Regardless of what Maisie Peters does, there is always a target. “I want to be an artist who works with intent,” she proclaims on a sunny Tuesday in June a few weeks before the release of her new album. “I want to make albums and music and everything else with intent. I knew going into this record, I was going to write about my own coming of age, and that’s what this album’s story is.”
Whether it was declaring the summer of 2020 as ‘sad girl summer’ (this summer is, according to Peters, ‘delusional girl summer’) or penning a (slightly fictional) track about lusting over a friend’s brother, when Peters takes her aim, she never misses. That tenacity is something she’s had for years; it’s almost been 10 since the now-23-year-old singer/songwriter began busking in Brighton, uploading her original songs to YouTube and uploading original songs to YouTube. In a stark comparison, this past Friday she released her sophomore record, The Good Witch. and played her first-ever set at Glastonbury. All in a day’s work for a witch.
In between the release of her debut EP Dressed Too Nice for a Jacket and its follow-up, It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral, in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Peters and I had our first conversation about the magic that is created when someone puts pen to paper to write their story. In the same way Lorde conjured up Melodrama and Taylor Swift turned her high school diary into songs for Fearless, Maisie Peters’ second record does exactly what she spoke about years prior — turning her memories into music, crafting them into their incantations and, in turn, mesmerising listeners in the process. “I’ve always written music for me,” Peters explains. “I try not to think about who else is listening when I’m writing it, but I am really excited to have fans that care so much. I’m proud of the music I’ve been releasing since I was 17. There is a whole universe people can step into and that’s what people are drawn to.”
She thinks of The Good Witch as the “older and elevated” sister of You Signed Up For This, and where the former is a snapshot of Peters’ growth between the two years, the latter was everything that happened up until that point. “There is lots of mirroring happening between the two [albums]. I was 17 when that song [‘You Signed Up For This’] came out. I’ve lived a lot of life, I’ve travelled the world, and the way I make music has changed. At the core though… It’s still all me,” she smiles.
The Good Witch is as deft and fun as her younger sister, but Peters is more forceful in her delivery; there’s nothing left to say by the end of it. On The Good Witch, she starts her tradition of sorts, giving a nod to the title track of the record’s predecessor. As the title track The Good Witch, it sets the scene for what is to follow during the 15 songs — and was written on the final day of recording in a Suffolk studio.
“I can’t predict what I want to do or where it goes [when making an album], but I just knew in my heart that I was certain I needed a song like ‘You Signed Up For This,’” Peters explains. “I wish I knew how important it [You Signed Up For This] was as an opening track for the album. It just became so much bigger than I could even imagine.” It serves as a state of the union — a message from the Good Witch herself to her fellow witches eager to learn about the spells she’s learned and the journeys she’s had since her last album. “It’s exactly that,” Peters laughs. “When I wrote ‘You Signed Up For This,’ it didn’t just set the scene for the album but also for who I was at the time. It was a timestamp of who I was and that became really sacred and special to me. Will I feel like doing it next time? We’ll see.”
One of the standout tracks and an instant fan-fave is “BSC” which includes the lyrics “I am both Kathy Bates and Stephen King / I can write you out the way I wrote you in.” Noting Martha Wainwright’s song Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole as a retroactive inspiration for the track, Peters describes the song as a final “Hail Mary” on that specific day of recording. “I left the room to do an interview and came back to an instrumental that Joe [Rubel], Jez [Ashurst], and Brad [Ellis] created. It’s one of those songs that you can’t really remember how it came to be; there was no grand discussion about it.”
Like Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift, Peters’ music is a form of immersive storytelling; it’s easy to place yourself in her story or attribute her songs to personal experiences. To bridge her love of songwriting and stories, she started a book club on Instagram — Maisie Peters Book Club — a few years back, interviewing the likes of author Coco Mellors (“Cleopatra and Frankenstein”), journalist Olivia Petter (“Millennial Love”), and fellow Taylor Swift fan and writer Natasha Chloe Lunn (“Conversations on Love”).
“Funnily enough, I read a lot of Joan Didion when I was making The Good Witch,” explains Peters when asked what book companions would pair well with the album. “Her perspective on the world and on people, and the way she writes concisely, was really interesting to me. There was a quote that someone said about her, which was that Jodi “wastes no bullets.” I thought about that a lot when I was writing this album when I was describing it to people and trying to explain the album before it was fully formed. That was the energy I was trying to bring — no bullets wasted.”
Obsessive by nature, Peters has a fixation on getting to the bottom of things. When I bring up that it sounds like she needs to pick at something, over and over and over again, until she’s satisfied with what she’s uncovered, she nods. In “History of Man,” another top track on The Good Witch, she sings “Women’s hearts are lethal weapons / did you hold mine and feel threatened? / Hear my lyrics, taste my venom / You are still my great obsession.” It’s a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners track where Peters wastes no metaphorical bullets.
“I didn’t actually write it intending it to be an album closer and it’s because I didn’t intend to write it at all,” she says. “It’s a very conceptual song but I didn’t have it in mind. I was free flowing with myself and Joe before our week of writing and we wrote that song in the living room of an Airbnb. It’s a really special song because, to me, it combines the way I see myself as an artist versus the reality of who I am as a person and the relationships I have. I’m weighing up those two sides of myself — the reality of what’s real and the reality of what I make.”
When we chat, Peters has just released “Two Weeks Ago.” Where “BSC,” “Run” and “Lost The Breakup” are punchy and powerful, “Two Weeks Ago” is subdued and reflective as she recalls a period of her life that feels more like another book rather than a recent chapter. “It’s hard to even think about it [songs] as part of your life,” she ponders when asked whether songs feel like she’s a voyeur in her own life; peering from a bird’s eye perspective on who she used to be.
“‘Two Weeks Ago’ was based around time — it’s me wishing it was two weeks ago and now it’s over a year since I wish it was two weeks ago. That song was so, so, so honest, it was so reflective of who I was at that time, at least for one afternoon. There’s a Dacus lyric where she says “I hope in five years these songs feel like covers.” That’s what ‘Two Weeks Ago’ is like now for me. I can’t be that person I was, I can’t remember who she was, she’s not me anymore. It was like she’s my shadow and now… She’s gone.”
As the good witch herself prepares to set off to open for Ed Sheeran and headline her own North American tour, there is one song that serves as an ode to the performances, places, and people that have shaped her to become who she is today. “The Band And I,” Peters’ version of “Long Live,” is a dedication to her bandmates and the things they’ve gone through together. “I actually got them to record their parts on different days and they didn’t realise what they were recording. It’s such a special part of my life, touring with them. Having a song that reminds me of them means a lot… It reminds me of a song called ‘Brooklyn’ on my first record — you can only really ever write them once. It’s the most overwhelming feeling; it’s so pure. I hate to say it but it really is like magic.”
The Good Witch is out now.
photography. Maite De Orbe
fashion. Luci Ellis @ The Wall Group
talent. Maisie Peters
hair. Alex Price @ A Frank Agency using Fudge Professional
make up. Gabriella Floyd @ A Frank Agency using Fenty Beauty
production. Clara La Rosa
movement direction. Chantel
interview. Kelsey Barnes
photography assistant. Jody Evans