Earlier this month, Maggie Rogers landed her first Billboard No. 1 as “Light On” rose to the top of the Adult Alternative Songs chart. In this week’s episode of “How It Went Down,” Rogers walks Billboard through how she created that chart-topping track from her debut album Heard It in a Past Life, and why she thinks that this song reflects how she has felt about music over the last couple of years.
Rogers tells Billboard that despite thinking that the record was done several times, she decided to go back to the studio for “one last swing” before finalizing it. Sitting down with her friend Tom Percy (who makes music under the moniker Kid Harpoon), he asked her if there were any stories that she still wanted to tell through her music.
“I felt pretty overwhelmed and a little scared for a while,” Rogers recalls. “My very private life became very public really quickly, in a way where I didn’t feel like I had any control over it.”
She reveals that “Light On” is about feeling out of control, adding that while she never had any doubts about her music itself, she came to realize that being a professional musician only meant “25 percent music and a whole lot of other stuff.”
“There’s always a part of it that has to feel like work or something that’s not entirely you,” she continues. “But I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make this all feel like me.”
Rogers says that the best way to explain how she feels is to look at the use of the synthesizer in the song. “I like songs that you can have both the physical release and an emotional release,” she states, noting that her favorite kind of music is when you can both dance and cry to it.
“Realistically, the song — chord structure-wise — is fairly simple, but the one thing that happens over the course of the whole song is there is this arpeggiator and the filter opens,” she says. “The filter on this arpeggiator starts closed and by the end of the song is really open and really free and really soaring and exciting and hopeful and optimistic. That’s actually a really wonderful parallel with how I felt about music in the last two years. Excited, bubbling, kind of timid at the beginning and then by the end, just really happy and ready.”
You can watch the video above to hear the full story of how Maggie Rogers created “Light On,” and check out the song below.