Pop singer-songwriter Maisie Peters gained initial popularity on YouTube before releasing two original EPs and going on tour all over the US. She signed to Gingerbread Man Records, the record label headed up by none other than pop icon Ed Sheeran, and just released her first debut album, You Signed Up For This, last month.
We sat down with Maisie Peters just before the album release to talk about You Signed Up For This, her work on Trying, one of the latest Apple TV+ binge-worthy shows and of course, her viral TikToks.
Beyond The Stage: What has it been like working with Ed Sheeran now that you’re on his label?
Maisie Peters: It’s been amazing. [Sheeran] is obviously ridiculously talented, and he’s also the most generous, down-to-earth person in every way. Besides being generous, he is so courteous and amazing. I’m a one-woman Ed Sheeran promotional team right now [laughs]. He’s just amazing, and it’s really amazing and inspiring to watch and learn from him. Working with him has been really so easy. He’s really supportive and wants me to make the music that I want to make.
BTS: When you wrote the soundtrack for season two of Trying on Apple TV+ did you have full reign on the music, or did Apple have inputs in the music, such as the collaborations?
MP: That was a really cool process, one of my favorite things that I have done, actually. I worked really closely with the director, Jim O’Hanlon, and Catherine Grimes, who was the BBC music commissioner. It was myself and Joe Rubel, the producer with whom I made the soundtrack. We had a couple of long Zoom meetings with [O’Hanlon] before we started, and we talked through the themes and the general story and the universe it was in since it was season two.
Then I read all the scripts, and I made notes, and I was very methodical with it. But when it came to writing the music, we just went away, and I think we spent about two weeks doing four or five songs and we just sent them to Apple. Luckily for us, they really liked them. I think it was “Helicopters,” “Mail House,” “Funeral” and they loved what we did.
I had to change a couple of timing things like there was a song called “Office Christmas Party” that just became “The Party” because we wrote it around Christmas time so I was obviously in the festive spirit. We realized that we couldn’t have something called “Office Christmas Party” in a TV show that was set in autumn. It was really easy and definitely a different experience. Apple was wonderful to work for. They really trusted me and my vision. I think it all worked out really well.
BTS: Did you feel like the songs you wrote for Trying were still your music, or did it feel more like you were doing something for a show?
Maisie Peters: No. It’s interesting, even though a lot of it was in a different character’s shoes and the show is not really my life, the show was still set in London and it was about these young people figuring out how they wanted to live their lives. I actually was writing my album at the same time, and a lot of these songs, even though they’re written for something else, there’s so much of me in them. They feel super-close to me. I think it’s music I could make in my sleep, almost.
I’ll always make songs like that. It was really fulfilling and magical to get to write like a whole album basically that was twisty, smart, folk-pop songs. And it’s funny, they’re all love songs really in some way, shape or form, which is hilarious for me, the girl who never writes love songs but I think it’s interesting. They’re all love songs, but there is also nuance to them and it really looks like love through a lot of different eyes and not a stereotypical bunch of love songs.
BTS: Did you have to set aside time to specifically write for Trying and then specifically write for your album?
MP: I think it only happened once where I wrote a song and thought it could work for either. I wrote a song called “Trying,” not actually linked to the show, but that song we started for the Trying soundtrack. It ended up not really working, we only did the first verse and chorus, and we were like, ‘That doesn’t really work for Trying, but it could work for me,’ and then it ended up being on my album.
The soundtrack was done in such a concentrated time like we literally did those first four songs in like a week or less, and it was [Rubel] and me being like, ‘We have a deadline,’ and we wanted to get these done by Christmas, and it was October. So we just got the writing done very quickly. With recording and producing, though, there were definitely some crazy days where I would be in [Rubel]’s studio until 1 am every day, and I would go on the weekends for a few months.
We had a joke with my manager because he actually had to ban me from going to the studio because I would just go all the time. He was like, ‘Maisie, you need to stop. Stop going to the studio.’ I’m the only artist ever to be told not to go [laughs].
