Social Media Star Turned Singer Maggie Lindemann Talks Outsider Pop and Overcoming Cyberbullying
With 1.1 million Instagram followers, this 17-year-old's social media clout is assured, but after surviving a recent online scandal, Lindemann's pouring all she's got into music.
Maggie Lindemann's reputation precedes her. Much like Halsey, before her music career got off the ground, 17-year-old Lindemann spent years using social media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram to express herself, accruing at an impressive following (333K Twitter followers and 1.1M Instagram followers to be exact). Unfortunately being in the public eye can be tough. Earlier this year, Lindemann's emotionally abusive relationship with her famous Vine star ex led to a social media explosion that alluded to issues of sexual assault, suicide and depression.
Now Lindemann is trying to move forward, separating herself from the online chatter and pursuing her passion for pop. Just last month she posted her first song online, “Knocking On Your Heart,” a powerful ode to a friend who passed away and below is the premiere of her latest, “Couple of Kids.” With a lyrical focus on teenage love and everything that comes wrapped up with it, this second effort is a somber, piano-driven pop gem full of nostalgia. Lindemann’s intimate vocals crack with emotion so that you can easily remember how shitty you felt when your teen love was in tatters.
Before the release of her latest single, Maggie Lindemann filled us in on her social media star status, dealing with cyberbullying and slut-shaming, and becoming a part of the “anti-pop star” gang.
Noisey: How did you get such a large social following off the bat?
Maggie Lindemann: To be honest, I never intended it to happen, it just kinda did. Social media, specifically Instagram and Tumblr, was an outlet for me to express myself (and to be especially creative) and at the same time really escape reality when I was 14. I was able to just be me, you know. I found other kids online who were dealing with similar issues as me and it was weird but cool to see how we just instantly connected. I started sharing photos of myself, among other photographs I took using all the crazy different apps. I had no idea people would reblog my stuff or want to know more about me. My following got bigger over time, and I still kinda just do my own thing. I'm happy that people are into it.
I've read you moved to LA to pursue music. What was the biggest challenge for you in doing so?
I love LA. I have always wanted to live in California. I had no idea that I would be able to move here as young as I did and start this process, pursuing music and all. I made the move from Texas after my manager found a video of me singing on Instagram. He immediately had me come to LA to meet a few weeks later and we started working together almost instantly. It's pretty surreal some days, getting to be in the studio all the time, seeing my friends pursue their dreams out here too. My parents have been super supportive of my career. We're super close, so of course it hasn't been the easiest being apart though. There are definitely times when I miss my Mom's home cooking, oh and my brother. I don't like not being there for him during his high school years. I definitely plan to be in Texas as much as possible to attend his events when I can. I guess the challenging thing for me is balancing it all, but it is getting easier.
Why did "Knocking On Your Heart" become your first single? Who and what is it about?
Honestly, ["Knocking On Your Heart"] struck me hard when I recorded it. It's super personal. There are lyrics in there that apply directly to my good friend Cameron who was tragically killed in a fire last year during Thanksgiving break. Other complicated relationships that I had earlier in my life also influenced the story, it was good to release stuffed up emotions. It just really felt right after we cut it, so we went with it. I really liked how it sounds sonically. I am so overwhelmed with its unexpected success too. To chart on iTunes' Alternative Chart alongside my idols Lana Del Rey and Halsey is unbelievable to me. I never imagined the type of connection people would have with the song.
That must have been a great feeling. What's the deal with "Couple of Kids"?
"Couple of Kids" is about being in a relationship that is next to naive, it's wild and free. At some point, every teenager should experience a relationship in which all he/she wants to do is be with that person they're so addicted to. This song resonates that emotion of infatuation, and how it is possible to be blinded by a feeling you've never experienced. Love is love at any age and it's so freaking annoying that society discounts the way kids feel many times. There’s a line in the song that goes, “Gravity, it pulls me into you." I have definitely felt gravity pull me closer to someone I just couldn't be with. We were just a couple of kids when we met.
And you’re still growing up, for sure. Do you have an EP or album coming out?
I’ve actually been working on my project for the past six months, so there are tons of demos on my manager's computer that no one has even heard. There was actually an early demo of “Couple of Kids” that was leaked some time ago. I was terrified. This song is one of my most personal and I wasn't ready to release it. It says a lot of the things I've always wanted to say, but never thought I could out loud. But when the clip leaked, I saw in the comments online that fans were really identifying with it so I decided to release it after "Knocking On Your Heart." But, I still wanted to show how honest the song was and how it didn't need 100 things going on. The first demo I recorded, we experimented with lots of different ideas on the production side. It didn't fit right. I went back in the studio to re-record it a few weeks ago and literally did one vocal take because that's all I felt it needed. We left my vulnerable vocals at the forefront of the mix and the production pretty stripped down. The goal of this release isn't to chart or trend, but to reveal my artistry and share my story. This year has been emotionally draining for me, so right now I’m focused on putting my thoughts on paper and journaling. I'm certain there are going to be some powerful songs coming. There are a lot of different emotions that I need to work through, starting with Cameron's death to even sitting here in this interview being triggered by some of my darker days. Keeping that in mind, I don’t want to rush my first album, but it’s definitely coming.
That’s fair. It is something to take your time with. Is your goal to sign with a major label?
I have no plans to sign with a major label unless they see what I am doing and want to be part of it, rather than drastically alter it. My team is just me, my manager, and my parents right now. I love it. I get to be me.
That sounds pretty ideal. Have you gotten any cool shout outs from anyone you've admired on social media?
I have to sit back and take it all in. It's been pretty incredible having different people and groups I admire congratulate me publicly and privately. Building from an Instagram following, I never thought music tastemakers I follow or the blogosphere would take my music for what it is and talk about me in the same conversations as some of the greatest new artists. Peter [Robinson] from PopJustice compared me to Troye Sivan and Lana Del Rey... that was really humbling.
With two singles out and more music on the way, do you have plans to tour?
I am certain I will at some point. For now, I want to distinguish myself as an artist online before going out and performing live. It might take time, but I'm up for the challenge.
Do you want to abandon your title as a "social media star" and purely be known as a musician? If so, how do you intend to do that?
I have never cared for labels. I realize that my fans are why I am where I am. I love them and am grateful for their support. I first gained exposure from social media so I will never depart from it. However, I do plan to release music and make that the focus of my career from this point forward. I can't wait for what comes next, and hope my followers evolve and grow with me. Alessia Cara went from uploading covers on YouTube (like Bieber) to being cosigned by Drake and Taylor Swift. Halsey transformed Tumblr followers into selling out Madison Square Garden. My manager happened to find me through a random video on Instagram. "Social Media Star" is no longer a stigmatized title, I don't think those kids are confined within a box anymore. We have the ability to move from platform to platform to achieve our goals. Everyone begins somewhere right? Starting on social media, being accepted for who you are before you even put out content, is absolute affirmation that fans want what is authentic and real. Then, to be supported because your audience is responsive to your music and development is our journey together. That's all I really could ask for.
It's been said that you're influenced by BANKS, Spooky Black, and Lana, why do you draw inspiration from them?
They are the rebels in music right now: the "anti pop stars." They are off-kilter artists who do their individual thing and are unconcerned with being mainstream. I vibe with that—you know the Lordes of the industry. Spooky Black is so different in his aesthetic, it's very DIY. He somewhat inspired my minimalistic artwork. BANKS is very intuitive in expressing her feelings, and I want to capture that essence. And Lana is just Lana, her lyrics are brilliant. I would love to work with any of them. I appreciate their integrity to staying true to who they are in a world that wants to change us all. I can't wait to see how my music will transform. The first two songs I released are ballads, but I have some different stuff coming. Right now I'm listening to a lot of A$AP Rocky, Bryson Tiller, and The Weeknd. My playlist changes about every month, I dig deeper into finding artists that connect with what I'm feeling at that moment. I sometimes tweet my favorites from Soundcloud.
It sounds like you’ve thought about this a lot. Do you think internet fame is a blessing or a curse?
Definitely both. In high school, it caused a lot of problems for me because people started to notice me outside of school and ask schoolmates if they knew me. Instead of support me, they ridiculed me for taking Instagram so seriously, and for like my selfies. I didn't understand what the hate was all about. But I didn't stop using social media because I was able to express my emotions through posts depending on my mood. There are going to be bullies in your life no matter what. People can be very cruel, especially when they're anonymous on social media. Regardless, I've been blessed with very good friends that I've met through social media. These are friends still in my life today so I wouldn't change that for anything. I enjoy the positive influence I have because of my Instagram, and now Twitter following too. I am not only able to go full force into music, but also have the opportunity to support causes that mean something to me, like Pitbull rescue. As weird as it sounds, without fame, everything I've ever known would be different and I like things the way they are.
