The new project from Maggie Lindemann, Paranoia, is the sound of an artist fully coming into her own and happily shattering all expectations. After breaking free from a challenging record deal—and enduring a terrifying incident while touring in Malaysia in 2019—the Texas-bred 22-year-old spent a year rediscovering her voice as a songwriter, flooding her lyrics with an unapologetic honesty about her anxieties, obsessions and deepest insecurities. In a dramatic departure from the crystalline pop of her 2016 multi-platinum hit “Pretty Girl,” the resulting new forthcoming EP embodies an unpredictable alt-rock sound that perfectly mirrors Lindemann’s inner world: expansive, enigmatic, wildly alive and ever-changing.
This new freedom establishes Lindemann as a self-possessed artist along with a level of creative control that extends to full ownership of her masters. Paranoia took shape from a prolonged period of playful experimentation. With the help of fellow Texas native Cody Tarpley ( Lennon Stella, flor, and Noah Cyrus), Lindemann assumes a new boldness in her sonic approach, inventively collaging together elements of music she loves most: punk, metal, and underground hip-hop with each song remaining centered on the spellbinding vocal presence she’s shown in performing with artists like Khalid and Troye Sivan. The EP also draws its dynamic energy from kinetic guitar work and ample use of live drums—a choice partly inspired by Lindemann’s collaboration with Travis Barker on her 2019 single “Friends Go.” “I couldn’t go from having Travis Barker on one of my songs to just programming all the drums,” she notes.
Lindemann’s greater clarity of vision and the decision to embrace total freedom on Paranoia was a direct response to a touring experience in Malaysia that left Lindemann feeling very vulnerable and ultimately grateful. During her first stop on a June 2019 tour, Lindemann was pulled off stage by immigration officers and taken to a nearby detention center, where she and her team were questioned regarding their lack of a professional visa pass (an oversight on the part of the venue and local promoters). After spending 24 hours in jail and five days on house arrest in Kuala Lumpur—as well as standing trial twice and facing the possibility of a five-year prison sentence—Lindemann headed back to the U.S. with a whole new perspective on the world around her. “I was born in the US, so I’ve never had to worry about the idea of being deported, like so many people who come here to start a new life,” she says. “It was an incredible eye-opening experience and taught me so much about how it feels to be helpless and to have no control. I became so grateful for what I do have and realized that I needed to embrace myself, my life and all that it has to offer.” From that point on, Lindemann decided to never again take her freedom for granted, in any aspect of her life or work.
Within a week of returning home, Lindemann came up with what would prove to be a major breakthrough in her growth as a songwriter, a gorgeously haunting track called “Different.” The song also marks Lindemann’s debut as a producer. “Different” unfolds in mercurial rhythms and gauzy guitar tones, gracefully channeling the desperation she felt in that jail cell. “I was in the studio talking about what was going through my head at the time: the feeling of panic and having no idea what was going to happen,” she recalls. “Writing “Different” was basically like a therapy session for me. It turned into this song that I loved and wanted to play on repeat the whole way home from the studio—which is something that had never happened to me before.”
From there, Lindemann moved forward with the making of a new body of work infused with a fierce, honest vulnerability. To that end, the EP takes its title from the fearful delusions she’s experienced for most of her life, a struggle she vividly documents on the EP’s lead track "Knife Under My Pillow” (co-written with acclaimed singer/songwriter Alex Lahey). “I lived in this house for a few years, and I was always paranoid that there was someone in the house with me,” says Lindemann of the song’s origins. “It was sort of driving me insane, to the point that I started keeping a knife under my pillow at night, so this song is very literal.”
While "Knife Under My Pillow” emerges as a raw but radiant piece of alt-pop, songs like “GASLIGHT!” let Lindemann’s most outrageous impulses shine. Made with boundary-breaking indie artist Caroline Miner Smith (aka Siiickbrain), “GASLIGHT!” is a thrilling collision of crushing rhythms and fuzzed-out riffs, with Lindemann and Smith delivering throat-shredding vocal performances that are massively exhilarating. Another track built on supremely heavy production, “Scissorhands” merges snarling guitar work and dizzying effects. The sonics are a hypnotic backdrop to Lindemann’s tender confession of loneliness. “I was thinking about the movie Edward Scissorhands and how he can’t get close to anyone without hurting them, how he feels like an outcast in this perfect pastel world,” she notes. And in its endless testament to Lindemann’s complexity as a musician, Paranoia also offers the heart-meltingly gentle, acoustic-guitar-driven “Love Songs.” “That one’s the most natural song I’ve ever done,” Lindemann says. “At the time I just felt like writing a love song to my boyfriend, so I went in and started freestyling. I wasn’t even thinking about putting it on the EP: it was just my way of sharing what I was genuinely feeling in that moment.”
Paranoia taps into the delicate sensibilities Maggie first started honing by writing poetry as a child. “Poetry was always really important to me, especially when I was in a dark place,” she says. “I’m a shy person, but writing about what I’m going through always helps me feel better.” A lifelong singer, Lindemann was discovered by her manager on Instagram as a teenager and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 16, then made her debut with “Knocking On Your Heart"—a 2015 single that immediately shot to the top 20 on the iTunes US Alternative Songs chart. Lindemann saw her profile rise with songs like “Pretty Girl,” “Obsessed,” and “Would I,” but felt little control over the direction of her career. “I was so young and didn’t really know myself yet; I had no idea what I wanted to be,” she says. “I got stuck in this cycle of being afraid that if I didn’t do what I was told, everything would just crash and burn.”
As she shook off that fear post Malaysia, Lindemann also continued to build her name as a multi-hyphenate creator. She has launched her own fashion brand SWIXXZ (now sold via multinational skate apparel chain Zumiez), and her own podcast, swixxzaudio. The podcast is a charmingly off-the-cuff outlet for her everyday musings. “I started the podcast in quarantine because I just wanted somewhere I could talk,” she says. “It’s mostly me talking about my paranoia issues, singing songs, and sharing whatever I’m going through at the time.”
In reflecting on her creative transformation over the past year, Lindemann points to a certain paradox she found in bringing her new music to life: the incredible joy she felt in shedding light on the darkest parts of her psyche. “It’s so amazing to make something that’s authentic to who you really are, and it makes me even more excited to keep making music,” she says. As she begins to share tracks from the EP, Lindemann hopes the audience might ultimately feel the same sense of possibility she unlocked in creating Paranoia. “If people hear these songs and relate to struggling with mental illness or feeling like a loner or a bit lost, I hope it helps them feel like someone understands them,” she says. “And I hope it helps them see that things can change, and that a lot of good things can come with growing older and really starting to know yourself.”