as this really big and cinematic dreamscape of sad. I’m obsessed with it and I love ‘Hollow’ so much.
TB: But that lyric “I just miss my friend” hit very deep, as that’s the raw reality of a break-up. You’re not only losing your partner, but you’re also losing a best friend.
MP: I know! We wrote that lyric and were all like “that’s so sad” *laughs*.
TB: Last time we spoke you told me that you don’t cry a lot… but this album says otherwise with a lot of lyrics referencing crying. Did you find this album had you reflecting and emotionally in a different way compared to your previous EP’s creatively?
MP: In some ways! I feel like when I’m writing I always have my head down and I’m very much in the zone. In some ways it’s as if you’re singing covers, as you know you’re writing about yourself and it’s your story and your words, but also sometimes I can feel like I’m working so hard writing this song that I kinda forget I’m in it.
I think for the most part where you’re writing the music, you’re in another dimension of feeling and thinking, and I’m not so close to it. It’s a form of escape I guess. I’ve never really believed that songwriting is therapeutic, as I’m like no, I think about bad things all the time. But there is a form of escape in it because instead of thinking of something that makes you sad and you’re just feeling low, you are instead thinking about it and channeling it into something you’re proud of. I think that’s very redeeming as you are reclaiming your sad.
TB: You’re a very honest writer, and for me that’s why I’ve always connected with your music. While you were working on this record, was there a time where you had written something and actively stopped yourself to go “actually Maisie, that’s not how you really feel” or “let’s not sugar coat this”?
MP: Hmmm, that’s really interesting. I don’t think that’s a reaction I’ve ever had because even though my songs feel really honest, there is another side of the knife where I’m not the sort of person to throw something out just because it’s not factually accurate. I’m not out here trying to write a history book. So if it’s not factually accurate I’m not going to throw it out if it’s good. It could be completely factually inaccurate. Like I’m sorry to disappoint people, but I didn’t kiss my crush in an outdoor pool. That never happened. But it’s okay because it feels really honest and real, and that’s the most important thing.
So when I was writing these new songs it was less about did this scientifically happen, and more so did someone believe this happened, or could this have happened? And is it necessary to the rest of the song? And if the answer is yes then in it goes. And subsequently I now have a whole song about kissing my crush in an outdoor pool *laughs*.
‘You Signed Up For This’ is out now!