By Jack Irvin
Maggie Lindemann has always considered herself a paranoid person. As a kid, it was the reason she’d ask her mom to stay in her room until she fell asleep. As an adult, it’s why she began sleeping with a switchblade under her pillow.
“It just gave me bad vibes, which is weird because it was a brand new house,” the 22-year-old singer-songwriter tells MTV News about her then-home in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Combined with the copious amount of horror films Lindemann watched at the time, nights when her roommate wasn’t home left her scared, to say the least. “Two stories are too much for me… I need to know every inch of the house. He would be gone, and I would just freak out and need to sleep with a knife under my pillow like every night — and in all my drawers.”
Her sharp response to fear came in handy as a direct inspiration for “Knife Under My Pillow,” the pop punk-inspired first single from her debut, Paranoia, out this Friday on Caroline Records and Swixxzaudio. While the EP may be the singer’s first-ever project, she is by no means a newbie in the music industry. Growing up in Texas and performing with her local church choir, she always dreamed of singing professionally, and she moved to Los Angeles at 16 to pursue it. Like many other teenagers at the time, she started posting cover videos online — not on YouTube, but on Keek, a now-defunct video platform that launched in 2011.
After picking up a following, her fans flocked to her Tumblr and Instagram pages, turning her into a full-blown influencer before the term — which she despises — even existed. “I hate when people call me an influencer, ‘cause that is not how I make my money,” says Lindemann, who amassed nearly a million followers before releasing her first single, the downbeat “Knocking on Your Heart,” in 2015. “I always wanted to sing. I didn’t want to just be a pretty girl on Instagram.”
Lindemann expressed a similar sentiment in 2016’s aptly titled “Pretty Girl,” an empowering, anthemic pop track that became an international hit and caught the attention of 300 Entertainment, the record label she signed to that year. Considering the track has been streamed well over a billion times to date, and its follow-up, infectious dance bop “Obsessed,” boasts nearly 100 million streams, you’d think the singer would have followed up the immense success with an album. But behind the scenes, she wasn’t a fan of the music she was putting out.
“I hated being this bubblegum-pop girl. I just didn’t ever feel like that was me,” she says. “The lyrics were me, but the vibe wasn’t, and I felt like that started to become a constant theme in my music. I loved the lyrics, but the production, I always just didn’t like it.”
She decided to shift her sound to better reflect her own music taste, citing acts like Sleeping With Sirens and Avril Lavigne as major inspirations. “I love heavy drums, heavy electric guitars. I always wanted to scream. I used to practice my screams when I was young,” Lindemann recalls. “I felt like my whole life was pop-punk, and then I was pop, and it just felt so weird.” In 2018, she released the emo, melancholic “Would I” and “Friends Go,” a No Doubt-influenced track that received a hardcore remix from Blink-182’s Travis Barker. But just as she was finally settling into a sound she identified with, things took a dark turn.
On June 21, 2019, she was asked to leave the stage during a performance in Malaysia, where she was then arrested by immigration police for not possessing the correct work permit visa. The incident was reportedly due to negligence on behalf of the visa agent, who was later fined over $7,000. After the show, Lindemann was put in jail for 24 hours before getting released to her hotel room, where she was forced to stay for five days before she could fly home. “It’s all such a blur, but basically we had to go and be like, ‘Look, we had no idea. We don’t book these things,’” she details. “We were facing possibly five years in prison for being there illegally and possibly deportation. It was just horrifying.”
At the time, she felt she was being watched in her hotel room, only worsening her preexisting anxieties. “I’ve always been paranoid, but that was a different level ’cause it felt like I had a reason to be,” she says. While recognizing how fortunate she is to be able to move on relatively unscathed thanks to her legal team — and how many others aren’t as lucky — over a year later, she still finds herself reminded of the discomfort and uncertainty she felt during her time in jail. “I had to go to the DMV the other day, and the tiles and stuff were the same [as the jail cell], and I was just kind of like, ‘Whoa, this is really freaking me out.’”
But it also pushed Lindemann to “want to make better music” and finally get a project out into the world, and this time she wanted to call the shots — which meant parting ways with 300 Entertainment in favor of Caroline Records and her own label, Swixxzaudio. Within a week of returning home from the tour, she hit the studio and made the grim, guitar-driven “Different,” the first song written for Paranoia, as well as the first track she’s ever co-produced.
From that point, the songs kept flowing, and soon enough she had an EP’s worth of material. While new songs like the ear-shattering screamo track “Gaslight!” and metallic, cutthroat banger “Scissorhands” are a far cry from the polished pop of “Pretty Girl,” the musician feels like her sound perfectly aligns with her personality for the first time. “I used to always see comments like, ‘I love her Instagram, I love her style, but her music doesn’t match,’ and it always would drive me crazy ’cause I’m like, ‘Ugh, I know. I want it, too, so bad.’ And I feel like it finally does,” says Lindemann. “What you see is who I am, for sure.”
In fact, she’s felt so inspired by her new sound that she’s already hard at work on an album to come after Paranoia. “I have three songs already, but I’m still just in the beginning,” she details. “But I do want to have an album out not too too much longer after the EP drops, hopefully next year.”
If it were up to Lindemann, the next step would be to head out on a headlining tour, which she was planning to do before the pandemic hit back in March. Above anything else, her goal is merely to prove herself as an artist once and for all: “I just hope to reach people that I haven’t reached yet, and I hope that people will take me more seriously — and not think of me as an internet person who decided to make music or something.”