Underground Atlanta is a ghost town. The shops are abandoned, and by the looks of the women’s room, the janitorial staff quit this place a long time ago. My friend, Emily, and I wander about until we find the staircase heading down towards a small paved outdoor area. As per usual, I am completely lost until Emily points me in the right direction. It’s not quite the same as 695 North Avenue, but I still feel the familiar surge of excitement upon reading ‘The Masquerade.’ The last time I attended a concert bearing that location on the ticket, my mom was holding my hand most of the time, and we were only there to keep an eye on my older sister. This time, I came to watch a friend from college, Maggie Schneider.
Born and raised in Smyrna, Georgia, Maggie Schneider is the only child in a loving family. That is, if fur-children don’t count—she is quick to insist that her malti-poo Annie is as much a part of the family as she is. Her childhood was unusual in that she started out at a Catholic school during her formative years, but she ultimately made the call to switch to online schooling. This came about for two reasons: firstly, because she had been diagnosed with a prepubescent seizure disorder that compromised her immune system and secondly, because she was miserable. Her mother, Stephanie, couldn’t take seeing Maggie that way, so she “took a leap of faith.”
This decision enabled Maggie to focus more time on music, something she had loved since her early years jamming out to Disney tunes on her pink Barbie karaoke machine. Maggie had dabbled in theater during her childhood, but her adoration of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” lead her to ask her mother for guitar lessons. Stephanie was not one to let her child flake out, so she gave Maggie an ultimatum: if she could commit to a full year of lessons, then she would be allowed to learn to play guitar. Maggie completed four years of lessons.
Image Courtesy of Sophie Harris
We’d only had one class together at the time of the concert, being fall of 2017, but we got along well, and so when I got the invite, I called up my favorite concert-going buddy, and we made the trek downtown. Neither of us had been to the new location of The Masquerade, and so, after parking ten blocks away by accident and getting lost, we made it to Purgatory. The first person we encountered aside from our ticket takers was Stephanie. She was incredibly kind and thrilled to hear that Maggie’s school friends were getting into her music. Soon enough, the lights went down, and Maggie took the stage. I don’t know what my expectations were, but Maggie defied all of them.
The transition from fan to professional musician does not happen overnight. Though Maggie had already taken her first steps towards being a musician, she was still your typical 00s kid. She watched Disney Channel, saw Hilary Duff in concert, and admired Demi Lovato’s style, just like the rest of us. No surprise that the turning point in pushing her towards the idea of performing for an audience came in the form of adorable brunette brothers. No, not The Naked Brothers’ Band—that was Nickelodeon. Maggie’s strongest early influences to become a career musician were, you guessed it, the Jonas Brothers. Like many girls in the same generation, Maggie found herself looking forward to Disney Channel’s 8pm broadcasts—not for the latest Disney Channel Original Movie, but for the Jonas Brothers’ live concert movie. Since that point, Maggie has seen them in person six times, and she cites them as a huge influence on her over a decade later.
To get her start, Maggie joined a band program that paired up young musicians looking to form bands and helped them find gigs and such. Though she blushes at its mention now, her first steps towards recognition came from her very first band, called Waiting for Joe. Who is this Joe, you might ask? You guessed it, Joe Jonas. Her bandmates weren’t too thrilled about the name, but in her own words, “they got over it.” Their first gig was a road race. The month was October, the temperature was forty degrees, and the time was 6am. A then-preteen Maggie Schneider pushed through the performance even as the equipment got doused in Powerade from the nearby refreshment table. Maggie saw the value in getting a start, however small, and she still owns that guitar, stained red from splashes of Powerade.
Dressed in all black on the stage of The Masquerade, Maggie checked off all of the boxes for the sort of performer you’d expect to see there. She riled up the crowd with a jovial “Can I get a hell yeah?!” Then she started to perform. Emily and I didn’t hear the emotional torment of My Chemical Romance or the angst of early Paramore. Maggie was and is her own musician.
Image Courtesy of Sophie Harris
In those early years, Maggie was focused on who she wanted to be. She would write a song with another in mind. “I’m going to write the next ‘Misery Business,’” she confessed to having said in the past. Her first studio experience was in a similar train of thought. They had worked with Katy Perry before, so obviously, they’re the right kind of people to sign with. Maggie went to the studio, sang, went home, and had no involvement in the production process. Even never having recorded prior to that experience, Maggie felt like something was off. Her suspicions were confirmed when she got to record in a studio for the second time. It was completely different. She got to play instruments on her own music and be involved in the production. Breathing a sigh of relief, Maggie realized then how important it was to make sure that the people you are working with are good people and that no one put her into a box, creatively speaking.
But when was it that Maggie started believing she had a shot at being successful? Trick question. Maggie is a firm believer in taking chances. Just recently, she took a chance and posted a cover of the Jonas Brothers’ new song “Cool,” tagging their Instagram account. Many would consider this too bold or somehow risky, but Maggie is all about trying. In her mind, there’s no such thing as failing if you at least take the opportunities you are given. Her optimistic mentality worked out; the Jonas Brothers saw her cover and added it to their story within ten minutes of her posting it. Her original video now has over twenty thousand views—something that never would have happened if she hadn’t decided to tag the Jonas Brothers. That’s just one example of the positivity with which Maggie approaches her career.
