The Foreword is a duo that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. The voices of Maggie Schneider and Alex Crain complement each other in a way that is classic and comforting. We talked to the duo about their songwriting partnership, their coffee orders, and their debut EP Coffee Cups and Second Shots, which is out now!
By Tatiana Becerra
Rare Candy: How did the Foreword come to be? How did you two meet?
Alex Crain: I met Maggie at a show, at that point in time I was the lead guitarist in The Everyday Anthem. We brought her on to collaborate on a song for our record, and soon after, she invited me to be a part of a musical theatre showcase she was directing. It just kind of blossomed from there on.
Maggie Schneider: Both of our bands were on the same bill, and we really started hanging out about a year after that show! One night we were sitting in my living room and he asked me if I wanted to work on a song he was stuck on. I said yes, and we've been writing together ever since. We started to build a catalog of songs, and we both wanted them to be heard outside of my living room. The rest is history!
RC: How did you each get your start in music? Did you take formal lessons? Self-taught?
AC: I had no idea I was interested in music until I moved to Atlanta in the eighth grade. I met my best friend Aaron Sanders and he introduced me to bands like Green Day and Sum-41. I picked up guitar because I wanted to write songs but I needed music to write words to, and guitar seemed like fun to learn. I had like two guitar lessons my freshman year but I never learned anything. I would just show up and play the songs I was writing for the teacher.
MS: I've always loved music, and I started performing in musical theatre productions. Those shows made me realize how much I loved to sing, and they gave me the confidence to begin writing my own songs and performing as my own artist. I begged my parents for guitar lessons, and have been playing for ten years now! I taught myself how to play piano and ukulele, and I haven't stopped! Playing and writing music never gets old.
RC: You’ve been songwriting partners for a while, how has your process changed over time? How do you challenge each other? How do your writing styles differ?
AC: I love writing with Maggie. When I’m writing and playing guitar I can get really caught up and frustrated if I am hearing a guitar part that I can’t actually get out onto the frets. Writing with her frees me up because she can improv on piano for years and never miss a beat. So I can just focus on melodies and lyrics.
MS: Whenever we write songs together, it's organic. I'll sit at my keyboard and play random melodies, while Alex thinks about what he wants to say through the lyrics. We wrote these songs before deciding we were going to have a duo project, so everything happened naturally. Alex challenges me as a lyricist, and I'm so happy that he does. Writing music comes much more naturally to me, and so observing how he comes up with the lyrics to tell the story can be mind-blowing! We're a good team because we complement each other.
RC: Maggie, you have a solo career, and, Alex you were in a band, The Everyday Anthem. How are these musical projects different from your work with The Foreword?
AC: My work with The Everyday Anthem came to an end early 2018, but my role there was mostly music. Lyrically and melodically, I was a backboard to bounce ideas off of in the full band setting. Writing is drastically different with Maggie, and I think we’ve really settled into a groove with our process. It seems to work well for us so far!
MS: Alex helps me flesh out a lot of ideas whenever I'm working on my solo music. He's a cowriter on many of my songs, so it's fun to collaborate with him on both projects. He works with me in the same way as we work with each other for The Foreword, but he especially pays attention to my vision and where I see myself going as a solo artist. He keeps my voice in mind when we work together on my stuff.
RC: One thing that I think makes your music unique is that even though you sing about love, you don’t sing traditional love songs. The Foreword explores love in all its aspects, even the challenges and struggles of a relationship. What inspired you to take this direction and explore love in a different way?
AC: For me personally, I very much enjoy evoking and emotion from an audience. I write about things that are close to me a lot of the time. I’ve had some weird experiences with relationships and, I’ve been the bad guy in some of them. It’s taken me growing up a little to really understand what I’ve done wrong and how to treat people, and I like writing about the struggle that comes along with growing up, in and out of a relationship.
RC: Do you have a favorite ballad or love song?
AC: I really, really love Sarah Bareilles, one of my favorite song of hers is “Uncharted”.
MS: There are so many that I love! "I Don't Love You" by My Chemical Romance, "If These Sheets Were States" by All Time Low, and "Miserable At Best" by Mayday Parade are all favorites of mine.
RC: You cite some pop-punk greats and musical theater songwriters as you main influences, what about those genres inspires you? What did you hope to emulate in your sound? Speaking of pop-punk greats, how was your experience in the studio with Rian Dawson [of All Time Low]?
