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Exclusive Interview with Maggie Schneider of The Foreword

Friends and songwriting partners Maggie Schneider and Alex Crain recently decided to join forces and create a music project that would highlight their strengths as a team. Under the name, The Foreword, they just released their first EP, Coffee Cups and Second Shots. I talked with Maggie back in January about her solo debut EP and she’s a joy to discuss music with, so I knew I wanted to talk to her about this new duo endeavor. We discussed how she and Alex first connected, the meaning behind their duo name, what the recording process was like for this EP and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!

Start by telling me how you and Alex first connected. 

Alex and I met when I worked on a song with his former band, The Everyday Anthem. They are no longer a band, but they were looking for a female singer to co-write a song. I worked on it with another member of the band, Nick Pena, who was the vocalist. From there I got to know all of the members and Alex just kind of came into my life by fate, which was pretty awesome. We became friends in more of a musical theater setting and [that’s] where we got a lot closer. I was directing a musical theater concert and I knew that he loved theater and had experience in it, so I invited him to perform in it with me. He was like, “Of course! That sounds really fun.” So through that experience, we started hanging out more and realized that we really loved working with each other on songwriting as well. Doing that for over a year, we got to write so many more songs and [it] kind of brought us to the idea of having a project together. 

That’s so cool. I know you said you were both making music on your own and that you were writing together. What made you want to start putting out music together and become The Foreword?

So, it’s funny because we write all of our songs in my living room. I sit at the keyboard, he brings his acoustic, [and] pretty much every weekend we try and get together to write something. We’ve written so many songs over the past two years and we were thinking we want these songs to reach an audience outside of my living room. It doesn’t matter how many people hear it, but it matters that we want to put something that we’re passionate about into the universe rather than just keeping it to ourselves.

Where does the name “The Foreword” come from?

Honestly, it was so hard to choose a name. At first, we were thinking, because duo names are usually pretty simple, something like Alex and Mags or something along those lines. But with this project, we wanted to tell a story or give an introduction to our really close friendship. So The Foreword, that name, like the introduction of a book, connects that idea together. We really became friends and connected through writing music together and that was kind of the intro to us becoming a lot stronger. 

Very cool. I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. So how would you describe the sound of The Foreword’s music without using genre names? What kind of music do you guys produce?

I think that we really like to show dynamics. We have a couple songs on the EP that are really fun and lively and very much more in the summer vein, if we’re comparing them to seasons; so very happy and upbeat and living life to the fullest. Then we have songs that show more of the darkness, more of the vulnerability of each other and the stories and the characters that we’re creating through our music. We love musical theater like I said, so that was a huge influence to us, like La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen, just so beautiful. For us, we want to tell a story and do that in the most honest and vulnerable way possible. 

Talking about the EP a little bit, the title is Coffee Cups and Second Shots. Where does that name come from? Is that the name of one of the songs on the EP? 

No. It’s just a name that we thought of. We thought it connected to all of the songs in general and also to our friendship because I feel like Alex and I… we gave each other a second shot at making music. If that makes sense? We do things separately, and we continue to do things separately, but as a unit, it’s just another way for us to express ourselves and be creative and say even more than we can solo. So having him as a friend and getting to know him the last almost three years now gave me so much in my life. And not only gave me a friend, but someone to collaborate with and express myself in the most honest way possible. So we gave each other like a second shot and a second way to be creative. 

Then as far as coffee cups go, we love getting coffee [laughs]. We are coffee addicts. We just went today, to our favorite coffee shop in Atlanta. We’ve always just loved spending time together and so coffee cups is kind of a symbol of our fun friendship.

That’s so cool. I love that name. 

It happened just randomly. Alex thought of that name when we were in New York playing this show, because that was back in March. We kind of had the idea to do something together and he just said it randomly. I’m like, “That is a really great name. It’s simple, but it says so much about each other.” 

Yeah. And it’s catchy and it rhymes a little bit. It’s very cool. So going back to the writing process, once you had this idea to become a duo and put music out, were you guys writing songs specifically for the EP or was this just kind of a project where you took a bunch of the songs that you had written over the years working together and decided to put the best ones that fit thematically into this EP? 

