Maggie Lindemann has come a long way fast. From first seeming an overnight sensation to now finding her place as a rock star, she’s finally making her own music on her own terms.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
“Fuck your ribbons and your pearls, ‘cause I’m not just a pretty girl,” Maggie Lindemann sang on her 2017 breakout single ‘Pretty Girl’. The shimmering pop track has been streamed almost 100 million times, while a pulsating remix by Cheat Codes is the sort of glitzy, euphoric anthem that can be heard every summer on Love Island. Racking up over 850 million streams, Maggie became an overnight sensation.
Speaking to Upset backstage at Hammersmith Apollo ahead of a support slot with PVRIS, Maggie explains that ‘Pretty Girl’ was a dream come true for the 17-year-old because she was “able to do much stuff”. It was also a bit of a nightmare. “Everything happened so fast. The first time I ever performed live was at a festival in front of 90,000 people. It was absolutely terrifying because I’d never done anything like that before,” she says.
It was made worse by the fact that Maggie really didn’t want to be a pop star. “When you’re putting so much of your time and effort into something that you don’t really love, the payoff doesn’t feel as good,” she explains. Growing up on the likes of Paramore, Sleeping With Sirens and Black Veil Brides, Maggie was always more interested in making rock music, but that wasn’t exactly cool in 2017.
Her label at the time definitely weren’t keen anyway, and Maggie followed Pretty Girl up with a string of equally sugary pop singles. “I loved performing, I loved going into the studio… I just loved everything about music,” she says of why she continued. “I just didn’t like the music I was doing. I was signed to a label really young when I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I quickly learnt what steps I needed to take to get me to where I wanted to be,” she says.
The first one of those steps came in 2019, with the release of ska-infused single ‘Friends Go’. Again, Maggie wasn’t in love with the trumpets, but a Travis Barker remix ticked the “dark, rock” boxes perfectly. “It was a pivotal moment for me,” she explains. Not that she could shout about it on social media because the day it was released, she was arrested during a show in Malaysia due to a mistake with her paperwork, meaning she didn’t have the proper visas to perform. She was held in prison for 24 hours with no contact with the outside world and recently described the experience as a “big panic attack”.
When she was finally released, she decided she was done taking baby steps. In 2021 she released the hectic, guitar-driven EP ‘Paranoia’ while snarling debut album ‘Suckerpunch’ came late last year. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” she says of her new material.
Maggie goes on to say that writing ‘Paranoia’ was “really hard because I was literally coming at it from nothing. I had to figure out the sound of what I wanted to do.” And you can hear that across the record’s eclectic eight tracks, which range from buoyant pop-punk to vicious arena rock. It pulled heavily from that 00s emo rock scene, but Maggie wanted to avoid nostalgia with ‘Suckerpunch’, despite the ongoing rock resurgence. “I didn’t want it to sound old; I wanted it to feel new,” she explains.
Following ‘Paranoia’, Maggie “knew what I wanted to do, and how to elevate it”. Inspired by those childhood influences alongside metal mavericks Baby Metal and Bring Me the Horizon as well as hyperpop artists like Yeule and Kmoe, ‘Suckerpunch’ sees Maggie Lindemann getting fearlessly “more experimental”.
Written over the course of 18 months, Maggie wanted to push herself with her debut album. “I really wanted to try different things, whether that was making songs a little more metal or being braver with the lyrics.” She describes the process as “challenging, but it always felt comfortable.”
Lyrically, ‘Suckerpunch’ sees Maggie singing about “whatever I was going through at that time.” Opening track ‘Take Me Nowhere’ sees her wrestling with “feeling misplaced” growing up in Texas, and how that didn’t change when she moved to Los Angeles. “I’ve always felt like it’s been hard for me to feel comfortable in a place, especially in the music industry.”
“I’ve always felt like I have a place with my fans, though,” she adds. Elsewhere the emotional ‘Hear Me Out’, written from the perspective of a 16-year-old Maggie, is a shift from the self-empowerment found elsewhere on the record. “I mean, I named the record ‘Suckerpunch’ because it felt like I kept getting hit by these unexpected blows,” she says. Then there’s breakout song ‘She Knows It’, which sees Lindemann sing about liking a “girl that’s got a boyfriend”.
“I think people are relating to it because of the sexuality. It’s the first song I’ve ever written about liking women,” says Maggie. “People love to hear that representation, especially from artists who don’t typically sing about it.” There were no nerves about releasing it, “only excitement.”
The record closes with the rebellious, triumphant ‘Cages’, which feels like the spiritual follow-up to ‘Pretty Girls’. “I don’t live for you, I live for me,” sings Maggie. “Can’t shut me up, you’ll hear me scream”.
“That song is all about being with a label that didn’t really understand me,” she explains, while lyrics like “They say I’ve gone crazy, they say I’ve gone downhill. I’m still the same, baby but I’m just way more real,” are a nod to the people expecting Maggie to grow out of this era of making rock music. “People love to assume it’s just a phase, or that I’m only making this music ‘cos I’m depressed, when actually I’m happier now than I ever have been in my life, and I’m finally making the music I’ve always wanted to make. If anything, ‘Pretty Girl’ was the phase.”
“I knew going from pop to a different genre, especially rock, was going to be difficult,” Maggie admits. “People take the culture around rock very seriously, which I totally understand, but I knew people would think I was only doing it because it was trendy or whatever. I still get called a poser,” but Maggie feels like she has nothing to prove to people. “I just don’t care what other people have to say.”
Maggie Lindemann has had to grow up very much in the public eye. “It’s weird because, obviously, there’s a huge difference between being 16 and 25. Because I’ve been releasing music though, there’s proof of who I used to be.” She says some people still request ‘Pretty Girl’ “just to fuck with me,” but she’s not embarrassed by her unconventional journey. “I’m so proud of that song, it’s got more streams than I understand, and people still tell me that it really helped them. I can’t feel ashamed of a song that helps people. It’s a good song; I just don’t feel connected to it.”
Maggie may only be on tour with PVRIS for four nights, but it’s a nice little warm-up for the rest of the year. In March, she kicks off a 24-date world tour, taking in Australia, North America, Europe and The UK. It’s her first-ever headline tour, and already, every show has sold out. Then there are appearances at festivals like Slam Dunk and Rock Am Ring to look forward to.
Beyond that, she’s already writing new music and reckons something will be out before the end of the year. “’Suckerpunch’ is a good foundation, but I really don’t know what comes next,” she admits. Likewise, she doesn’t like to think about the future too much because it “freaks her out”, but she wants to keep doing what she’s been doing. She knows she wants her music to be relatable, though. “If they want to have fun, if they want a party or if they need a good cry, I want people to feel like they have someone that understands when they listen to my songs,” she explains. After years of struggling to be heard, Maggie says: “I’m exactly where I want to be.”
Taken from the March 2023 edition of Upset. Order a copy below.