The Good Witch

The Good Witch

After Maisie Peters released her 2021 debut, You Signed Up for This, she was hit by a feeling of anticlimax. “It was honestly a bit of a strange time for me,” she tells Apple Music. “I’d been so proud of the album. I’d worked so hard on it, but it was done and I found it very difficult to fathom that. I didn’t know what to do, actually physically, with myself.” Naturally, Peters—who’s always been a prolific songwriter—got straight back into the studio. And it soon turned out she had a lot to write about: There was a big breakup, the slow and careful process of piecing herself together again, and, in 2022, a tour, with Peters writing the rest of her second LP in between live dates. “I had so much to say because I was going through a personal crisis, one could say,” she says. “I just wanted to have it down on paper, how I felt, what had happened. I was trying to be honest.” When Peters says that, you know she means it. This is a singer-songwriter whose trademark is radical candor. Here, you can expect songs about crushing insecurity (the superb “Body Better”), missing someone even though they’ve hurt you (“Want You Back”), and wishing you could go back to before any of this happened (“Two Weeks Ago”). But there are also clear-skies moments, as Peters slowly moves on (see “There It Goes,” a poignant moment about the healing power of time passing) and realizes she’s better off without. And it’s all set against assured, infectious, and often synth-led pop laced with tender piano ballads and sassy anthems inspired by Shania Twain or Britney Spears. “This is my big life lesson of 2022,” adds Peters of the material here. Read on as the singer lets us in on the record’s creation—and what it, and the 12 months that inspired it, taught her. You know what you’re doing more with album two. “After the first album, I felt like I’d done a round of the track in my F1 car. This time it was like, ‘OK, I know what I’m doing a little bit now. I’ve done this before.’ I was touring so much that I just didn’t have time to think about it—I just had to make it. But there was a pressure for myself. I loved my first album and know it meant so much to my fans. I just felt this huge pressure to make something else that meant as much. When people ask me who I’m making music for, it’s primarily me, but there are also about 30 girls on Instagram too. I think about them constantly. But there was a point when I was probably doing it too much and had to say, ‘I can’t have these people on my mind.’ They love me because it’s me, so I need to trust that.” Going to Sweden taught me about pushing boundaries. “After the first album came out, I went to Sweden for the first time in October 2021. I worked with Fat Max Gsus (Tove Lo, Lewis Capaldi, Zara Larsson), Oscar Görres (Troye Sivan, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears), and First Aid Kit’s Klara Söderberg. It was a game changer for me, and I was so in love with the way these guys write music. The cliché of Sweden is that it’s pop by numbers—and obviously they’ve written some of the biggest hits in the world. But out of everyone I’ve ever worked with, the Swedish crew were the most open and the most interested in pushing boundaries. It’s easy to feel like you have to work within a set of guidelines—and I very much learned not to do that.” You don’t realize how lyrically honest you can be until you go there. “With a song like ‘Body Better,’ we’re sat there dissecting my innermost insecurities and deepest fears. There is a separation between feeling something deeply and writing it—I don’t write songs sitting there and sobbing. But this album taught me that I could do that [be so lyrically honest] and that I could go to those places.” It also taught me that I won’t feel like this forever. “There’s a Lucy Dacus song, ‘Night Shift,’ where she goes, ‘In five years, I hope the songs feel like covers.’ At some stage, it does—and you can’t believe you once felt like that. When I released ‘Two Weeks Ago,’ it was a year on from when I wrote it. It was an accurate reflection of who I was then, just a transcript of my brain. It was interesting to release it when I was in such a different place. I can recognize who I was and I’m very fond of the girl who wrote that song. It’s sort of like a shadow you have that’s walked off on its own. This album is the coolest reminder of what’s passed—it was an era of my life that I’m out of now and grateful for, but I don’t miss it.” I needed a song to tie the bow. “‘There It Goes’ is almost a sister song to ‘Two Weeks Ago.’ It was another screenshot of my mind. I’d just gone back to London after touring, we’d thrown a house party and I’d gone to a yoga class to try to get better. We were hanging up art. I was going on dates. And that song was so important to me, because this whole album was a reflection of my life, and I needed a song that tied the bow. I couldn’t let this record exist without a song that reminds me—and tells everyone else—that there is an ending to this. There’s a lyric on the song: ‘The comedown of closure/The girls and I do yoga/I wake up and it’s October/The loss is yours.’ Suddenly everything is a bit boring in the nicest way ever. You’re not angry. You’re not bitter. You’re just going to yoga or going on a walk. I find it really moving to talk about that song. I also learned that you can dig your heels in and think, ‘I refuse to feel anything apart from this. I only want to feel this way forever, for good or for bad.’ But the fact is, you just can’t. One day you will just wake up and you won’t feel the way you did. And that’s a good thing. It’s good to move along with the tide.” The person you love isn’t your whole world. “There’s a song on this album called ‘Coming of Age,’ which is a song about the fact that—how to put this?—sometimes I give magic to people. I think they’re magic, but they’re not: I just wrote them that way or I created them that way. You pin all your hopes and dreams on them. And the song, to me, is about seeing that actually I was the magic. The other person was there, but it was me that made this what it was and made this so special and shiny and glittery and beautiful. There’s another lyric on this album I think of a lot, which is on ‘BSC,’ where I go, ‘I can write you out the way I wrote you in.’ It doesn’t mean the person wasn’t great and didn’t teach me something. But it’s also knowing the person isn’t your whole world. You are your whole world.” If a man tells you he wants you in his life forever, run! “I’d had a conversation with another friend where one of us said, ‘Next time a man says I want you in my life forever—and then proceeds to act in the most atrocious way any man has ever acted ever—we’re out.’ I wrote the song ‘Run’ in January/February 2022, just after that conversation, with one of my best friends, [songwriter] Ines Dunn. We had that line going. In my own heart, I was no longer sad about it—I was just trying to take the lesson from it. I really tried to get that song right. I kept referencing Britney Spears and ‘If U Seek Amy.’ I wanted to do a song like Britney did, or like Gwen Stefani did.” There are some songs that can only be written once about a moment in your life. “On the first album, that was ‘Brooklyn,’ and on this one, it’s ‘The Band and I.’ It was almost ‘Brooklyn Part Two’ for me, because I remember when I was trying to put that song on my first record, I had someone I worked with say, ‘It’s so specific. I’m not sure it’s for an album—who can understand this?’ But those are the most important songs. For me, I had to have ‘The Band and I’ on this album because [touring] was such an integral part of my year. It just captured a moment in time that I’ll never be able to do again.” I learned how special it is to be doing what you dreamed of when you were nine. “There’s a lyric on ‘The Band and I’ where I say, ‘It was a far-flung wish when we were young/Now we’re living the dream and I hope we never wake up.’ I think about all of us [Peters and her band] on these tour buses and how it’s absolutely ludicrous that we’re allowed to do this. It’s such a one-in-a-billion chance to do music the way I do it. And I feel crushed under the weight of that sometimes—of how lucky I am. How dare I live my dream? That song is, I think, my favorite on the album, because of exactly that.” I don’t know if I’d recommend writing an album to get over a breakup. But I’d do it all again. “I definitely don’t write for catharsis. I do it for documentation purposes, which is kind of useful. Plus—and I’m sorry to say this, I really am—but there’s no breakup hack. You can’t speed yourself through it. At the time, it feels difficult and sad and you wonder what that was for. But, in [the relationship] not going like I wanted it to, I made this album. I learned innumerable things about myself. You grow for the better. Every time I write something that I really deeply love and believe in, I learn something about myself. And that’s the greatest, coolest gift ever. That’s why I’d do it all again.”

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