“Before we begin, I just wanted to let you know my [friend] told me that your music got her through her break–up, and she’s very grateful for it and for you.”
The musician’s eyes flush with warmth as she speaks of how happy this news makes her, because her priority in her career has always been to become entangled in the lives of her listeners. Maisie Peters is one of us: She falls in love too fast, she records TikToks on a whim, and she gets caught up in the little details. This intensity behind her music has led many to coin her as the new Taylor Swift, but Peters has much different stories to tell. The 21–year–old singer–songwriter, who began her journey in the public eye on YouTube when she was 15, recently debuted her first studio album, You Signed Up For This. In the rise of self–awareness in women’s music, Peters fits neatly within the appeal for earnest lyricism and dreamy production. The most popular single off the album, “Psycho,” deconstructs the crazy–girl narrative and adopts it as truth—in a manner similar to that of Swift’s 2014 song, “Blank Space.”
However, Peters didn’t break onto the scene with her album. Her earlier releases, such as her 2018 single “Worst of You,” have gained millions upon millions of streams on Spotify. Writing songs became a part of her daily routine from childhood, when she became infatuated with literature and short novels such as The Great Gatsby. In fact, she recalls writing her English final exam on the classic Fitzgerald novel: “I wrote about the trustworthiness of narrators, which is so ironic because I’m the least trustworthy narrator!” The succinctness of the book alongside its beauty–laden writing opened her eyes to how impactful but difficult it is to create something concise yet sublime. It is apparent in her songwriting that she has worked to achieve this balance with grace.
Prior to the release of You Signed Up For This, Peters, who was already under Atlantic Records, recently signed with Gingerbread Man Records—headed by Ed Sheeran. The main draw to this change, she says, was Sheeran himself; the two had begun collaborating together as songwriters in 2020, and two songs on the album are credited with his help (“Boy” and “Hollow”). “He says I remind him of him, which is a big compliment.” The pair had mutual friends, and Sheeran approached Peters after he was impressed with her music. He became a natural fit for creating with her. Peters views the collaborative writing process and the solo process as entirely different, for when she works with others she is not “bouncing ideas off a blank wall.” There’s so much more room for experimentation and surprise, and she has noticed she gets very different results from her coveted guitar–heavy folk songs.
Although Peters had been working toward her debut album since she was 12, much of the writing came from quarantine sessions in 2020. “None of the songs took ages [to write], but some took ages to finish.” She says that “Elvis Song” was created in bits and pieces, but the majority of the tracks were written in a day before being altered and finished. This sounds almost unfathomable as the songs hover between confessionals of growing pains and love with expiration dates. On “Outdoor Pool,” a tune coated in the nostalgia of a teenage romance, Peters reveals that the lyrics were inspired by coming–of–age stories but are not accurate: “I’m sorry! I never kissed my good friend in an outdoor pool, that song is just fiction; it was just us daydreaming … a dreamscape.”
Her ability to craft stories in a way that rings both extremely specific and overtly relatable is the pinnacle of Peters’ success. “Psycho” has been hailed by many as the ultimate breakup song, not only for its bubbly production but also its jaded, unfiltered lyricism. Peters has danced around to it on her performances for The Kelly Clarkson Show as well as Jimmy Kimmel Live, and a clip of her bopping around to it onstage has amassed over 5 million views on TikTok (where she has over 270,000 followers). It falls into the uncut, anger–ridden genre of popular women’s music today, shining alongside Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” and Aly & AJ’s “Potential Breakup Song,” but only offers one side of the repertoire Peters has to offer. “I was worried people wouldn’t like it, and it would be too different from what I’ve done … but when I do shows, that song is the one that goes off the most.”
Performing has been the highlight of Peters’ career given that she spent so much time on the album virtually. Despite not having played for two years, her re–emergence in front of a live crowd has been that of “a different performer,” and as the world has begun to wake up, she is realizing how much growth she underwent during the pandemic. This growth is already evident in her second album that she’s starting to pen now that she’s done performing for the year. Maisie Peters, in all of her forlorn and lulling muses, has only begun her career of literary songwriting. She writes music for the heartbroken, the perpetual daydreamer, the nostalgic twenty–something. As we look forward to seeing what stories she charts next, there is one thing for certain—they’re going to be beautiful.