Movie Songs

Maggie Rogers on ‘Don’t Forget Me,’ the album she wrote for a Sunday drive

April 12, 20247 Mins Read

NEW YORK (AP) — Maggie Rogers wrote and recorded her new album, “Don’t Forget Me,” over five days last winter. The songs came quickly and chronologically, as if she was writing “different scenes in a movie.”

“I’ve been writing songs now for 15 years, and so I think I’ve just come into this place where I really trust my process and my craft. I think because of that, I was in a place where I was willing to just play,” Rogers said in a Zoom interview ahead of the album’s release.

The result is a record that Rogers calls “relaxed,” one that finds her “unguarded and present.”

The mood is lighter than Rogers’ electric 2022 album “Surrender,” which was in many ways a release of pent-up pandemic energy — a collection of songs that begged to be experienced live and with a crowd. And it leans more heavily on acoustic sounds than 2019’s “Heard it in a Past Life,” the first album Rogers released after a video of Pharrell Williams reacting to her song, “Alaska,” in a New York University class went viral.

As Rogers explains it: If “Heard it in a Past Life” is air and “Surrender” is fire, “Don’t Forget Me” is earth.

Like her past projects — and her studies at Harvard’s Divinity School — community is a through-line of “Don’t Forget Me.” Rogers name-drops friends and tells their stories alongside hers. She has welcomed the way the new songs have united crowds, and looks forward to continuing to foster that joyous, present, environment on tour.

“I’m excited to be able to meet people in it,” she said, referencing the album’s Friday release.

That community-first quality of her music is something that fans, too, embrace: New York’s Gaia Music Collective, for example, organized a “one-day choir” of Rogers’ song “Light On.” Four hundred people gathered to learn and perform an arrangement of the song, a cappella.

“She also is thinking about music as a connective force, as a thing that can bring us and our stories together,” said Matt Goldstein, the group’s founder and co-director. “It’s no accident that her music feels good to sing together.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: “Surrender” felt like an album that had to be moved through and experienced with a crowd. How do you see this album being embodied?

Rogers: This record was always made for the car. I really wanted to make a record that felt like a Sunday driving record, because to me, those are some of the most intimate moments that I’ve had with music or with an album — when I’m singing along to a song in the car and it feels like that artist or that song is like a friend in my passenger seat. Those are some of my favorite records, and they’re the records I turn to for comfort over and over again. And you know, in this big, crazy, completely insane, existential, world, if that’s something that I could offer to the world through my music, I think that that is really special.

AP: Could you say more about how you see your three studio albums in relation to each other? I liked how you described each of them as elements — air, fire, earth.

Rogers: I think categorizing them in that way is just a way to help give context to them. To me, they’re all really important reflections on different periods in my life. And my songwriting is pretty consistent at the center of all these things. It’s mostly the way that like my producer brain has chosen to dress up the songs at their core, and that has more to do with creative expression or curiosity more than anything.

In each record, I’m just trying to be as present and authentic as I can. “Don’t Forget Me,” what I love about it, is that it’s this really, like kind of woven tapestry. Like in so many ways I created a character that sort of led me through this album, rather than trying to make a snapshot of my life in the exact moment. But there are real truths woven into that character and into those stories.

And you know, it comes out two weeks before I turn 30 and in a way it feels like this big ode to my 20s and everything I’ve experienced. Even if the narrative plot line isn’t exactly 1:1 with my life, the essence of all of the feelings within all of the songs feels really, really truthful.

AP: Looking ahead, what do you think you learned after putting what you had studied at Harvard into practice while touring last year?

Rogers: It’s funny because I spend all this time thinking about live music and the way people come together around it, and I had this thought that when I got on stage that it would be like, you know, that meme of the woman with the math problem above her head? I was like, that’s going to be me. And then I got on stage. And what I love about being on stage is that I’m not thinking, I’m just moving. I’m just feeling. It’s like deeply instinctual.

When I think about the tour that I’ll be on for the next year, I think I’m mostly just really excited to have fun. Like, I’ve worked for so many years and been in so many bands, whether it was like at some underground club in New York City or being 18 and playing in bars or being on the road in a van at the beginning of my career, that now I feel really comfortable on stage and I love playing live. I’m so happy that live music is back in this way.

AP: You posted a video around the holidays about a journal entry you found from the end of your time at NYU.

Rogers: So trippy.

AP: How does that kind of reflective writing fit into your daily practice and songwriting now?

Rogers: It’s such a massive part of my life. I mean, I write every day. I kind of can’t sleep without it. It’s usually the last thing I do at the end of the day. And it, like, really is a meditation.

I wrote a ton through grad school and have continued working on essays and I’m turning my master’s thesis into a book. My long form writing practice feels as much a part of my life as my short form songwriting practice, and it helps me to stay really present in my life because I’m paying attention to detail all the time.

AP: You said that writing this album felt like writing scenes from a movie. Do you look to films for inspiration when you’re developing a storyline and character like this?

Rogers: No, I mean, the movies that I love often have a strong female lead — like, “10 Things I Hate About You” was a really big, big part of “Surrender.” And “Thelma and Louise” was a big part of this record. I don’t know — maybe it makes me a basic b—, but, like, I’m a lover of a Meg Ryan rom-com, or a Julia Roberts movie. But that’s just what I like. That to me has the same sense of comfort as the album that is the passenger in the passenger seat that you’re singing along to in your car — they hold the same space for me.

Elise Ryan, The Associated Press

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