Right. We really had most of the songs before we came up with the idea of having a project together. So having these songs, we were like, “You know, a lot of these could fit and kind of tell a really interesting story.” We even had drafts of some of the songs. Once we came up with the idea, we refined them a little bit to just have more of a narrative. Like “Roses”, which was the single we just released on Friday, that used to be a song called “If It Means Anything.” 

We took bits and pieces of that song… and Alex is a perfectionist, which is the reason why he’s such a great collaborator. He wanted to just refine that idea and tie it to what we wanted it to be about. There are two tracks that we came up with specifically for the EP that are instrumental transitions. 

Oh cool.

Yeah, like 30 seconds to a minute, little clips; there’s a couple of them in-between the songs, because there’s so many different emotions of bouncing back to happiness and then more melancholy themes, which you can see in the two songs we came out with, “Made Up Misery” and “Roses.” We didn’t want it to be such a shift. We wanted them to stay together, kind of like how life goes, and we love theater again.

I was about to say that sounds very musical theater, Broadway with the transitions and stuff like that. 

Yeah, exactly. We were like, “You know, what? Let’s do something cool and not just make this four separate songs. Let’s connect them together and bridge the ideas through little transitions.” 

I love that. I love concept albums and stuff like that. So I’m excited to hear it. You said “Roses” was the last single that you guys put out. What’s the story behind that song?

That song is really an attempt at an apology and about one or both people really wanting to make this relationship work, but because of everything that’s happened and so many apologies over and over again, it’s like, “How do I fix this?” It can’t be fixed in a simple way like [with] roses. The lyric that we continue to say in the chorus is “How can I fix this tonight with roses?” 

It’s like how do we move on from everything that’s happened and from all of the painful moments, even though we still love each other? Because it can be hard and I think that’s a really universal idea. We love each other, but how can we make this work and learn from our past mistakes?

What was your recording process like for this EP? Because I know you were back working with Rian Dawson (from All Time Low) this summer. Was there ever a conversation about working with someone else or was it always going to be working with him to produce this EP?

It was always Rian. I had such an amazing time, and Alex has too, working with him on Tinted Glasses [Maggie’s debut solo EP]. We really connected to him, both personally and professionally. We just immediately felt comfortable and he really has a soft spot for the singer-songwriter genre, and he mostly produces kind of pop-punk stuff. But [for] the first time, when I was leaving after tracking Tinted Glasses, I was thinking, “Man, I don’t want to leave. Everything just feels right.” So we wanted to work with people who we had a personal connection with as well, and Rian Dawson and his assistant Dan Swank, we feel so connected to. It was fun going back with them and already having that relationship to where they know what we want almost intuitively, and we can really collaborate and communicate in the best way. 

Was it any different this time around because it was you two producing music as a duo or was it just still just as comfortable as ever?

It was just as comfortable, but I think this time it was more collaborative. Alex has always been a songwriting partner for me as a solo artist, and for Tinted Glasses he performed the lead guitar parts and would have production ideas. His feedback means the most to me [laughs]. But this time, he really got to dig deeper because we were both working on the songs on a much deeper level rather than me mainly writing the music and the lyrics and him filling in and allowing them to become the best they can be. He took a much stronger role in the production of everything. Hearing his ideas was so fun because he’s so smart. I’m constantly in awe of how he thinks about things; it’s so perfectionistic because he wants it to be right and he wants not only us to feel really good about it and not have any regrets, but to have the audience feel something when they listen to it. 

Yeah, that’s awesome. I know you guys just shot a music video over the weekend at your school. Was it for “Roses”? 

It was.

What was that process like?

It was amazing. It happened so fast. We shot it for four days, so Friday through Monday. [We] finished every night at two in the morning; we would go in kind of late afternoon and be done at like 2:00 AM. SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) has helped me become an artist and become even more creative with my music. I received the opportunity from Andra Reeve-Rabb, from the Savannah campus, as well as President Paula Wallace. We have a huge film and television department and they do stuff outside of the school as well as have senior thesis projects and my school really helps a lot with getting you a career both during and after your studies. 

