Rare Candy chatted with rock singer-songwriter Maggie Schneider about her love of musical theater, the golden era of Disney Channel, and being a femme in the alt rock and pop punk scenes.
by Tatiana Becerra
Rare Candy: How did you get your start in music? Did you take any lessons or have formal training?
Maggie Schneider: I started performing when I was four years old. I started taking vocal lessons when I was young, and I was in musical theater for the majority of my childhood. My first musical was Annie, of course, because every little girl’s first musical is Annie. Then, I continued doing shows through my tween and teen years. I was in High School Musical as Gabriela. I was in everything from Into the Woods, to different musical theater cabarets… It really gave me the confidence to be on stage and I just loved doing it, so I continued to perform in theater. At the same time, at a very young age, I was begging my parents for a guitar because of the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, and Taylor Swift, all of the Disney Channel artists of that time, like the 2008-2009 Disney.
RC: The golden era!
MS: It was! It was the golden era of the Disney Channel! After watching Camp Rock, I was immediately like, “I want to write my own songs! I want to sing my own songs. I want to play instruments and do what they do on TV.” and so my mom and dad told me that they would give me a guitar if I would commit to one year of guitar lessons and I ended up taking lessons for five years before stopping and teaching myself different skills. Ever since then I’ve just been performing in any way possible and I taught myself how to play piano at a really young age.
When I was little, I would play a bunch of jingles from commercials and theme songs on TV on my toy piano. I guess I’ve always loved music and it’s always been the big passion in my life so I’ve just tried to pursue that in as many ways as I can.
RC: You’ve named a few people that inspire you, but are there any experiences that continue to inspire you?
MS: I recorded my latest EP, “Tinted Glasses” with Rian Dawson from All Time Low. That was such an inspiring week. I was with him in the studio in Nashville for a week and it was a dream come true. I’ve been listening to All Time Low since middle school, and I never thought that I would get the opportunity to work with someone who has been my musical hero for the longest time. He was so enthusiastic.
When I came out of the vocal booth after tracking the last of the vocals and walked into the room where Rian was mixing, he just got up from his chair and hugged me and was like, “I think you have a lot of potential, I’m really excited to continue working with you.” I’m just trying to do the best that I can and I’m trying to improve as a writer, as a singer, and as a musician, I’m working hard and it’s really surreal to have someone I’ve looked up to tell me that they really enjoy my songs. That was definitely something that has kept me going. Everyone has bad days and in music there is always rejection and negativity and bad things happen, but I look back on that experience so fondly and it makes me remember why I love music so much.
RC: Working with people you look up to like that reminds me of the fact that everyone starts as a fan. No matter how far you get, everyone is still that excited teenage fan on the inside.
MS: Oh yeah, it’s so true! Everyone in music is a fan first. That is the reason why you want to be a musician. It’s because you listen to all these bands that you love and you think, “Wow! I would love to do what they do”.
RC: You’re from Atlanta, and you’ve visited a couple different cities playing shows. Do you have a preference between a rural environment and an urban environment?
MS: I love both places, but I am an urban environment girl. I was in New York back in March for a show, at the Bitter End, which was on my bucket list. I used to watch Lady Gaga, before she was Lady Gaga on YouTube playing at the Bitter End. Back home, I live in a suburb, I’m like 20 minutes away from Atlanta. I go to school in Atlanta at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Atlanta campus, so I’m really close to the city. In cities there are always cool music scenes and so many things to do, which is why I love New York so much.
RC: In previous interviews, you’ve talked about your love of the Masquerade and you recently realized your dream of playing at the Bitter End, do you have another dream venue? Where would you like your music to take you?
MS: I would love to play a show in California at some point, specifically at Chain Reaction. I feel like it has a similar aesthetic to the Masquerade and so many of my favorite bands go there all the time. I’ve noticed it on so many tour flyers. I would love to play there. Definitely there.
When I was younger I would joke about wanting to play at Madison Square Garden. Why not? I just want to play as many places as I can. I don’t care if it’s a room of 20 people or a crowd of 1200 people, I just want to play. Every show is fun and a new learning experience. I’m excited to travel a little bit more and play some more shows.
RC: Most would expect mainly blues, country, and rap music coming out of Atlanta, but is there a thriving pop punk scene? What is the musical dynamic of Atlanta?
MS: We have a really great music scene here, and a lot of diverse artists. We have everything from venues like the Masquerade where I played a pop punk gig opening for We Were Sharks, to open mics at coffee houses, and Eddie’s Attic which is specifically for country and folk and singer songwriter stuff. There is a huge alternative rock scene with everything from pop punk, to more emo rock, and we have indie pop. My music is kind of in-between. Whenever someone asks me to describe my music I mix both like, “I’m a singer-songwriter with a little bit of an edge” or, “I’m a rock singer-songwriter.” Whenever pop punk bands come through, bands like State Champs, they play the Masquerade and it’s always sold out. We also have some really cool festivals, like Shaky Knees, which is definitely geared towards the alt-rock and pop punk scenes. I saw All Time Low, The Menzingers, and Basement there.
RC: You recently started a Facebook group, Girls in the Scene, to help build community among women and femmes in music. What motivated you to start this group?
MS: There are many femme-fronted bands in Atlanta, which I love to see, but I was really curious about how many femme artists there were and I wanted to listen to some new artists. Compared to male-dominated bands, there aren’t as many femme acts. I decided to post in the “Defend Pop Punk” Facebook group to get some suggestions for bands and artists with female vocalists. The post got a lot of comments and I kept thinking and was like, “Huh, if we created a network of female musicians and femme-fronted bands, that could be really cool. We’d have a support group for up and coming artists.” To me, the music scene should be about community rather it being a competition, so I created Girls in the Scene and started inviting women and femmes I’m friends with on Facebook and people who responded to my post to join. I wanted to make a space to allow femmes to talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, share, and create.
