photography by Jan Brunaes
I am fascinated by women like Maggie, who possess a strong passion for creativity and an unwavering dedication to their craft. While I too dabbled in music production, exploring the various programs and plugins available, I did not have the perseverance to pursue it further.
Maggie, a young Norwegian-Serbian singer-songwriter and self-taught producer, grew up surrounded by music and later honed her skills at the prestigious Lillehammer Institute of Music Production and Industries (LIMPI). She focused on improving her songwriting, vocals, and producing abilities, showcasing an impressive level of organization and an unquenchable thirst for exploring her creativity to the fullest.
“I was surrounded by men. You know, 90% of the people I work with are men. And it’s not that they’re not good, but I realized I was limiting myself and not feeling fulfilled. So then I was like, ‘Fuck it’”. I just threw my fear out the window and started producing, writing and recording all on my own”. Despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic-related political measures, she embarked on a journey to self-taught music production just 18 months ago, and has since co-produced her debut EP. And the outcome is now ready to be unveiled to the world. Her debut EP, “Rainbows & Monsters,” is a captivating collection of expansive pop tracks, highlighted by the lead single “Necklace,” a collaboration with Norwegian singer, composer and music producer Slopes.
In our interview, Maggie shares her insights on achieving balance between songwriting, vocals, and production, as well as how she fuels her creativity. She also shares her personal advice for aspiring female producers who are looking to make their mark in the music industry.
Maggie, what motivated you to learn music production, and what was the biggest challenge you faced during this process?
There was really no intention behind producing music myself at the start as my focus was on songwriting, but I soon discovered that making my own arrangements opened many doors to endless creativity. The advantage you get of being able to build a production around an idea of a song can give the listener an immediate feeling of whether the music is authentic or not. For me, I’d say one of the biggest challenges is working with certain instruments and ensuring the quality of the production sound as a whole – I still have a lot to learn.
How have you been able to balance songwriting, vocal, and production?
I try to be organized. As a rule, I start with an idea and freestyle over it as I work a lot on intuition. I then work myself around trying to focus on either doing production for as long as it takes before deep diving into the songwriting part. It’s one or the other and doesn’t really take me that much longer than it would with another producer in the room as in my experience you always go back and forth a lot before a song feels and sounds complete. There are, however, pros and cons in everything and being your own critic sometimes isn’t always as easy as people may think, haha.
Which track on your EP debut ‘Rainbows & Monsters’ is the most personal and why?
I’d say ‘Super Big Powers’ is the most personal as well as the quickest song I have ever written to date. It’s like an open diary for anyone to look and dig into, yet a very important topic surrounding mental health and a story about the longing to feel invincible.
“I think you must be inhuman if you don’t doubt your own work sometimes.”
It took you 2 years to finish the EP – a really long process. Are there moments when you doubt your work and want to change things again?
I think you must be inhuman if you don’t doubt your own work sometimes.
Part of the back story to why this took time is a bit about the fact that we were all forced to stay at home during Covid. I wrote and produced a lot during the first and second lockdown in Norway. I had no agenda of what or where all these songs I wrote and produced in my living room were gonna end up, nor did I pay any mind to it as the future seemed so far from reality. It made it easier for me to disappear into my own creativity which slowly but surely shaped out to become a larger project eventually.
Tell us a bit more about the production process. Basically, it is also a lot of sitting at the computer, or? And what program do you use?
I’m a Logic Pro user and I usually work on my laptop, therefore I can effectively be anywhere when making music. I like to work my way around a melody or lyrics first for some context. I then usually play around on my acoustic piano before I record a number of chord series with a simple bass line to create some foundation. If you are familiar with applying mascara, I see production as somewhat the same way. A bit of an impatient and detailed job that is important to do in order to achieve a good result. I spend a lot of hours nitpicking and creating my own sounds and elements to give the production some character, but still keep it simple and minimalistic overall.
“There was really no intention behind producing music myself at the start as my focus was on songwriting, but I soon discovered that making my own arrangements opened many doors to endless creativity.”
What elements of your music are deeply rooted in your childhood and your father’s influence?
I grew up listening to a lot of Soul, Jazz, and Blues. Vocal delivery with emotions and energy is a very important part of my process and something I implement at all times. As an artist, I usually always want the vocals to carry the song over the production and not the other way around.
How would you define success?
There is usually a thin line between success and failure, they say.
Success to me is having the opportunity to make a full-time living from music and find an inner happiness while you’re at it.
What has been the most rewarding experience for you as an artist so far?
Simply discovering my music has made people take me more seriously.
The fortunate opportunity I’ve had to perform with a band in front of people and seeing their reaction is very rewarding to me. People with musical influence that appreciate my art and that now follows my journey simply because of the music, is special.
What advice would you give to aspiring female producers?
For me, the definition of perfection does not exist. I find much more beauty in flaws. From my own experience, I have often been underestimated and overrun and it is important to find one’s voice. You don’t always have to put up with arrogance and instead, create what you feel is unique and authentic. There may be a bigger possibility that the listener will agree with you.
What are you most grateful for?
I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to express myself through music and that I’m achieving little by little so early on in my career. I’ve also got a very supportive team, friends and family which is really important to me.