Touring North America, singer-songwriter Maisie Peters comes of age

NEW YORK (AP) — With British pop singer Maisie Peters' tour across North America underway, there's one city she's particularly looking forward to playing: Sacramento, California.

Why? The Greta Gerwig effect.

“That’s like a ‘Lady Bird,’ Greta Gerwig pilgrimage,” Peters told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “So I’m excited for that.”

Peters’ tour in the U.S. and Canada follows the June release of her sophomore album “The Good Witch.” Interwoven are five dates opening for Ed Sheeran, who signed Peters to his Gingerbread Man Records in 2021, and whom she has already opened for in Europe and Australia. But New York’s Radio City Music Hall presented a new achievement — her biggest headlining show so far.

“It was very surreal, it was like a real moment,” Peters, 23, said in a Zoom call ahead of her show in Montreal. “Not many artists get to do something like that.”

That moment was one Tina Hizon, Peters’ keyboardist and friend of more than five years, had been anticipating.

“I felt quite emotional when we were on stage,” Hizon told the AP. “Like, oh, we’ve come a long way.”

These are hardly the biggest crowds Peters and her band have seen — they played Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in June and Chicago’s Lollapalooza, their first U.S. festival, earlier this month. Two shows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with Sheeran in March, brought in a record 215,000 fans.

But this tour is their own. And it is a celebration of “The Good Witch,” an album Peters says she feels “at peace with,” because it accomplished her goal: reflecting who she is now. The album is about growing up (“Coming of Age”), moving on (“Run”), taking control (“You’re Just a Boy (And I’m Kinda the Man)”), letting go ("There It Goes") and being, well, unhinged (“BSC”). It debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. charts.

It is also music that easily soundtracks what people online have fondly labeled the “summer of girlhood” — a celebration of all things nostalgic and angsty, pink and sequined, emotional and overly analytical — in the wake of events like Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and the release of Gerwig’s “Barbie.” Peters embraces that categorization.

“It’s the classic teenage girl in their 20s, fun. And I’m such a teenage girl in my 20s,” she said of her shows, using the tongue-in-cheek phrase that's been the subject of thousands of tweets and TikToks, often referencing fandoms, avoidant adulting and nostalgia. In the best way possible, she says, the shows feel “like a birthday party when you’re in middle school.”

The album, and that energy, “feels very right,” she said. “It’s very calming and nice to feel so secure and confident in what you made, and to get to share that with the world.”

At Radio City earlier in August, fans wore beaded friendship bracelets and baby tees embroidered with Peters’ most memed lyrical quips: "Little miss unstable,” “I am unhinged" and the line she wore on her own shirt at Glastonbury, “Women’s hearts are lethal weapons." Halfway through her set, Peters — ever the fangirl herself — wove a cover of One Direction’s “Night Changes” into a medley of songs spanning her discography, in homage to her own growth, but also her fans'.

Part of Peters’ appeal is that earlier discussed quality — being a teenage girl in her 20s. Her lyrics are personal, but also aim to more broadly capture the experiences of existing as a young woman in 2023. She name-drops celebrities — real and fictional — with a specificity that feels like an already established inside joke with listeners. She alludes to her past works, strengthening her own mythology.

Kaitlyn Cunningham, 28, discovered Peters’ music on an Apple Music playlist in 2019. She has attended all four of her shows in New York City.

“I love that she’s been able to pull from past lyrics and her personal life and create these songs that everybody can relate to — that’s my favorite part of music,” Cunningham said.

One of the album's pillars is “The History of Man,” its closing track. The bridge begins: “He stole her youth and promised heaven, the men start wars yet Troy hates Helen. Women's hearts are lethal weapons, did you hold mine and feel threatened?"

“I sort of half jokingly always say, it’s about the unending pain of being a woman,” Peters said of the song. “It also feels very ‘Little Women,’ Jo March-coded and Greta Gerwig-coded, very ‘Barbie’-coded, as I’ve had people say to me since the song came out.”

Cunningham brought as many fake sunflowers as she could to Peters’ Radio City show, in honor of two lyrics in “There It Goes.” She handed them out to fans in the pit, and (after asking that the flowers not be thrown ) instructed everyone to hold them up during the song.

“It’s so fun to see familiar faces (at the shows) and to know that everybody is there because we all love Maisie, and we want to have a good time," Cunningham said. "Everyone is just so supportive of each other and friendly.”

That community is a point of pride for Peters, who has cultivated it through TikTok, Discord and an Instagram book club.

“I just love seeing people so wholly in the moment, just losing their minds and making friends,” she said of her shows. Bringing that energy to the stage is something she has also learned from watching her “boss,” as she calls Sheeran, perform. Peters opens for Sheeran for the first time in the U.S. on Saturday, in Seattle.

“Ed’s so good at holding a crowd and involving them as well and making them feel like it’s as much their night as it is his, wherever he goes,” she told the AP. “It’s a good night out. That’s how I want my shows to feel.”

Back at Radio City, Peters paused while performing “Not Another Rockstar,” a fan favorite.

Looking up at the venue's balconies, she yelled: “Who’s the rockstar now?”