Songwriter Profile: Maggie Szabo

With an exquisitely nuanced voice and a gift for penning hook-heavy melodies, Maggie Szabo is connected to a worldwide collective of co-writers, producers and remixers. For this Canadian native, her adopted hometown of Los Angeles is an ideal epicenter for her ever-expanding endeavors.

Szabo’s most recent artist project, Back Where We Started: Remix Diary, is composed of previously released singles reimagined by a cast of remixers. “I’ve had my versions out there, but the reason I love remixes is that they bring in different styles, typically on the dance-EDM-electronic side, which can be great for clubs,” she says.

Having recorded feature vocals and written toplines for numerous EDM projects, Szabo shares history with these sonic collaborators. She introduced herself to Andy Jarvis when she discovered his work on a track with Ed Sheeran, featuring Camila Cabello and Cardi B. “I took a shot and Instagrammed him, told him I loved his stuff, and said that I’d like to collaborate.”

While Szabo envisions future full-lengths, she says that singles allow for deep concentration. “It’s nice to focus on one song at a time,” she clarifies. “With an album, you have to pick your favorites. With singles, you can really devote all of your attention to each track.”

Originally from Dundas, Ontario, Szabo visted Nashville for a songwriter retreat when she was 15 and was captivated by the city’s song-intensive aura. After graduating high school, she returned. “I was by myself, and it took me 14 hours to drive there. Because I had been there before, there was that familiarity.”

After a year and a half, she signed to a label in Canada and learned about the business side of music. With an album to her credit, Szabo wanted to expand her artistic reach. She severed ties with the record company and headed to the West Coast. “I love where I’m from,” she says of Canada. “There are values and an outlook I wouldn’t have otherwise. But for music, LA is definitely the place that I need to be.”

As a collaborator, Szabo says that melody is her strong suit. While her remix release is invested with deep grooves and electronic signatures, her songs are also affective in stripped down versions. “That’s why it was an easy transition from organic pop to more electronica,”she says. “Only the production changes. All my collaborations in the electronic world come from me playing guitar or piano.”

Her song “Don’t Give Up” has become an anthem for the transgender community. Szabo performs it at Pride festivals and other events along with The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. “Coming from a small town, I was in a bubble,” Szabo recalls. “I became involved with LGBTQ advocacy, which came from having a lot of friends in that community. The homeless rate—especially for trans youth—is shocking. I got connected to the Trans Chorus and we’ve done probably 30 performances together. They are like family to me now.”

Multiple sync uses for her songs for shows on Netflix, Disney, ABC, E!, TV Land and other networks provide economic viability. “Writing for sync and writing my stuff are two different things. I will stockpile a lot of music, or if a show requires a specific type of song, I will always write for that. There are so many more productions now, and you can have a song that plays constantly for three years.”

Maggie Szabo says that songs only connect when they are drawn from true experiences. “It is always interesting writing with people you’ve never met before. You introduce yourself, and start laying your whole life down. You have to get past vulnerability being an embarrassment. In the songwriting community you have to not care—it’s normal.”