Posted on November 16, 2015
Maggie Crossett has been a familiar face in the Seoul indie scene since March 2013. Since then, she’s collaborated with a host of bands, and she has just finished work on her debut solo album. We meet on the rickety top floor of a Hongdae bar. The cocky Britpop blasting from the speakers couldn’t be further from Crossett’s humility and openness - something she transmits in her performances; always intimate and in line with the characteristic clarity of her folk-cum-soul voice. She orders a couple of beers and we chat about trans-pacific music-making, hurt, and what’s gone into her album, Long Road, due for release November 28th at Thunderhorse Tavern.
I was really shy when I was little. I had an awesome music teacher, Mrs. C. Her way of getting me out of my shell was to make me sing and do fun songs and dances. So she encouraged me and was a huge influence. She gave me small solos, then bigger solos, starting when I was in second grade.
Yeah, I consider my voice as my instrument. I am proud of that, because I really like harmonizing; that’s my passion. Not so much lead vocal, but I wouldn’t mind even being a back-up singer, like, harmonizing. [Laughing] I’m not really selling a solo album here!
When I was younger, I loved female pop influences such as Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Tina Turner. I also grew up listening to the Beatles and Rolling Stones, with my parents playing in the house and in the car. As I got older, I was intrigued by female singer/songwriters such as Jewel and Allison Krauss.
Yes, I do. When I moved to Colorado and was singing, a lot of people said, “You’d be good with folk and country.” They’d recommend Gillian Welch, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell. So I didn’t think of myself as a country/folk singer until Colorado. That’s when I met these two guys, Sean Flynn and Andy Koepel, at a local open mic. We played folk covers and our originals. In Georgia, I always liked soul, R&B, rock and pop, but it wasn’t until Colorado that I started getting into folk and country too.
Yes, it definitely has. Also, living in South Korea, I was exposed to more genres to try as a musician, such as Blues. I was in a Blues band briefly with a full band and it was a good challenge. I love Blues because you can be creative with the rhythm and improvise. So, being in different places and exposed to different genres has influenced me to include a variety of them on my album.
It was a lot of fun, because it was with my friends. Some people do scrap books when they come back from Korea; to me, this is my own form of memorabilia. Like, my experience in Korea with really awesome musicians; good friends. Yeah, something I can take back with me. Also, I hit a wall when songwriting, because I can be limited by my guitar skills, but it helps to have friends to help you. So for Jam Interlude, I know how to play on the guitar, but I was like, ‘I know I want to start with the bass and go dan-na-dan, then guitar, then keys and then full-on jam’. Luckily, my friends Apoorv Sharma, John Sowards and Ben Akers helped me craft my vision of this song, instrumentally. So I made sure to include that this song was co-written by these friends.
Probably my favourite song, Don’t Let me Down, by the Beatles. This is one of the songs that I cover on the album with Jason Lisko and Josh Schwartzentruber. It just always makes me happy. It’s my favourite Beatles song, and I especially love the harmonies and the good vibe.
It’s very therapeutic for me: break-ups, dealing with hard stuff … It’s a healthy way for me to deal with tough situations and problems in my life… Instead of taking stuff out on others, I close myself off and just write a song. Once I have that song written, I feel a big weight is lifted, and I feel a lot better. The single, Long Road, is very special to me. Right before I moved to Korea my ex back in Georgia was falsely accused and his friends questioned his innocence. And so, it was just a very emotional time and I also had to transition to Korea, and so when I called him, he was crying; I was crying. He was like, ‘You have to believe me, ‘cos nobody else will believe me. Except for my parents.’ So I believed him but I was also battling with, ‘Is he really innocent? Or guilty?’ So I had to find a way to sort out my own emotions… I didn’t want to talk to anybody about it, so I wrote this song about that moment of just calling him and talking to him, but not being able to be there with him. I think anybody can relate to that. If you’re living abroad and someone at home is going through something, you can’t be there physically with them. My original, Times Like These, is a tribute to Lyons, a small town in Colorado I lived in for two years. I think a lot of people/expats can relate to Long Road and Times Like These in the fact that you feel absolutely helpless living abroad, and you can’t help people you love. In 2013, Lyons was hit with a flood, and my friends lost their homes and their jobs. I had friends that owned bars and restaurants in that town, and they witnessed devastation… Within that whole year, people from all over got together and rebuilt the town. There is still rebuilding that’s needed. I went to visit it and there are some back roads that are still not rebuilt, but the fact that random strangers from all over rebuilt this – it’s a small town, a mountain town – it was very inspiring. At the end of the song it says ‘Lyon’s strong’. People from that town will get it; that’s their slogan. And when I went back home my friend who does videography shot a video, so hopefully it might be ready for the release party.