So they reached out to me and they said, “We would love to work on a music video for you. How would you like that?” And it was like, “That sounds like a no-brainer.” Everyone here is so creative and is focused on what they want to do. They got the whole team together. A bunch of the students pitched ideas to me regarding the music video; it was super collaborative. We are so excited about it. It’s definitely a very, very high-quality music video, and it really tells a narrative of the couple that we were trying to showcase in the song, but just visually.

Production wise, is this the biggest one you’ve done yet?

Absolutely. I have videos on my own for “Chuck Bass” and “Tinted Glasses.” One of my friends, Britain, directed both of them with one camera, a couple lights; super simple and they look amazing. But this one we had a crew of 56 people. 

Wow. 

Yeah. 56 people. We had extras. We got to perform it at SCAD Atlanta at the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion. So it was amazing and the resources we had really made the video come to life. We were blown away. We didn’t expect it to be just so incredible.

That’s awesome.

I mean it’s a perk of going to an art school. It was just insane, because everyone you meet here, like I said, [they’re] just so creative and good at what they do. But having the opportunity to work with so many people, both in cinematography and in directing, and we even had amazing hair, makeup, and wardrobe people come in from the school in Savannah that are majoring in costume design, come in and think about all those little things.

That not only benefits you and Alex, but it also benefits all the students that get to work on it and get that experience. That’s so great.

Yeah, it’s a win-win. It helps the school and it helps Alex and I. It just puts out a really powerful piece of content. 

Because you’re partnered with SCAD on the music video, do you have an idea of when it’s going to come out? I’m sure it’ll probably take a little bit longer because of the partnership. 

I think it’ll take about three weeks to a month to edit. So I think maybe in two months it should be premiered. I’m not entirely sure, but I do know it will go up on the SCAD websites and all of those platforms and then we’ll be able to share it on our end. So it’s kind of like a double whammy.

That’s awesome. When the EP comes out, what are you guys hoping people take away from listening to it? 

We hope that people just feel something and can relate to what we talk about. [With] Tinted Glasses, that was what I always said. For me, I want to inspire people to do what they love. That’s really my artist mission, especially women because it’s hard to be a woman in the music industry and it’s hard to find those role models to relate to. Yeah. It’s really difficult. So for us, we not only want to inspire people, we want to tell a story that is important and that can maybe affect someone positively or someone can take away maybe how to fix a relationship or how to go about moving forward.

We’re always about being positive, sharing the ups and downs of life and relationships very honestly. But hopefully, for people to take the positive outlook on that and say, “Hey, this made me feel something. I want to do something in my life about my struggles” or whatever they’re going through. Or like, “I want to create something that expresses my feeling.” 

Last question. With the EP forthcoming, have you guys talked about what’s next? Do you guys plan to play shows together? What’s the next step for you guys as a duo? 

We would love to play duo shows. Typically in my solo performances, because Alex is the lead guitarist in my band, we like to have a segment of almost all of our sets if we have time where we just strip it down to acoustic and play one or two of our songs together. We’ve been doing that even before we came up with the idea of having a separate duo. So we’ll definitely continue to do that, and kind of intertwine my solo project with us together. I’m so happy he’s in my band. I was telling him, “I need you Alex” [laughs]. He’s the glue; he inspires me, and the feelings and the friendship is really reciprocated. So we would love to do some intimate duo shows, but definitely with my solo stuff, we will continue to collaborate and play those songs whenever we can. 

Now I have a question based on that. Are you going to put out more solo stuff? Do you have any plans for that anytime soon?

I am hoping soon. I’ve been writing a ton of stuff for myself that I’m really, really proud of. For me, it’s just a matter of figuring out the right time. This duo project has also given me the time to work on my solo stuff because I wanted to put something really, really meaningful out there, but at the same time, wait for the right time for me to put stuff out that’s meaningful and cohesive. So I have about maybe 10 songs that I haven’t recorded that are contenders for [the] next project for me. I’m starting to think now about organizing them, seeing which ones fit with each other and tell the best story possible. But yeah, hopefully soon, maybe by the spring I’ll have something out. 

The Foreword’s EP is out now, wherever you listen to music. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

Written by Bryna Kramer

I could have followed in my father's footsteps and become a doctor. But there was just too much good television on.

Contact: [email protected]

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