Maggie Rogers has included cover songs in her set since she was 17, from the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears” to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” “We’ve been doing more covers because they’ve been a way to stay creative during soundcheck,” Rogers, who is currently on tour in support of her debut Heard It In a Past Life, said. However, there was one cover that caught her by surprise: Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw.” Rogers discussed her history with the country-pop song on the Season Two premiere of Spotify’s Under Cover podcast and covered the song at Spotify Studios in New York.
“I was in the sixth grade when ‘Tim McGraw’ came out,” Rogers explained of the early Swift song. “I remember so specifically having friends that loved the song and I was such a music snob. I was really into like, Brand New and Rage Against the Machine.” Rogers remembered attending a slumber party, where “Tim McGraw” was the featured song in Seventeen Magazine. Everyone at the sleepover was excited, while she found herself sighing and saying, ‘It’s just not hard enough.'” Since then though, things have changed. “Thank God I grew out of that,” she said.
“Tim McGraw” reentered Rogers’ life when she began to drive more frequently. “I got a license when I was 17, but went to boarding school for high school and then I went to NYU and then I got a tour bus,” she said. “So I just haven’t done a tone of driving.” When Rogers was making the “Light On” video with her friend Olivia Bee, they took a four-day road trip in Southern Oregon. “One of the ways that Olivia and I would stay up is by singing along in the car to old Taylor Swift records,” she recalled. “And that’s why I think in my cover, you can hear driving. And that sort of comes from that eighth note, constant bass line.”
Rogers describes her process in covering the song. “It’s such a beautiful sentiment too of like, bleeding affection and saying goodbye to someone,” she said. “I wanted you to be able to feel that longing.” She explains “flipping” the track by changing it to minor. “My music tends to find its roots in songwriting,” Rogers said. “And then I have lots of fun with the production.”
The songwriter analyzes the concept of genre, and how it’s mainly thought of when selling music, but not creating it. She explained how she tried to take the hit and make it her own. “A song with the title ‘Tim McGraw,’ one of the greatest country stars of all time, could I take it and make you not think of country music?” she said. “It’s really hard to sing ‘Chevy truck’ and just like, not sing it country,” she laughed. “This song so distinctly belongs to—one of I think, personally—the greatest living songwriters.”