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Maisie Peters: coming of age

With heartfelt songs of crushes and overcoming heartbreak on her number one album 'The Good Witch', 23-year-old Maisie Peters deftly captures the agony and ecstasy of youth. Here, she discusses her friendship with Ed Sheeran, the ups and downs of being online, and how she mines her personal life for inspiration.

By Charlotte Manning

Maisie Peters
Maisie wears dress by Cecillie Bahnsen. (Picture: Lewis Vorn)

It is Halloween when I sit down to chat with Maisie Peters. It almost feels too perfect a time to take a deep dive in and around her summer album release The Good Witch, packed full of spooky connotations and an exploration into, well, witchery. She promises that “some effort” is going into the costumes for tonight’s Bristol gig, teasing: “You’ll have to just wait and see.” 

This is a pop star who is used to being very much online. She’s wearing a non-serious T-shirt bearing Robert Pattinson’s face, and one of the first things I’m shown is a cat meme that I — also chronically online — have seen dozens of times before. “It’s been the most mental year of my life,” laughs Peters. “Everyone keeps joking that my eyes are getting smaller and smaller. I’m giving… Have you seen that cat meme? It’s like, ‘I’m awake, but at what cost?’ (She quickly searches for it on her phone.) This is what I’m giving right now. I sit across from people and give this tired cat that says, ‘Awake, but at what cost?’ And that is me.”

The 23-year-old is the recipient of The Breakthrough Award, supported by Volvo, at the first Rolling Stone UK Awards. It’s a category stacked full of young, rapidly emerging talent, including names such as Olivia Dean, Shygirl and Wunderhorse. But it’s Maisie who is this year’s stand-out. She played Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage the day her second album dropped, and when it quickly shot to number one in the UK Official Charts, Peters became the youngest female act to achieve this feat in nearly a decade, plus her UK tour culminated in a sold-out date at Wembley Arena. It doesn’t really get better than that, does it?

“We drove into Glastonbury and listened to the album; it had just come out, it was really cool and special,” she recalls. While her gigs often feel like a party, she had even more to celebrate this time around. Peters and her band stayed in a very apt “fairy-castle hotel” near the world-famous festival and decided to simply spend the album-release weekend living their best lives at Worthy Farm. “We played the show. It was kind of crazy because the new album came out that day. Imagine working on your job, and it’s the biggest weekend of the year? All systems go. This was the biggest week we were going to have. 

“But you can also just go to Glastonbury and have fun? It felt wrong,” she admits. “I’m just here vibing in the healing fields, but my album is out — it was so fun.” They did what every Glasto-goer did, soaked up the atmosphere and watched Elton John, Lana Del Rey and went to Shangri-La — dreamy.

As I approach the O2 Academy Bristol via a slightly dodgy backstreet later that rainy evening, there are hundreds of buzzing fans queuing, who, like me, are largely girls in their twenties. I end up feeling pretty under-dressed in my reliable straight-cut jeans and ribbed crop-top gig combo. As I enter, it’s clear that under the sea of raincoats and umbrellas, a lot of preparation has gone into these outfits. A mixture of Halloween fancy dress (mainly witch costumes, of course), alongside pleated miniskirts with Y2K-style “baby tees” (concocted by Peters, which she often dons on tour) are there to greet me. This (now very signature) look came “very naturally” to her: “I thought it would be fun if we made little baby tees with lyrics on before the album came out, to tease at the shows. People were like, ‘Oh, my God, Maisie Peters has done another baby tee.’ Then people also started making their own. I thought, ‘Well, this is cute, this is a thing!’ So, I kept doing it. People started making their own, and it became almost like a little uniform for this album. To me, that’s what style is — it should be easy, and you should just feel good.”

At one point, the crowd scream the words to ‘Mr Perfectly Fine’ by Taylor Swift as the excitement builds. I somehow feel I’ve missed the memo on this being a collective anthem among fans, but it makes a lot of sense. Swift, Peters says, is an artist she’s “extremely honoured” to be often compared to as her star only continues to rise. “I love the music that she makes. I love her records; they’re all so important to me. I’m really, really honoured to be compared to her, and to be thought of in the same frame of mind, in anyone’s mind, as her. She’s a big inspiration of mine,” she says. 