Pictures : Joe O' Daniels
I either write a poem or something; I just write it down. I start with lyrics, or if I have a chorus in my mind, then I do the verses after the chorus; most of the time it happens in that order. Then, if I have the tune in my head, I try to figure it out on the guitar. That’s the last part. Figuring out the guitar parts. There’s a song on there that’s probably my angriest song. It’s called The Whole Damn Truth and it happened in Korea; this guy I was dating was not honest, and had a girlfriend, and so I ended up telling her. Anyway, Bundang is a small town. There’s only two open mics. He purposely shows up at the open mic at Travellers, and starts heckling me, so I was like, ‘Oh! Who likes dishonest assholes?’ And he raises his hand. So I’m like, ‘I’m going to debut my new song. It’s called The Whole Damn Truth.’ So I sing my song to him and he goes crawling to the bar. It felt great to express my hurt and frustration through music. And I think he got the point. He didn’t heckle me again.
I’m not good at piano with fast songs. I wish I could jam on the piano more. So on guitar I am able to play upbeat songs. But for slow songs, I like piano, because it adds more emotion.
I would love that. Me and my band mate back home, Andy, were talking about that. He was like, ‘When you come back I’ll be in your band. Something completely different. Not just folk but more originals with a full band.’ I was like, ‘That’ll be awesome.’
John Lennon, because I love his songwriting. I’d like to watch him write and create a song. I think it’d be cool to witness him write a song; the whole process. Someone that I know would be Christina Phares, but she left. We used to sing together. You’ve probably seen her with Studs Lonigan. She was like the front woman. She taught me a lot about performing. I used to have my notebook of lyrics – which I sometimes used as a crutch when performing – and she’d be like, ‘No! Memorize it!’ She taught me how to be a passionate and dedicated performer.
Um… I rarely go to Hongdae but I trekked over there for BaekMa. And I’d travel to Seoul for Brad’s band (Sotto Gamba), Boss Hagwon and Josh Schwartzentruber’s band, Texas Flood. What I like about Josh Schwartzentruber, is that he just zones everybody out and he’s really in his element.
A high is the process, like, watching a song go from just you and guitar to something completely different. Just collaborating, for example, on Long Road, the rhythm was completely different originally, but then when I played with Josh and Jeremy, all of a sudden it changed the feel of the whole song… It made it kind of upbeat. It was a sad song, and so I was like, ‘Wow! You completely changed it, but I love it.’ So to watch my song change by collaborating with different people was a high. And the only low would be just working with scheduling.
Um, I wanted to do one more year in Korea and then go back to Colorado and form a band again. I know it’s never going to be a big thing; to me it’s just, like I said, memorabilia. It means that to me. I just want to keep singing. Why? I don’t know. I don’t care where.
I’m really excited. Glass Inspired is going to open up; Simon Upstone is an amazing songwriter leading this band. And then Boss Hagwon, ‘cos they’re my three really good friends and they’re awesome, and then um… me! I’m also excited that this will be the first time I’m singing my originals with a full band. And then Pentasonic, whom I’ve been friends with since my first year in Korea. They’re the first band in Korea where I was like, ‘Oh! My gosh.’ I adore them. It’ll be a big party!
Interview : Maggie Devlin
Korean Translation : 김은지 (Eunji Kim)
Edited by : Rock N Rose
For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :