It can be daunting to present your real and raw self to a modern, chronically online world where anyone can publicly comment on anything. It’s even harder when, while doing this in the public eye, you appear to be changing from the person you were once known as by the world.

When the planet was first introduced to Maggie Lindemann with her now-certified-platinum “Pretty Girl,” they saw her as just that. Underneath the pure pop beats and stylized vocals, “Pretty Girl” called out how you can’t judge a book by its cover. Ironically, the very things she sang about not being in “Pretty Girl” are what critics said she was. Merely her presence in the public eye meant she would be judged for how she looked — even though she was “more than just a picture” — and what she did — even though she was “more than just a rumor.”

On the very first day of 2021, Lindemann announced she would be dropping a horror movie-inspired video for one of her latest singles, “Knife Under My Pillow,” marking the start of what would be a whirlwind year for her. Pivoting into a new alternative sound, the singles from her debut EP, PARANOIA, “Knife Under My Pillow,” “GASLIGHT!,” “Scissorhands” and “Loner,” showed the world the real Maggie Lindemann — the one who had been there under the surface all along. The EP has since been streamed 100 million times.

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“I was doing what I loved without really being able to express myself freely and be the person I wanted to be,” she says. “It was a weird feeling for so long, so to finally be able to express myself freely and be the person I wanted to be, it was just more relief than anything.”

Her music isn’t the only part of her life that has changed in the last year. She got to release PARANOIA through her own label, swixxzaudio, and went on tour with Madison Beer in the fall. But one of the most important things the year brought Lindemann was personal growth. If the title “Knife Under My Pillow” didn’t make it clear enough, PARANOIA was heavily inspired by Lindemann dealing with the feeling in question. Creating and releasing the EP was cathartic in its own right, but the feedback from fans who told her they felt the same way helped Lindemann wither her own mental wellness journey.

Looking back at the accomplished year Lindemann has had, one thing is for sure: 2021 was only the beginning of this new era. With a new album coming soon and more triumphs to follow, the future has never looked more exciting for this “Pretty Girl.”

If you had to write down a resume of all of your professional accomplishments this year, would releasing your debut EP PARANOIA be the one defining thing you would put in bold at the top of the page?

Yeah, definitely. I released an EP. I’ve been making music for a while now. I released my first song in 2015. It’s been such a work in progress, and I’ve always wanted to create a body of work, so to finally be able to write and release my own EP was, and still is, such a surreal thing. I’m super proud of myself for that.

When you look back at those songs you were releasing at the start of your career in 2015 and 2016, songs like “Pretty Girl” and “Obsessed,” it’s obviously a different style and aesthetic. It’s a different you. You have said that looking back, it feels like a completely different person. So in preparing yourself to present PARANOIA, something that is more you than ever before, was it scary knowing the world will see who you really are?

I was past the point of being nervous or scared and more just excited. I enjoyed making music videos and stuff, but I was doing what I loved without really being able to do what I love. It was a weird feeling for so long, so to finally be able to express myself freely and be the person I wanted to be, it was just more relief than anything, and I felt happy and excited.

Was the public reception to this new Maggie Lindemann via PARANOIA what you were expecting or hoping for?

It was what I was hoping for but not really what I was expecting. I definitely expected to get more backlash than I did. You know, people being like, “Oh, poser” [and] “This is the girl that made ‘Pretty Girl.’” But I actually got a lot more love than I was expecting. I’ve gotten DMs from people that I would never have expected to reach out, and I’ve gotten a really positive response.

The EP deals with the very real and literal paranoia you have dealt with in your life. When you put it out into the world, did you find people telling you, “Yeah, I’ve gone through the same things you have, and this record helped me deal with them”?

Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of that, which is always such a heartwarming thing. It’s positive and negative ’cause I don’t want people to be able to relate, but also, it’s nice to know that I relate to other people and that people relate to me. Just people being like, “Oh, this EP has helped me through some rough times,” or “I’ve felt like this for a long time, and it’s nice to have someone put it into words.” I’ve definitely gotten a bunch of that, which is what I want as an artist. So that’s been really cool.

Did you feel like it helped you grow yourself and deal with all of the things you wrote about on the record?

Definitely. The stuff I was going through when I was writing this, I still have hints of, and I still go through some of the same stuff, but for the most part, the stuff I talk about, once I write it down and then listen to [those songs] so much, it helps. It’s like going to therapy. It’s helped me get through it and deal with it head-on, [as] opposed to knowing it’s there and not really paying attention to it.

That’s definitely a big part of why so many people are drawn to your music — because they relate to the mental and emotional journey you have been on and are still on. Looking back throughout this year, are there any instances in your personal life where you were proud to accomplish something important in your mental or emotional journey?

