It took three tries, but Maisie Peters finally got her drivers license, using her parents’ car, naturally. However, soon after that, the singer-songwriter moved back to London, where she hasn’t needed a car. In fact, she hasn’t driven a car—not even once—since passing that third driving test.
Instead, the 21-year-old ferocious songwriter has accelerated her career even further. Just in the past year she’s signed to Ed Sheeran’s label (Gingerbread Man Records), written and curated the soundtrack to Apple TV+ show “Trying,” and is now about to release her full-length debut album, You Signed Up For This. Of course, she’s already got enough material for another album and she’s currently working on more and more.
She’s also found time to take up bicycling as a hobby with her London roommates, riding through Victoria Park or London Fields using the city’s app-based bikeshare.
“I’m not a great cyclist, but there’s something so fun about hopping on a bike, weaving through London and trying not to die,” she said, laughing. “Maybe I’ll get a real bike. We’ll see. … My driving skills, probably, are a little bit ropey right now, but technically I can drive. Legally, I can drive.
Peters video-called from a scenic recording studio in Suffolk, where she was visiting friends and filming for a project, to talk about the new album, the “Trying” soundtrack, and what she’s learned from Ed Sheeran, now a good friend.
RIFF: How does your single “Psycho” compare to the rest of your album; thematically or musically?
Maisie Peters: I think, sonically it’s pretty different. It was the last song we wrote for the album, so it was me trying to—in that day, one of the last sessions of the album—do something I hadn’t done. … Your album’s basically finished and you’re thinking, “What can I add? What can I write right now that will make the album [stand out]?” [With] “Psycho” … I really, really wanted to do something that felt fun and big, and we could dance to it, and we could have a good time. I think that a lot of my album maybe isn’t so much of those vibes, and that’s fine. There’s a breadth to the album, which is great. But this song; I really just wanted to go full Carly Rae Jepsen, Girls Aloud, Abba. I wanted to make a song that I could play this summer—I’m playing festivals—and feel good. … The past few years [there’s] been a lot of anxiety and sadness and various feelings of various natures. I really wanted to start this summer and start this phase, [with] a real song of solidarity and dance and joy and sort of humor and good times.
It seems like with that song, you’ve done a 180 since “Adore You.”
Maisie Peters: Some feelings have changed [laughs]. No, I’m joking. I think the song came out of a real time in my life, and it was written with Ed Sheeran and Steve Mac, which were really good friends of mine, so it was really about us talking about life, for me spilling the tea, and then our society to put it into the song.
What can listeners expect from the rest of the album?
Maisie Peters: I think people can expect songs that they’ll love and songs that they’ll recognize as being a continuation of music that I’ve already made. “Psycho” was pretty unexpected, and there are definitely other songs on the record that won’t be what anyone’s expecting, necessarily, so I like to think that’s a good amount of both.
How’d you end up with Ed Sheeran on his label, Gingerbread Man?
Maisie Peters: We both have lots of mutual friends and mutual collaborators [like] Joe Rubel, Fred Gibson; writers and producers that we both work with intensely. Really, he reached out about writing together. I went up to Suffolk to where he lives, and we wrote for a few days, and actually those songs ended up on the record, and the first two we did. We really just clicked and connected as friends and collaborators, and he’s so humble and so down to earth and so friendly and easy to love. Musically and as artists, we work in very similar ways and write in very similar ways, so it really just felt like an obvious thing to do to continue working together and building that relationship.
Gingerbread Man is an Atlantic Records imprint and you were with Atlantic already. Why did you want to be on that particular imprint?
Maisie Peters: I think it just made sense. As artists, it felt like a no-brainer. He’s experienced everything 10 times over, and has played everywhere and met everyone. As mentor and influence, and someone to work with and get to talk to about music and business and life, there’s no one better suited and more experienced to do so. It’s within the Atlantic, and I’ve worked with everyone there for years, so it really felt like it was a jump across. I’m really close with everybody at Gingerbread Man and everyone at Atlantic, so [it] was kind of a perfect meeting.
Is there any sort of a pressure being one of the first artists on Ed Sheeran’s label?
Maisie Peters: I guess, but I think most of the pressure I put on myself is my own. I’m definitely someone who thinks that if you just work hard and for long enough, then you get what you should do. I’m really looking forward to putting that work in and meeting everybody, playing these shows, and playing this music and hopefully seeing it take off and go where I want it to go.
What specifically have you picked up from Sheeran?
Maisie Peters: He’s absolutely, to this day, the hardest-working person I know. He’s also the nicest person. If you go into a room, he’s absolutely, faultlessly polite and sweet and grateful to everybody there—if you’re the waitress, if you’re the camera man, whatever you are, he’s absolutely just a perfect gentleman to everybody. I think that that’s so important, and it’s not that I didn’t already know that, but watching him do it at the level that he’s at is really inspiring and really cool and definitely something that I’m gonna take with me forever.
How did you get involved with writing for Apple TV+’s “Trying?”
Maisie Peters: The “Trying” soundtrack was a fever dream. … I had a song, “Favourite Ex;” they used it in season one, and we all kept in touch. Then they got back in touch last summer and asked if I was interested in doing the soundtrack for season two. I’ve never done anything even remotely like it, but I love the show, and I love the people involved. I thought it was something I could do. I’ve always written in a sort of cinematic way, and I’ve always written in a somewhat fictionalized way. Putting myself in other people’s shoes has always been something I’ve leaned on.
When it came to writing the soundtrack, I did it all with my really close friend, collaborator, producer Joe Rubel. We pretty much wrote the whole thing in two months. I think the first song we did was “Milhouse,” which is the second episode. That was really an important song for that soundtrack. It was done super quickly. Joe lent me his mandolin, and I wrote the whole thing, but I’m really bad at the mandolin, which I can’t really play. It was very formative and really set the benchmark for what the soundtrack would be like, and the lyrical tone of it and the sonics.
From there, we did half of it in maybe a week or two. “Funeral” we wrote the next day; “Helicopter” was a few days later. “Happy Hunting Ground” followed. We were really on a rush of it, and made the whole thing basically in October, November, December. It was so much fun; it was such an amazing experience. I really loved doing it, and I would do it again. It was crazy because I was making this album at the same time, but I think that they both really positively impacted each other … so it’s really cool that they both come out the same year.
When you were writing those songs, you had the scripts for the episodes in front of you?
Maisie Peters: Yeah. I read all the scripts first, and I spoke to the director at length, and I watched season one. I’m basically such a nerd; I just made loads of notes on every episode. I’d write down things from the scripts that I liked, or lines of dialogue or visual things from season one. And at the end of every episode, I would make a note on what I thought the overall theme was and the overall message. Then, when I went back to writing a few weeks later, I had these little blueprints of what each song should be.
Does the story of the show have any special connection to you or was your attachment to the project completely unrelated?
Maisie Peters: The show is a romantic comedy. It’s set in London, in Camden, and the characters all feel like people I would know. And obviously, London is my home now. It’s where I’ve lived the past few years, and I feel very attached to it. I didn’t personally relate to the central storyline. It’s about a couple trying to adopt. I definitely like the way it was written and the characters and the setting and the universe it was in, and I felt very connected to the end. I love the show.
From the time you first started writing music, it’s taken you nine years to release an album. How long will the second one take?
Maisie Peters: I guess we’ll see. I write a lot and I’ve already been working on the next album and the next bunch of songs. I was talking about it with my band this morning, and we were talking about the idea of putting out mixtapes while you’re on tour and just constantly releasing, which I’m really excited about. I’d definitely say for sure, prepare yourself for more music next year. I think it would be pretty unlikely that I wouldn’t release anything. I’m really excited to work on the next batch of stuff, and I’m really excited for this album to come out, and I just think it’s gonna be a really fun few years.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.