It’s been over a year since she has released any solo material, but Maggie Schneider is back and better than ever with her brand new single “Don’t Tell Me”. I recently caught up with Maggie and we discussed the sound of her new music, what specifically inspired “Don’t Tell Me”, working with new producers on her new album and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
So it’s been a year since we last talked for The Foreword and a year and half, almost two years since [your solo EP] Tinted Glasses came out. What made now the right time to release new music again?
Honestly, I’ve been wanting to release new music for a very long time. I started working on this new stuff December 1, 2018, so it has been a while. But for me, I wanted to make sure the single was as I heard it in my head just because it’s one of the songs I’m proudest of writing and something that I really wanted to be inspiring to people and move, whether it’s one person or however many listen to my stuff. I was like, “We got to take our time on it and be sure it’s the best it can be”. So I’m finally feeling so good about it and ready to put it out and share it with everyone. But it’s definitely hard to wait; I feel like it’s been forever.
The new single is called “Don’t Tell Me”. What inspired this song?
It was written in a very unusual way compared to how I usually write. I usually collaborate with people like Alex Crain from The Foreword or Nick Pena, who I wrote “Chuck Bass” with. But with this one, I was awake one night, just tossing and turning. Isn’t that the worst?
The actual worst.
Yeah, it’s literally the worst. So I couldn’t sleep and I was just upset about a lot of things that people were telling me like what kind of artist to be and what to do, just all of these judgements and negative things. So I was fed up and I pulled out my iPhone notes and just started writing random lyrics and things that popped into my head about what I was thinking and the things that were said to me and the things I leave unsaid, because for me, writing songs is bringing the things that I don’t say in the moment that I regret not saying to light. We all have those times where we’re like, “Damn it! I wish I had said that!” So I wrote a bunch of lyrics that night and then the next day, the “don’t tell me who to be” lyric popped in my head as I was driving back home. And within 2 hours, I had written the song.
Yeah. It doesn’t happen that quickly for me usually, but it was kind of cathartic because I was pissed off. It’s a response to someone who belittled me and didn’t really understand everything I’m doing and was just a negative force. So for me, putting that positivity out and sharing how I felt was a really good moment.
Yeah. You just said this was a very different songwriting process than what yours typically is, but when you normally go into a songwriting session, do you know what you want to write about going into the session or do you let it just come about organically?
Ideas kind of come out organically. My real life definitely influences what I write about, and not necessarily for every song – I don’t have to experience literally everything – but I usually come up with one line or a hook or a piano part and then I take inspiration from maybe what’s going on in my life or what my friends are going through and just try to make it happen naturally. Whenever I try to force it and say “I’m going to write a break-up song” or “I’m going to write a happy love song”, it never comes out genuine to me. So I always strive to write exactly how I’m feeling and in that way it’s a more creative process.
Are you typically melody first or lyrics first?
Melody first, definitely. I feel a lot more confident in writing music than lyrics so that’s a big reason why I’m especially proud of “Don’t Tell Me” because I wrote both parts. I’ll sit at my piano and I can write a melody pretty quickly.
That’s awesome. Speaking of songwriting, who are some of your musical influences when it comes songwriting?
Julia Michaels is my biggest right now. She is amazing. She put out a new EP a couple of months ago but I love how conversational and vulnerable she is, but it’s still pop music. It’s relatable but it’s like a monologue and I love that. I’m also a theatre nerd, as you know, so things like that and those little theatre influences definitely influence my writing. But Julia Michaels is definitely one of my favorites right now.
Yeah. Is that the vein that you’re kind of going for with this new music, like pop music with that musical theatre influence? Like what’s your new music sound like?
So I think that’s definitely the direction I’m headed. The record that I finished — and I don’t have any release dates for anything besides “Don’t Tell Me” yet — it has more Julia Michaels-esque, indie-pop type songs. And then there are songs like “Don’t Tell Me” that are full rock band, pop-rock type stuff. Then I’m even working on more new music with Nick Pena, who worked on a few songs on the record as well, and that’s even more in the Julia Michaels, musical theatre-inspired, indie-pop vein. I love all of it. I’m super influenced by all of it so I try to mix it all together as much as I can.
That’s awesome. Speaking of the record, do you know how many songs are going to be on it? And is it going to be full-length or another EP?
So it’s a full length with 10 songs.
That’s so exciting.
Yeah. Like I said, we started recording December 1 and finished it in the spring. I had the most amazing experience working with friends and being in there and thinking about what works best for each song and perfecting everything. It was great.
Speaking of the recording process and specifically going back to “Don’t Tell Me”,
were there any major changes made to “Don’t Tell Me” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
There were some structure changes. With musical theatre stuff, I like theatrical, dramatic arrangements and things like that. So we changed the arrangement up a little bit, but the lyrics all stayed the same. In regards to sonically, I wanted it to hit like an old Mayday Parade song, so like A Lesson in Romantics – that era of Mayday Parade. So I always wanted it – and heard in my head – to be starting with piano and vocal and then just building and growing with the full band sound. There’s even some strings in there and some cellos – I love orchestral instruments, especially in rock music, so there’s a bit of that in my new stuff, so I’m super excited. But yeah, I kind of always had an outlined idea of what I wanted it to be and then it was just figuring out what really made sense, being nitpicky, adding harmonies and just making sure as big as I heard in my head.
Yeah. And you worked with a different producer for this, right?
I did. I worked with Alex Downtain and Ben Humkey at Homegrown Studios, which is a studio in Georgia. I’ve known both of them for five or six years. They’re in a band together now, but they were in their previous bands and we played a show together at the old Masquerade and I was like 15 [laughs]. We stayed friends ever since and kind of reconnected last summer when I went in to record a couple of demos, one of which is a song that’s on the record. But I was so impressed with the demos and had such a fun time that I though, “Why not do this with friends?” Because for me, all of the songs I worked on with them are about relationships and friends and those memories. So it was just such a fun experience.
Lastly, as you know, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. So what are you currently nerding out about?
Oh man. Okay. So I have been watching two things this summer with my mom. I guess they’re both different types of nerdy things but the new remake of Beverly Hills 90210 is so good. My mom and I watched the entire original series twice together. It’s like 10 seasons.
Yeah, it’s long.
It is! But so good and I love it so much. So we’ve been watching that and that’s been really fun. I love Bachelor in Paradise.
Yes! Oh my gosh, so good.
That’s a guilty pleasure for me. Best Bachelor show out of the franchise.
It really is though.
So that. And then a big thing this entire year has been A Star is Born, the movie. I’ve watched it like 8 times and I’ve cried all 8 times.
You can’t not cry at that movie.
Yes. It’s beautiful. Still on my musical theatre nerdy things and then there’s been really good TV this summer.
Photo Credit: Savana Ogburn