AC: Pop punk has always been something I’ve listened to. Regardless of what shows through visibly in each song, I will always be influenced by the impact that they had on my life. Rian Dawson was an absolute pleasure to work with. I had recorded with him a few times before and we knew when we were writing this album, that he was who we wanted to go to, since his work is fantastic.
MS: Pop-punk and musical theatre both inspire me because they are highly-emotional genres of music. My goal as an artist is to make listeners feel something, like my favorite bands and musicals have moved me. While these genres may seem totally different, I think they have a lot in common. Pop-punk and musical theatre songs tell relatable stories that I grew up wanting to write. We hoped to emulate the music of composers like Pasek & Paul [Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, etc.]. Our experience working with Rian was a dream come true. This was my third time working with him, and I didn't want to leave. I can't thank him enough for all of his support.
RC: I really love the shapes and colors in your single artwork. Who is responsible for your artwork? How did you choose the art for the singles?
AC: The artwork for our album is all so fantastic and we couldn’t have picked a better person to work with. We reached out to a close friend of ours, Caroline LeDuc, because she has an awesome art style and an incredibly creative mind. She sent us a couple collages and I think we made one adjustment to one of the pieces, but she just pulled something out and threw it at us and it was perfect.
Do you have a favorite song off of Coffee Cups and Second Shots?
Alex: For me personally it’s really hard to choose a favorite song, because I like all of them for different reasons. "Worn Out Pages" is lighthearted, fun, and it’s innocent so I love it for those reasons. Then, we have a song like "Roses" which is more heartbreaking. It's an apology but it’s having said "I’m sorry" one to many times to where it loses its weight and so that has a beauty in itself.
Maggie: My favorite song is definitely "Roses." The bridge of that song is my favorite part, and it hits me hard every time. I can relate to the disappointment of losing people from my life and wishing I could go back in time and change the past.
RC: What inspired the EP title?
AC: The EP title actually originally was going to be the title of our duo. Maggie and I sat down and started writing this half page list of random names and variations of names that all had some sort of meaning to us, and eventually I wrote down Coffee Cups and Second Shots.It’s actually a fun reference to have the two of us in the title. Maggie is the coffee cup, her whole thing is going to coffee shops and she’s got like a million mugs, and then obviously I’m the one doing shots [laughs]. At the same time, it’s also a little snapshot of our lives because we we're up all night writing songs, drinking coffee, and then this is the second shot for both of us. We have our own projects but this is our second shot at music with each other.
RC: If you could have a second shot at any event in your life… what would it be?
AC: Regardless of how cheesy or corny this sounds, I don’t think that I would do anything a second time. There are things in my life that hurt me and there are things in my life that were amazing experiences and every one of those led me to where I am. I wouldn’t want to change how I’ve grown as a person.
MS: All in all, I feel like I wouldn't do anything a second time. I believe that everything happens for a reason. However, there are days when I regret not telling people how I truly felt, or not letting my guard down. Relationships can be scary, and I've become so much more confident and open in the last two or three years. Life is all about learning from your mistakes, and I'm happy with who I've become.
RC: What is your typical coffee order?
AC: Almost 100% is the time you’ll find me with an iced caramel macchiato.
MS: Right now, I am drinking so many pumpkin spice lattes. I wish I could order them year round! I'm addicted to cold brew.
RC: If you had to write a soundtrack to a romantic comedy, what would it be like? Favorite rom-com?
MS: My rom-com soundtrack would totally be pop-punk! It's the music I grew up with, and so many of my favorite memories are connected to that style of music. Many of my relationships formed over the shared love of the scene, so I would love to portray that for the screen.
I'm a sucker for John Hughes movies like Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. Most recently, I've been obsessed with To All The Boys I Loved Before.
RC: If you could be any famous dymanic duo… Woody and Buzz, Lilo and Stitch, Bonnie and Clyde… who would you be?
MS: I think we're peanut butter and jelly! We complement each other and make a great team!
RC: What can we expect from The Foreword after this EP release? Are there any live show plans?
MS: You can expect to see a music video for one of the songs off of the EP in the near future. We are super excited about that. We don't have any live show plans as a duo right now, but Alex will be playing lead guitar for my upcoming solo gigs! We just enjoy playing music together, no matter the project or the place.
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