The audience at the Coachella Festival didn’t know that Maggie Rogers was playing because of her post-graduate coursework.
The fest made a public presentation element of her master’s degree in religion and public life at Harvard Divinity School possible. Rogers was pressed to navigate the subject following a “mind-blowing spiritual ecstasy” experience during her shows.
“When you’re on stage, there’s a lot of energy being sent directly towards you,” she claims. “Over the last year, I’ve really thought a lot about what that means.”
She continued,” What is your ethical responsibility to the audience? How do I help people feel a connection to something bigger than themselves – me included? How do you bring people together at a time when we’ve never been more divided?”
Her performance at Coachella started with the song “Give a Little,” which talks about how performers need to let go and connect while on stage. Then, she threw her glasses as a symbol of taking down the barrier between the stage and the crowd.
“I brought everything I was learning into the details of that performance,” she said on her university website. “From the way, I collaboratively worked to design the stage layout, the stage production, the set list, the clothing, the way we came off the stage, the way we rehearsed.”
She added, “At the end of the day, creativity and spirituality – it’s about the process.”
The 28-year-old singer gained her public exposure in 2016 when a video of her wowing Pharrell Williams went viral and ignited a record label bidding battle. Her debut album, Heard It In a Past Life, was praised as an “irresistible” and “brilliant” collection of rich folk-pop. She snagged a Grammy nomination for this.
After her winter tour in 2019, Rogers was “super burned out, and it was making me hate music.”
“It’s really complicated when your humanity is the product you are hypothetically selling as a musician,” she states. “It was making me really sad because music has always been the most sacred thing to me. I needed to find a way to protect that.”
So, she decided to move into her parents’ house in Maine and “cut off the rest of the world” to divert her attention to “reading and resting and walking along the jagged cliffs.” It was then that she applied to Harvard.
“It was really nice to enter that environment,” she claims. “I was surrounded by people who were just so diverse and so smart – monks, priests, people who were taking vows of service. I lived in a little apartment, and I rode my bike to school, and I steamed broccoli on a Tuesday and went to the bar with all the college students.”
She stepped away from the spotlight to reevaluate her priorities.
“If I wanted to now, I could go be a professor, or I could work in a bookshop – and knowing that this other life exists makes me choose music actively, every time. It’s not just something I got swept up into, like, ‘I went viral, and here I am.’”