We’d be working on a song from my album and then a soundtrack song and then a song from my album, and then we had to check mixes for songs from my album, but then the soundtrack, and it was all very chaotic.
BTS: How did you start making your TikToks what they are today? You’re sharing music and carving a space out for yourself there.
Maisie Peters: I think the same as everyone. It was the lockdown, and everyone was like, ‘What do I do?’ I actually think TikTok is the best social media app. It’s so funny, and I got really into it. I’ve discovered so much new music from TikTok and so many artists that I think are incredible, especially songwriters. It’s such a perfect platform for songwriters, and I’m someone who really likes sharing my music in quite a casual way, and TikTok is the perfect place to do that.
I just put all these little snippets up and these little jokey things, and it’s become a fun little thing. And now it’s super important as well because everyone is being told to do it. I really feel like songwriting has had a comeback with TikTok, and I’m constantly blown away. Every day I stumble across someone singing on my For You Page, and I’m like, that is insane, that’s an amazing song.
BTS: Do you think that hearing all the songwriters on TikTok and elsewhere has changed how you’ve been writing at all because you hear so many different voices?
MP: I think it’s just really inspiring. It’s wonderful how many talented people there are out there and how many people are writing amazing music all the time and most of the time, they’re just teenagers in their bedrooms, and I just think that’s so cool.
BTS: How did you decide what collaborations you wanted to do and who you wanted to do them with? Do you write songs before or after you decide who to collaborate with?
Maisie Peters: On my album, there aren’t any features, but there are collaborations with James Bay, Bear’s Den and Griff on the [Trying] soundtrack, and all of those songs were different.
With Griff, we’d written the song, but I knew I wanted her voice to be on it with me, and it reminded me of Folklore. We’d just done that cover together, so I sent it over to her and explained what the TV show was about and what the song was about, and I said, ‘Feel free to write, produce, whatever you want.’ She ended up writing this amazing verse and did all these vocals that sounded so good and sent it back to me.
But also, I wrote with JP Saxe, we did ‘Maybe Don’t’ together, and that was done very collaboratively. We met in the studio right before lockdown, and within five hours, we had written this song. It was very collaborative and came out of us just sharing our experiences and lives at the time, joining forces.
BTS: How is it getting back to doing live shows? Are you thinking of touring for this album?
Maisie Peters: Yes, I’m excited. The festival was amazing. It was really fulfilling and inspiring. I am definitely going to tour for this album. I’ve announced some record store dates, which will be really fun. I’m really excited to play these songs live, and I’m hoping next year, for sure, I can do some touring.
BTS: Was it weird to get ready to go back on stage after this long? A festival seems like a big way to jump back in.
MP: It was kind of crazy. There was definitely some worry that I had forgotten how to do it, which is, I think, a very valid worry because I hadn’t been on stage for like a year and a half. But I actually think the time away made me much better, and I was never really a natural performer, but doing those shows at the festivals really made me realize the sort of performer I want to be. I think I’m getting closer to the performer that I’ve always wanted to be.
It’s really cool. It’s coming from just growing up and gaining confidence and writing songs and knowing how to make songs work live, and I have a really amazing band as well. It was kind of daunting to go on stage. I wasn’t sure I knew how to do it, but I sort of stumbled back into it.
BTS: How do you feel about this new album? How does it compare to previous EPs and singles?
MP: I’m really excited for this album to come out. Once it comes out, it’ll be weird because it’s all I worked on for arguably all my life but at least like a year. I think it has the same heart as my EPs.
There are veins and rivers that run through all of them that help carry each one to the next. ‘Dressed Too Nice for a Jacket’ led to ‘It’s Your Bed Babe’ and then to this album; I like to think they’re all stepping stones. They’re like the little baby siblings of this album. I think [the album release] will be weird, but I think it’ll be good. I’m really proud of it. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
Since we sat down with Maisie Peters, You Signed Up For This debuted at number 2 on the UK Album charts. She has performed her latest single, “Psycho,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! She also has announced U.S. tour dates for early 2022. She’s got a busy year ahead, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
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Listen to Maisie Peters below.