I think that makes sense for anyone who is comfortable with the life they’ve been living. How did you deal with cyberbullying? What helped you come out on the other side?
I despise bullying of any kind. I've dealt with it all my life in one form or another. I have no tolerance for mean people. I was forced to learn how to deal with it all but there are days it's very difficult. Last year, I actually had a "hate page" owner apologize to me and my mom for everything. It made me realize that not all people really hate you, they just talk about you as if you're not a real person with real emotions. Social media is not real life, which is so sad to me. In LA, people will slam each other online and then show up somewhere together, and not just at the VMAs.
My generation can change this but we have to want to and make a conscious effort to do so. I used to get really defensive online and lash out at bullies, but now I try to show them grace. It's challenging but necessary for my own well-being to realize they're not worth my time, even if it's just a tweet. An argument is always won when you walk away. Those who try and bring you down are the ones who are struggling with their own issues, you are merely their immediate target. I have had so many people recently come forward and apologize to me, it's been good healing for my soul. Though I'm grateful for my family and trying experiences for getting me to where I am, I don't see myself as a role model just yet. I have fought to overcome my circumstances in order to survive, not to earn that label. I just want to try and stay true to myself.
Staying balanced is really important. Considering your controversial circumstances, if there was ever another girl in your public situation with your ex, what advice would you have for that girl?
The world is so much better with you in it, and don't rob someone the opportunity to call you a friend or love you. Remember you are someone's soul mate. Truth will always prevail so be brave and courageous. Shine your light in this dark place and be yourself because people will love you for it. Those who don't, they don't matter because they don't know you. Those who do, they will never abandon you. Surround yourself with a strong support system. What others say about you holds no weight because you are chosen to be more than what others say. Choose to wake up every day and get out of bed. Realize that you are alive and live. Don't allow yourself to be an easy target or brand yourself as something you're not. Others can try and force a battle that will never be won, but don't be too concerned with winning or losing anything. Strive to be a better, happier person each day. Music might help you do just that. I know it's done some good for me.
That’s great advice. Was there ever a point in time you wanted to delete your social media accounts and start fresh with everything going on?
Yes, absolutely. I've been depressed and have struggled with why anyone would be so cruel to me over the years. I spiraled down so fast in high school when people constantly mocked me. I still never deleted my social media accounts though. I wasn't going to stop doing something I enjoyed because someone else didn't want me to do it. Even when my family asked me to take a break on social media for several months when they took me out of school, I'm glad I never deleted my account. Look at where it has gotten me, a lot of blessings have come despite all that's been bad. I think it's a great message to others kids who follow me, to be resilient. My past is my past and I can't change it. Running from it doesn't negate it. It has made me stronger and more focused. I've come to realize that all the bullies want is to destroy me. That won't work, I am still here.
With such a big social following and considering your public situation, are you more private about certain things?
Yes, I have learned to be. When it comes to my family and friends, I am very cautious what I put out there and I am fiercely protective of them.
You’re very passionate about your views. Could you see yourself being a social advocate as well as a musician? You've shown a lot of strength.
Yes, when the time comes. I have a lot to consider and still have to heal first. I think that's why making music is so amazing for me. Even when I'm weak, I can exude strength. Sometimes it's hard to see myself becoming a social advocate. After all that happened last year, I thought "stuffing it" would be best, because then no one would know of how I was ever feeling. But that robs me of who I am so now I am beginning to slowly open up and to share parts of my story, which is very difficult but so necessary. If my story can help just ONE person, then I am all in. I hate seeing so many struggle both online and off with body shaming, slut shaming and whatever other bullying that takes hold. They need to know there is hope and they too can overcome. It's a process and doesn't happen overnight. I have had my share of beautiful bright days, and that's what I want to share: a light of hope. I am fortunate to have a loving family who has stood by me through everything and have already encouraged me to advocate for others when I'm ready. I know I have an influential voice and I want to make sure to use it.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Right now, I am living in the moment absorbing everything good that is happening around me. I'm the most free I have ever been in my life. I would love to tour some time soon because I want to meet the fans I share my life with every minute of each day. I want to perform my songs live for them and show that they can also overcome anything life throws at them. I am forever grateful for those who have stood by me and I want to thank them.
Ilana Kaplan is a writer living in Brooklyn. She's on Twitter!