Q&A: Maisie Peters on role models, literary inspiration, songwriting

The British rising star is signed to Ed Sheeran’s record label and is kicking off her sold-out U.S. tour soon.

Holly Grace Jamili, Contributing Writer

Maisie Peters in a short pink dress with black polka dots, holding a cell phone in her right hand and wired headphones in her left.
Maisie Peters in a short pink dress with black polka dots, holding a cell phone in her right hand and wired headphones in her left. (Photo by Lillie Eiger, Courtesy of Warner Music Group)

Sussex-born singer-songwriter Maisie Peters is a natural storyteller, creating candid tunes as personal as diary entries. At the age of 12, Peters penned her own songs and later started busking on Brighton’s street corners, performing at beer festivals and uploading original music on YouTube. After seven years of uploading original songs to YouTube, Peters released her debut album “You Signed Up For This” under Ed Sheeran’s label Gingerbread Man Records. The two met when Sheeran reached out to Peters to write songs together. Their connection led to Peters’ infectious lead single “Psycho” and she has performed the cheery but vindictive strain on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Kelly Clarkson Show. Peters’ “You Signed Up For This” U.S. tour starts next week.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

WSN: Congratulations on your sold-out North American tour! That’s major. How did you feel once you heard the news? Where were you?

Maisie Peters: Funnily enough, New York was the first venue to sell out. It was a venue in Brooklyn. It sold out in a few seconds. Then we upgraded it to Webster Hall and that sold out, which is crazy. I remember being with my band and all the messages were coming through: “You sold out D.C.! You sold out New York!” It was the craziest thing ever. Every time I’d be like, “Yeah, I just sold another one! Woo!”

WSN: You’re now working with Ed Sheeran more than ever since you’re signed under his label Gingerbread Man and are now opening for his “+–=÷x Tour” in Europe. What have you learned from Ed being your mentor?

MP: It’s been incredible to work a lot under him. One of the biggest lessons I’ve really picked up from him is how there are so many highs and lows. It’s really good to not root your identity in either. Celebrate the highs when they come and reflect on what you feel like are the lows, but do not rest so much of your happiness on either. 

WSN: As you’re preparing for your upcoming shows, who are some other artists you look up to performance-wise?

MP: I’m a Swiftie for life, so obviously, Taylor. But I also look up to artists who look like they’re having so much fun on stage. Maggie Rogers is an amazing performer. People like Sara Bareilles, I admire so much for their technique and their ability to sing flawlessly every night. Recently, I’m really inspired by early videos of Britney Spears, Joan Jett and Gwen Stefani. I think that energy is so fun. Slightly punk, but having the time of their life.

WSN: Recently, I’ve been looking over Britney’s past rehearsal videos of her dancing…

MP: Me, too! I am completely obsessed with early Britney. I’m obsessed with Britney in all areas actually. She’s an icon. Have you ever seen the video for “Oops!…I Did It Again”? She snaps out of character and then snaps back in. I think it’s truly the most incredible piece of art that the 21st century has produced. I watch it all the time. It’s my secret. It’s something about her charisma, drive and passion. You can see it so clearly. I’m a massive fan. 

WSN: Are we going to see you pulling out some dance moves soon?

MP: I don’t think that we’ll see that! I’m not gonna lie. I’m not a natural dancer. Never have been, never plan to be. But I’m definitely going for free and loose.  

WSN: I also saw that you host your own book club where you interview authors. Have there been any skills and tips of theirs that you’ve infused into your own songwriting process?

MP: Subconsciously? Definitely. I can’t tell you a specific one because I’ve done a lot of them now, but a hundred percent do I think that it seeps into the way that I work and what I look around for.  

WSN: What do you first notice when you’re approaching a book whenever it comes to the writing? 

MP: As a songwriter, it’s finding the emotional punchline. It’s like, “Okay, what’s the point? What are you trying to say?” Normally, that’s about a sentence. So when I read books, I’m looking for sentences that sound like punchlines. I will often underline little moments where they wrote something concisely in a really interesting way. 

WSN: “Brooklyn” is a sweet love letter to your twin sister Ellen about your weekend getaway with her — Could you tell me more about what your songwriting process was like for “Brooklyn”?

MP: Yeah! I wrote it with a good friend of mine — Sophie Frances Cooke. I wasn’t really planning on writing a song about New York or about my sister. I think I was telling her about the trip the night before, and it just came out. 

I was writing that verse about the New York trip, and then I wrote the chorus. For a minute, we were like, “Hang on. Should we make this about a guy? Is it too niche to write a song about your sister?” We ended up keeping it, and I’m so glad we did. I feel like it’s become important to so many people and I love that song. It’s one of my favorites to play live. 

WSN: What was your favorite moment with your sister while in New York? Where do you hope to go with her next?

MP: Hilariously, one of my favorite memories are us in the hotel, us at CVS, or me making her try Hot Cheetos and her not liking them at all. We went for Thai food the last night, which was really sweet and cute. She’s never been to Los Angeles, and I would love to bring her. Not that I think that Los Angeles is full of material girls, but Ellen is a material girl and I think she would love California. I think she would live for it. I’d love to go there with her. 

WSN: When you think about your music, how would you visually describe yourself? Your latest album “You Signed Up For This” has songs named after locations and settings. Examples include “John Hughes Movie,” “Outdoor Pool” and, of course, “Brooklyn.” 

MP: It depends. I’m inspired by locations, so it would be cool to see how my writing reflects the tours and travel that I do this year. I’m really inspired by London and the house I’m living in with friends. 

Maisie Peters’ U.S. tour is sold out, but you can stream her debut album “You Signed Up For This” on all streaming platforms. 

Contact Holly Grace Jamili at [email protected].