Getting through quarantine. Quarantine really took a toll on me. I got really depressed for a while, and I’ve been talking to my mom about wanting to go back to therapy for years. I’ve always been one of those people that’s like, “Oh, I want to go to therapy,” but when it comes down to it, I’m like, “Ah, I don’t really think therapy is going to help me.” So I finally started going to therapy again, and I think it really helped. I feel like [my therapist] just helps me with a lot of stuff that I had been dealing with and ignoring. So getting through [quarantine and doing that] was definitely a personal accomplishment for me.

Seeing the collabs you did with artists like Siiickbrain and Chase Atlantic, this year was so amazing. What was the collaboration process like versus when it’s only you working on a track?

[Siiickbrain] is my best friend in real life. I just love her voice. I love her music. She’s really talented, and I wanted to do something with her, so we just went into the studio and wrote something. But with Chase Atlantic, I’m a big fan of them. I like their music, listen to [it all] and follow all of them on Instagram. They ended up reaching out and being like, “We’re fans of you. We would love to do something with you.” I was like, “Yes, I would literally love to.” So, I wrote the verse remotely, and then I recorded it and sent it to them, and they were like, “Oh, my God, we love it.” Then I went and shot the little teaser we did, and that’s the first time I got to meet them in person and hang out with them. They’re the best.

I remember seeing the “If I had a verse on ‘OHMAMI’’’ TikTok you posted, and then it seemed like the next day the song was out.

Everyone asked about that! We had already made the song, I think, back in July. I had already done it, and then I ended up doing that TikTok, and that’s how we announced it and teased it. Everyone was like, “Oh, my God, that happened so fast.”

Are there any artists that would be a dream collaboration for you?

I would love to work with Bring Me The Horizon and Hayley Williams. There are definitely people I would like to write with, too, that are just really talented. I wish I could get into a writing session with Melanie Martinez. I just started listening to this band [called] Yours Truly, and I’m obsessed with them. So, there’s a bunch of people I would like to work with.

Let’s think forward to Dec. 31. You’re watching the timer count down to midnight to start the new year. In those last few seconds, is there anything you’re thinking about and wishing you could have done in the last 12 months, or do you stand there knowing you achieved what you wanted to achieve?

I wish I could have done more music videos. But honestly, that’s probably it. I also always have this [one] regret every single year. I’m always like, “Oh, I want to dye my hair different colors,” but then I never do it because I have jet black hair, and I never want to go through the process. So I always end up chickening out. But I always am so mad at myself ’cause I really want to dye my hair in different colors. So I always regret that one.

If you do change things up, are you just gonna hit every color in the rainbow, or do you have one color in mind?

I’ve really wanted to do red for years. I had purple right before I went black, and I loved it. I [also] want to go orange, and then I want to do blonde with the skunk hair really bad, but that’s like the complete opposite color of what I have right now. We will see what happens. 

Maybe in 2022! Are you the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions and sets goals for the upcoming year?

I used to, but I don’t know. I think I probably will this year. For 2021 I didn’t [because of] COVID, but I think in 2020 I did ’cause obviously, it was a new decade. But I’ll probably do it this year. I’m just so excited about my album. I’ll definitely be dropping an album next year. I’m going so back and forth with it, but I’m almost done with it. “She Knows It” is out, so that’s the first single from it. So yeah, just excited for next year.

Are there any moments in 2021 you wish you could have a do-over for, or do you have the mindset of everything happens for a reason?

I definitely believe everything happens for a reason. I’m a big believer in that. But just small things, like if I embarrass myself at a party, maybe I would have not gone or something.

On the flip side, is there anything you wish you could go back to and relive because of how amazing it was?

Yeah, there are definitely moments I would want to go back to. There’s a bunch of moments I would go back to. I would definitely go back to my first festival performance. That was a really crazy moment for me. I would probably go back to when I was on tour with my boyfriend because it was really fun. Most things that come to mind are performances because the adrenaline I get from [them] is crazy. I love it.

Taking everything into consideration, what is one word that describes your 2021?

Accomplished. Because I dropped my EP. I already am almost wrapped on my album. I’m on tour right now. In my personal life, things are really going well. I feel accomplished.

Would end-of-2021 you want to give start-of-2021 you any advice on how to navigate the year, especially with PARANOIA coming out right at the beginning of the year?

I feel like I would have just told myself to go easy on myself. Since it was my first EP, I obviously felt so much pressure. I was really nervous about that. [I] was nervous about living up to people’s expectations, but I think I should have just told myself not to care and just let it happen. I honestly feel like this year has been really solid, and I’m pretty proud of myself for everything I did this year. 

This interview first appeared in issue #401 (the AP Yearbook), available here