Starting with her first opening gig for Allison Weiss at The Masquerade, Maggie knew her success was up to her. She made it a point to talk to as many people as she could at every gig. Managers. Crew members. Bookers for The Masquerade. Even the artists themselves. That is not to say that everyone you meet in the music industry will be your best friend. After opening for one artist multiple times, Maggie wanted to thank him and his management for selecting her as his opener more than once, even though this individual was in a lot of bands associated with drama. When she approached and introduced herself, he took one look at her outstretched hand and turned away. Even so, Maggie learned to brush those encounters off. They tend to be fewer and farther between when compared with musicians who respect you and your work.
Image Courtesy of Sophie Harris
Like most musicians, Maggie has a process; sit at the piano and play until the sound is right. She loves collaborating. Her two biggest collaborators are Alex Crain, who is in her band, and Nick Pena, who wrote her song “Chuck Bass.” Both of these guys were in the Everyday Anthem. To keep track of her ideas, Maggie keeps voice memos of melodies and different notes of lines and verses. Sometimes the right inspiration strikes; on one night, she could not sleep because she was “in the feels,” so she kept note of all of the phrases in her head. Driving to school, her mind kept repeating “don’t tell me who to be” with a melody, which allowed her to take those phrases from before and put them into an order. In two hours, she had the song she is proudest of writing that has been recorded for her new releases. Writing can be spontaneous, though Maggie tends to collaborate more on the music side of things.
Her craziest collaboration experience? Working with Rian Dawson of All Time Low, Maggie’s other favorite band. Beyond just being a fan, this experience was defining for Maggie because she saw herself with more of an All Time Low career. Taking steps and building a fanbase takes time. “Think of it as building blocks. Every year make small steps to get to where you want to be.” Better an All Time Low than a Rebecca Black. You cannot sustain viral fame, and Maggie Schneider will not let herself fizzle out. So the opportunity to meet, much less work with Rian was a dream come true. First, she went to record a song with the Everyday Anthem, and he invited her to record some of her stuff, surprising her. She has since recorded with him at his Nashville studio three times. The most surreal moment with Rian was when she realized that he came to see her perform in Nashville; Maggie had been watching him and All Time Low for years, and now, he was there for her.
Though she loves writing—it is her major in college, after all, Maggie lives to perform, and the biggest rush of being a musician is in the moments when everyone sings in unison. Some of these crazy highs include singing at the final cross country run of Vans Warped Tour. with State Champs in front of 1,400 fans, a dream that every late 90s/early 00s kid had at some point, even if they weren’t musicians. Maggie’s favorite performance, however, was at a My Chemical Romance tribute night in 2018. The free concert was completely sold out, so there were people watching from outside the entrance of The Masquerade. Though she didn’t headline the event, Maggie got to sing “I Don’t Love You,” her favorite of their songs, and “S.I.N.G.,” coincidentally my favorite. Everyone sang and cried and felt united. The experience reinvigorated her as a musician and reminded her of what she wants for her music: for people to be able to hear it and relate, like people did with the My Chemical Romance songs. That band broke up almost exactly five years before that night, and people still sang and cried along as if the songs were written for them.
Image Courtesy of Sophie Harris
Even when there are pitfalls, Maggie maintains her hope. For every concert that she feels she didn’t do her best at, Maggie goes down swinging to deliver twice the performance she did before. When something not-so-good happens, she views it as an opportunity. The negative experiences in the industry and in life only make you stronger as a person and an artist. Dealing with misogyny and favoritism has given her a theme of doing what you love and not letting people get you down. There are bound to be moments where you feel taken advantage of, but we “can work towards shedding light on those negative experiences and getting stronger and maybe causing change.” She firmly believes in being a strong woman, knowing your worth, and not compromising.
That doesn’t make it an easy path to go down. Women are in music; there are those like Lady Gaga who push boundaries and work hard to achieve their dreams. There are also less high profile female musicians who have yet to gain a broader audience. Maggie is quick to point out that the minute she hears someone start to compare herself to another vocalist, she knows it’ll be Hayley Williams of Paramore. An amazing compliment, no doubt. In Maggie’s own words, Hayley is “incredible,” but some people only think of one frontwoman and don’t take the time to explore other female artists and what’s different about what they have to offer. No matter what, she and her friends joke that they will always get compared to Hayley. There is ignorance regarding the number of women in the industry and we need to support other women in addition to Hayley Williams. We need to support women like Maggie Schneider.
(From left to right: Allison Hambrick, Maggie Schneider, and Emily Seagle.)
Image Courtesy of Allison Hambrick
There are people out there who do not aim to support women. While she counts herself lucky relative to those who’ve suffered more, Maggie has experienced her own harassment. For Maggie, #MeToo looks like drunken fans making passes at her, with creepy gems like “you’re like delicate but powerful” and comparing her to Daphne from Scooby-Doo, presumably meaning Velma. Her experiences empower her to pursue her mission to be a role model and be heard, and as a result, encourage others to make their voices heard. “Every woman has friends who have been” raped. The best way to overcome this is to allow your voice to be heard as well as to acknowledge that those with prejudices can grow and change. Maggie wants those who harm others to think about why they make the decisions that they make: “Don’t give your life a shitty purpose.” She notes that redemption is possible if people seek it.
Maggie is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to optimism. I learned this standing at the very front of the stage at The Masquerade almost two years ago. The minute Maggie stepped on stage, she owned the place. The crowd was singing and dancing, and the place reeked more of passion than of its usual remnants of body odor. And when Maggie took a break from singing to address the crowd, she told us “to do what we love and not let anyone tell us what to do. Manifest your destiny.” Even the eternal pessimist in the room, being myself, felt, in that moment, like Maggie was right; you can absolutely achieve your dreams.
Image Courtesy of Sophie Harris