When Peters arrives on stage to whoops and cheers from the crowd, she immediately takes command of the venue, skipping out dressed as Glinda, the OG good witch, moments after her band — aka Dorothy, the Lion and the Scarecrow — arrive in position to ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. Occasionally waving her wand at the crowd, who proceed to cling onto every note, it’s as if she’s cast a spell on the room. Her confidence in her ability to put on a stellar show seeps through. “Are you ready for the best night of your lives?” she asks to rapturous applause. 

Maisie Peters
Maisie wears top and shoes by SHUSHU/TONG, skirt by SHUSHU/TONG, socks by Raey. (Picture: Lewis Vorn)

From seamless guitar changes to refreshingly honest interactions with fans (“There’s nothing scarier than my romantic history… ghosts, demons, clowns. This year, I graduated from clown university”), the singer proves throughout the evening to be an absolute master of the crowd, a skill she’s no doubt developed in spades after spending time on tour with her ‘boss’, Ed Sheeran. 

After signing with Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records back in 2021, Peters has now released both albums under his label. The pair have a strong friendship, and she recounts an afternoon they spent watching Star Wars movies earlier this year during “the craziest one-day trip of my life” in New York. 

As well as juggling her own tour dates, she’s acted as a support for Sheeran. The pair were on the road for more than 60 shows together on and off throughout 2022 and 2023, travelling from Dublin to Byron Bay: “I get to say that I did that forever,” Peters notes. “It’s a crazy thing to have done in your life. I did it when I was 22, 23, and it’s just the coolest.

Maisie Peters
Maisie wears dress by Cecillie Bahnsen. (Picture: Lewis Vorn)

“We did America, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Europe… It was crazy,” she says of the experience. “I learned so much. I see videos of myself from the first Irish shows, where we began, and it feels like a different lifetime, a different version of myself. I just felt like a different person before this year. I’m so grateful that he took me around the world and believed in me.”

To nobody’s surprise, she marks her territory as the “number one Ed Sheeran fan in the world”. It would be hard to argue with that claim at this point. “He’s so generous and kind, and he’s really talented, and he’s smart,” she continues. “It’s a privilege to get to tour with somebody like that, someone that’s also just so good as a human being. It’s the easiest and the best thing because he’s so lovely.” 

Sheeran would later appear at her Wembley show to perform his own breakthrough hit ‘Lego House’ together in a gorgeous full-circle moment: “He let me play his Wembley, so I figured I should let him play mine,” she tells the crowd on her final night. This is a sentiment she jokes about again during her Rolling Stone UK cover shoot, teasing: “It’s great to be able to support up-and-coming artists.” 

The best piece of advice from him that she can share (“the best piece of advice… it’s probably not appropriate for the wider world”) is what she’s learnt from watching him perform. Of course, she’s been to more of his shows than most. “He really puts the crowd at the forefront of the shows. For Ed, those shows are about the audience and making them feel involved and making them feel like they’ve had the most special night they can possibly have, which is so cool,” she says. “It makes me think of Paul McCartney saying, ‘Of course I play The Beatles’ songs. These shows aren’t for me; these shows are for them.’ I love that mentality, and I try to keep that with me.”

Maisie Peters
Maisie wears t-shirt by ERL, skirt by Diesel, kenchoker by Manokhi, sock by Raey, shoes by Miu Miu. (Picture: Lewis Vorn)

At her Rolling Stone UK cover shoot, Peters’ warm persona lights up the room. She takes turns to chat to everyone in between being snapped, and answers questions to camera with ease, often checking the prompting notes she’s made on her phone. The soundtrack of the day is purely Girls Aloud — later that day it’s confirmed the group will be having a revival. How perfectly… witchy. 

Speaking of witchiness, sophomore album The Good Witch was written about a surprisingly short period in Peters’ life, and its contents again prove how well she can connect with her audience. “I really do write for the girls,” she observes. “I really made a whole album based on a relationship that lasted for one month and maybe two weeks.” The record is a painfully familiar look into the heartbreak, frustration and unpredictability of a short-lived romance, yet she provides drops of joy and growth in equal measure, meaning a sense of hope always remains at the core, never allowing the sadness to win. “I wrote this album about that time in my life. It depicts the same six months with, give or take, a few different songs.” 

But she doesn’t always write that way: “As I get older, I’ve tended to draw on my own life more frequently, but that’s not necessarily always chronologically accurate. I’ll write about something that happened four years ago like it was yesterday — it doesn’t matter to me. I am The Good Witch; I make what I want out of the things that are happening.” Peters has also remained adept at turning fleeting moments into the basis of a whole track. In 2022 fan-favourite release ‘Cate’s Brother’, she recalls meeting her housemate’s brother for the first time and quickly developing a huge crush. This led to intense lyrics, “And my heart went ‘Love him, he’s the one, and we shall wed,’” she sings.

The album and its subsequent deluxe version —released in October — touch on literary inspirations, including influences from the world of Greek mythology and fantasy, alongside a dose of religious imagery too. ‘The History of Man’ is a prime example, dotted with Biblical references: “So Samson blamed Delilah…”. Elsewhere, ‘In Guy on A Horse’, one of the deluxe tracks, Peters compares herself to Joan of Arc, depicting an elevated version of herself, as she criticises an ex-partner’s habit of looking down from his high horse.

“It wasn’t conscious. I wasn’t mood-boarding all my different literary inspirations or anything like that,” she explains, but there is an element to The Good Witch that acts as a conceptual album of sorts. “I got to write in that universe, which I loved. ‘The History of Man’ has some Greek mythology in it, and then ‘Wendy’ is essentially about Peter Pan. I was dancing around these universes.” 

Gender is another theme very present throughout much of the record, with Peters viewing her journey between debut You Signed Up for This to The Good Witch as “giving girl-to-woman”, having done a lot of growing in the past two years. “There are a lot of threads and themes that look at gender and in what it is to identify as a woman and what it is to know men, which sounds a bit dramatic,” she says. “It’s funny because if you were to count the most used words in The Good Witch, they are the words ‘obsessed’ and the word ‘man’. I don’t know what that reflects about me, but it’s something to think about…”

The six new deluxe tracks were all written prior to the album initially being released. Among them, there is a mixture of songs from when she was in the process of writing The Good Witch as well as tracks that didn’t quite make the first selection. “They were very much floating around and were different people’s favourite songs and had something important about them. They were important enough that I felt like they deserved to live within the world, too.”

Maisie Peters
Maisie wears top and shoes by SHUSHU/TONG, skirt by SHUSHU/TONG, socks by Raey. (Picture: Lewis Vorn)

The extended album closes with gorgeously nostalgic ‘The Last One’, which very nearly made it into You Signed Up for This. “‘The Last One’, I wrote for my first album, but right at the end, so it didn’t make it. It feels like such a closing track. But ‘Tough Act’ became the closing track on my first album, so that was done [and] dusted.” She believes some songs can have extremely specific destinies in that they must be placed at certain points on a record “or it’s not going to happen”. She continues, “Sometimes I write a song, which I know is either the title track of the album, and it opens the album, or it will just never come out — ‘The Last One’ was one of those songs. But I love that song, and it feels really special it now gets to close The Good Witch.”

Her favourite lyric of the entire album comes from the song ‘Yoko’, dealing with misunderstandings that followed after Peters left a relationship she really hoped would work out, relating this to the common misconception surrounding Yoko Ono’s part in the break-up of The Beatles. “‘Yoko’ is one of my favourites, and I always wanted that to be on the album, but she didn’t quite make it. There’s a lyric in that song that’s my favourite lyric from this whole album: ‘You have a phone, you should have called’.”

While the two LPs in her discography may seem quite different on the surface, she feels there are many similarities. “I always say they are sister records to me,” she explains. “Even the Deluxe really emphasises that because there are songs on there that I wrote for the first album. The Deluxe is a good way to tie up any loose ends, I guess, and to make sure everything I wanted to say from those years, hopefully, is out. I mean, there’s always more things I want to say!”

Elsewhere, Peters’ online persona is generally an incredibly positive one, having created a space in which her fans clearly feel extremely comfortable, seen and safe. However, this hasn’t made her immune to her fair share of negativity on the internet too, something she’s experienced more this year than ever before. Yet she still manages to deliver a witty response to the not-so-nice comments she’s been on the other end of. “You can say with a wry smile, ‘At least I’m relevant,’” she smiles. “It’s really difficult, and you get bitten twice as hard when you’re someone that is online,” she says. “You’re engaging, and giving yourself to people, and then, suddenly, the mood changes, and people don’t like you, or don’t like what you’ve given them. You’re like, ‘But I was just trying to create, or I was just trying to show you this new song!’ It feels very personal, even though you try to turn it off.”