I’m a very positive person, I am a huge feminist and I believe in having people support each other, and about everyone being equal and amazing. I think it’s a good place to start and a good space for people to feel comfortable talking about the music industry, promoting each other, and just supporting one another.
RC: There are bands like Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, and State Champs going out of their way to support women and femmes in the industry pop punk. There are also people in the Facebook group you just created, to make strides in the industry with a few of them specifically working in pop punk. Since it tends to be a male-dominated scene, if you could look into a crystal ball, what do you see in pop punk’s future?
MS: I am optimistic that we will see more diversity in any sense in the genre, and I think there are good people and bad people in every industry. There’s always adversity for female artists or females in any profession, but there are artists, bands, managers, and people like the members of State Champs and Knuckle Puck who are supportive and who really want to help women in their pursuits to play their music and make a difference.
I think in a couple years we will see more girls in rock music and have them be put in the spotlight a little bit more. There are so many amazing femme bands and artists! It is so important to me that the stereotype that Paramore is the only female-fronted rock band out there gets broken. Hayley Williams has opened a lot of doors and has helped change the alternative rock genre, but at the same time there are plenty of femme artists that aren’t getting attention.
As far as the genre of pop punk, I’m seeing it go into more of a pop direction. Each band is evolving into their own kind of sound. I’m a big fan of 2000’s pop rock and I think that pop punk is branching out more into the mainstream, and is becoming more accessible to people who might just like Top 40 pop or classic rock bands. I think it’s going to find a happy medium pretty soon. I think State Champs is really doing that. Their songs are really catchy and I don’t think you could give them a genre at this point.
RC: There are definitely a lot of crossover bands right now - Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Twenty One Pilots - those four have pushed from just the pop punk and alternative scene to a more mainstream.
MS: I think you can do both! I think it sucks when bands have to keep themselves from experimenting with their music. With Panic! at the Disco, every album sounds different and fans have stayed with them. I think it’s important for people to understand that you can step outside of the box, or step outside of the realm of what has been accepted by people, and go out there and experiment and write music that you want to write and not think about genre. When I write songs I try to think, “Okay, what do I want to say? What is the theme here?” rather than, “I want to write a song that sounds like this band.” I don’t want it to sound generic I want it to sound like me.
RC: Your music is very genuine. “Chuck Bass” is my favorite song right now. I really admire your ability to stay so true to yourself, especially as a girl in the industry, when everyone is going to tell you to change.
MS: I do this because it’s fun. I write my own music because I feel like I have things to say and I want to be myself. I don’t want to have a persona because I think that would be really disingenuous. It’s always my goal, whenever I have an opportunity or when I meet with someone, I try to emphasize to them that, “this is me", and I can be successful being who I am.
RC: What was it like bringing “Chuck Bass” to life in terms of a video? It reminded me a little of Unfabulous or Sleepover, but it also has cool, dramatic lighting. How did making a video change your own idea for the song?
MS: I worked with Britain and Weyant and he directed and shot the video. He was in the touring and backing band for Have Mercy and he is super awesome. We talked about what we wanted, and I knew I wanted something simple, because the song is very simple, especially production-wise. He had a friend with a cool apartment and a heart neon light so we were like, “Hey! This would be a great aesthetic for the song!” We shot the other scenes at the Masquerade. We wanted to keep it super simple to add to the song, but not add too much. It was super fun. That song is a sassy one.
RC: Going back to your musical theater upbringing, if you could be in any musical, which musical would you be in?
MS: I love The Last Five Years. The movie is on Netflix with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, and it is probably my favorite musical. I love the music and I love contemporary theater, so I love the rock pop style of musical theater that is out right now. If I had to choose another one it would probably be Dear Evan Hansen, which is beautiful. My mom got me tickets for my birthday when were out in New York in March, so we saw it together and we cried the whole time. We don’t cry in the theater. We are emotional and passionate about everything, but I don’t think we’ve ever cried at a musical theater production like we cried at Dear Evan Hansen.
RC: Would you ever want to combine your loves of musical theater and pop punk, sort of following in the footsteps of Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie had a run in Kinky Boots?
MS: Absolutely! If I was asked to be in a musical on Broadway, I would 100% say yes. I think you can do both and in the end I chose to pursue music more than theater because I wanted to write my own songs and express myself that way. If I got to that point where I could do both, and where I was asked to be in a show on or off Broadway I would definitely do it. I think it would be so fun. It’s such a cool energy, and I love acting as well.
RC: What’s next for you?
MS: Right now, I’m playing more shows, continuing to push the “Tinted Glasses” EP, but also writing and collaborating with different people and getting ready for some new music.
I’m opening for He Is We on August 1st at the Masquerade, which I’m really excited about. It’s going to be a full band gig, I have a backdrop coming in the mail, it’ll be legit. I’m making it look as professional and as badass as possible. Then, I’ve also been collaborating with a few people, some people are new, some are people I’ve been working with for a long time. There will be more info about that coming soon. I’m writing so many things, even songs that I think are a lot stronger, which is crazy for me to say. I was especially proud of the song, “Tinted Glasses” because it was definitely the most personal one on that EP, but a couple weeks ago I wrote a new song and I’m very, very excited. All good things coming up.
Check out Maggie’s RC Weekly Playlist here .
Maggie’s Official Website: https://www.rockinmags.com/
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