Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch'

Interview Wicked Game: Maisie Peters

On second album ‘The Good Witch’, Maisie Peters is operating at the height of her powers.

The sun glints through the window of Maisie Peters’ London home, where the 23-year-old is sitting on the sofa wearing a jumper emblazoned with a pint of Guinness. “The living room needs to be tidied,” she remarks, peering at it from behind her phone. “I’ve just come off touring for the last few months. I’m getting back into my life a little bit…”

The calm and still of this setting feels like a rare moment for Maisie. She spent the first few months of 2023 headlining shows around the world, and much of the year before playing stadium tours supporting Ed Sheeran. There’s more to come, too. Her second full-length album ‘The Good Witch’ is out this month, and she’ll spend the summer playing shows in the US as well as making her Glastonbury debut on the Pyramid Stage.

However, the singer states, “it’s been a time of extremes. Real highs and lows.” Last year, amid the spate of show runs, Maisie found herself upended by an emotional break-up, the turbulence drawing her back to that central instinct that has guided her through her whole life: writing music. Growing up in a small town in West Sussex, she began writing songs as a child and honed her performance skills busking on the streets of Brighton. Her early songs were portraits of life and love, her 2017 hit ‘Place We Were Made’ equal parts a love letter to, and indictment of, growing up by the sea. “We were made by the late nights and fires on the beach,” she sings. “All we talked about was leaving.”

Maisie began sharing original songs on YouTube in 2015, a heartland time for the site when creative self-expression and discovery felt like a free-for-all. Armed with her acoustic guitar, she posted homemade videos from her bedroom, sat on the staircase at home or at the kitchen table, sharing intimate, lived-in vignettes of her young imagination and ambition. “Music really took off for me in 2015, which already feels like a lifetime ago,” she recalls. Her current manager discovered her YouTube channel, and she signed her first record deal while still in school. Two EPs later and in 2021 Maisie released debut album ‘You Signed Up For This’, while newly signed to “friend and mentor” Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man imprint.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to work closely with and learn from somebody like Ed,” she says. “He is truly the greatest example I know of grace, humility, work ethic and good humour. He’s lived a lot and been through a lot.” At Maisie’s invitation, he contributed vocals and guitar to ‘Want You Back’ on ‘The Good Witch’. “He learned all the lyrics, harmonies and guitar parts. For the hour and a half that we were recording, he made it feel like the most important thing he had ever done,” she fondly recalls.

Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch' Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch' Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch' Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch'

“It’s such a privilege to be able to work closely with and learn from somebody like Ed Sheeran.”

Maisie describes her second album at intervals as “my blood on the page,” “a true chronicle of my life in recent history,” and “my own twisted version of a breakup album.” The concept of ‘The Good Witch’ emerged from the immersive emotional universes the singer found herself building to process her recent life experiences, as a symbol of the power she was finding in telling her story faithfully from her own perspective and nobody else’s. “This album was my way of taking control of a tumultuous time,” she nods.

“There’s a unique kind of power in writing music,” Maisie continues. “Kind of like playing with fire. You’re taking real life and melting it down to make something new and beautiful. I always joke that you can use that power for good or for evil.”

It’s not about catharsis, though. She isn’t writing music for any kind of release. “One of my pet peeves is getting asked whether I write music for catharsis,” she says. “I wonder if it’s a female thing? Like, why do people think that all women write music to deal with some kind of deep emotional strife? Similar to when a female author writes a novel, the main character has to be some autobiographical version of her.

“I think I write music for documentation,” Maisie continues. “I have a real obsession and addiction with recording and chronicling things. The older I get, the more desperate I am to make songs as timestamps of things that have happened. It can even be something small, like having a crazy night out or meeting someone.” She turned one such moment – meeting a friend’s sibling at a party for the first time – into 2022 hit ‘Cate’s Brother’: an unabashed, eyes-wide-open crush fest featuring lyrics like, “And my heart went ‘Love him, he’s the one, and we shall wed’.” Maisie debuted the track while on tour with Ed Sheeran and found lightning in a bottle. It played to a rapturous reception across stadiums worldwide, kicking off a period of giddy, feverish fandom that she affectionately calls “feral girl summer”.

And it’s that same spirit of saying the damn thing out loud and standing by the consequences that she now carries into ‘The Good Witch’. Overcome by the compulsion to commit her experiences of the past year to memory - “To get it down and make it into something” - Maisie doubled down on the creative vision of a good witch as the narrator for the project. “The idea of the ‘good witch’ is power, it’s destruction, it’s femininity,” she says. “Those themes all feel very relevant to the album and who I was when I was making it.”

She considers the history of the ‘witch’, the archetype of a woman punished for the heresy of rebelling against society’s expectations. “I felt such liberation and freedom in writing this album as ‘the good witch’. I felt empowered, as Maisie Peters the musician, to say the things that Maisie Peters the person wouldn’t be able to express in her real personal life,” she explains. “I sort of went, ‘Well, fuck it then. Let’s lean into the destruction.’ Let’s tell these stories exactly the way I experienced them.”

Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch'

“There’s a unique kind of power in writing music - kind of like playing with fire.”

Treading more heavily through the contours of her emotions, on LP2, Maisie writes with a steely precision; forthright and unflinching. The result is an album that’s deliciously honest. On ‘Body Better’, she dares to showcase post-breakup jealousy at its most superficial and petty, with lyrics like “Has she got a better body than mine?” and “Was I just an idea you like? A convenient use of type with obedient blue eyes”. Meeting us later in the healing process, ‘Lost the Break Up’ indulges in the fantasy of running into your ex when you’ve really, properly moved on, and plays through the exquisite pleasure of showing them what they’re missing with the impossibly amazing life you’ve built without them.

Inviting her audience fully into the universe of ‘The Good Witch’, Maisie has shared stories, tarot cards and solidarity with fans online, creating a sisterhood – or perhaps more fittingly, a coven – around defiant honesty and self-acceptance. “Because I came from YouTube, the act of sharing and posting music has always been sort of inherent in what I do,” she says. “I feel such a strong sense of community online, especially in the smaller, singer-songwriter corners of YouTube that I came from.

“I’m glad that I began where I did,” she continues, reflectively. “I was born from an online world, but I now exist in a different one, where TikTok and Instagram and basically being extremely online are all part of the puzzle.” That’s not to say she doesn’t readily identify this way. “I was with a friend, [jazz musician] Laufey, this morning, and we were talking about how we’re the most chronically online bitches in the whole world,” she laughs. “I mean, my Twitter is 10 years old and I’m 23. Riddle me that!”

Maisie describes ‘There It Goes’, the album’s penultimate track, as “the closure zone” - an excerpt of “the good witch’s parting words.” “The love we had was covered in snow / I had to let it go”, goes the chorus; it’s a song about leaving things behind and coming back to yourself at the end of it all.

“I turned in the album in December, the same night that there was a crazy snowstorm in London that came out of nowhere,” Maisie recalls. “I had gone into my room to read and had the blinds closed. When I woke up the next morning, I looked out my window to see London absolutely blanketed in snow, just like the lyric I had written. It felt really beautiful and full circle,” she says, smiling. Full circle indeed. Witchy, even.

‘The Good Witch’ is out now via Gingerbread Man / Asylum.

Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch' Maisie Peters talks new album 'The Good Witch'

As featured in the June 2023 issue of DIY, out now.

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