Through any negativity, Peters remains incredibly self-aware, and doesn’t seem to hold any resentment towards those directing the vitriol her way. “These people don’t know you. It’s normally a teenager tweeting, and good for them! I was a teenager tweeting once too. We’ve all done it. As long as I shall live, there will be teenagers tweeting, as they should.” Still, she admits it’s hard to not feel that she’s being “personally attacked”, and the comments have taken their toll at times. “People forget I’m still a person that’s seeing this. I’ve experienced that this year. I’ve found it really difficult. When you’re touring and away from home, and you’re really tired and running on empty, and then you just see X, Y and Z on TikTok or on Twitter about yourself, it really takes it out of you.”

She recognises there’s a balance to be struck today. “As I get older, I find myself trying to disentangle from living my life online a little bit, which is healthy and natural. No one is 17 on the internet forever, and that’s a good thing. I was 17 on the internet, and it was a wild time. Now I am trying to separate those two things. [Being online] is just easy for me. I also think it’s fun: seeing everyone’s outfits, funny TikToks. You need to try and not take yourself or the internet too seriously, because it’s such a fickle place. It’s fun when it works for you, but it’s not so fun when it works against you. Ultimately, I’ve had so many wonderful things happen because of it, so I’m always going to be there a little bit… even just to stalk.”

Maisie Peters
Maisie wears jacket by Self Portrait. (Picture: Lewis Vorn)

Being present on the internet has been central to Peters’ career — she started out by posting videos of herself singing on YouTube when she was 15. But this year, she reached new peaks of online fame when her ‘There It Goes’ video went viral on TikTok in early autumn, painting a very relatable picture of the aftermath of an intense end-of-summer breakup in a vast city like London. Fans latched onto a couple of specific lines, “I’m doing better / I made it to September / I can finally breathe”, and “The comedown of closure / The girls and I do yoga / I wake up and it’s October / The loss is yours”. Fans started producing their own visuals to the track in cute clips which soon flooded the app. 

“Everybody wants something to take off on TikTok or to have a moment, but it was so fun that this moment was so organic,” she reflects. “What started happening was actually just this wonderful, sweet, pure, wholesome thing where people were using the sound, ‘I’m doing better / I made it to September,’ to round up little edits of their life and all the great things in it.” Peters admits she “couldn’t believe it” when she realised the song was going viral. “To see all these videos showcasing love and friendship, healing and growing and people just being themselves, I was like, ‘This is so cool.’ I’m so pleased and happy that was the moment, that’s what took off, because it’s so beautiful and lovely.” 

In what Peters calls a “cliche” answer, it’s her parents she immediately shouts out when asked who she wants to dedicate The Breakthrough Award, supported by Volvo, to, as they have been by her side on her incredible journey since she was a teen. “They drove me to pubs to play when I was 15,” recalls Peters. “My dad would come with me when I was busking so that if anything shady happened, he could be there, but he would also pretend not to be my dad, he’d just loiter around. They’ve always just been really supportive, so yeah, I would like to dedicate [this award] to them.”

On what’s next after this whirlwind year, Peters has a clear objective: “I’m going to bed!” she declares, itching to spend some time at home. “I haven’t spent more than two days at home since July. I’m going to be in London, just walking around, so say hi if you see me. God damn, I hope I’m in my rest and relaxation era.” She plans to spend the coming weeks “cooking meals and going to exercise classes” and generally doing very little. “Is it the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory grandparents who are in bed all day? That’s what I’m going to channel. I want to collect my thoughts a little bit. Then in the New Year, that’s when I’ll start making some more music. I have some thoughts and ideas [for the third album], but we’ll have to see what happens. Life takes you in surprising places sometimes.”

Taken from Issue 14 of Rolling Stone UK, our Awards Issue. You can buy it here.

Words: Charlotte Manning
Photography: Lewis Vorn
Fashion & Creative Director: Joseph Kocharian
Styling: Luci Ellis
Hair and makeup: Elizabeth Rita
Styling assistant: Chessie Lulli