“I still recognize a lot of Catholic guilt in the songs I write,” Maggie Koerner said. We were talking about her musical background, which began with her singing in the church choir and in plays at her Catholic school. “Remember ‘Veggie Tales’?” she said with a laugh. Today, Maggie tours and sings with famed New Orleans funk band Galactic.
Although she had always loved to sing, Maggie finished college thinking she would become a psychologist. But while she was back in her hometown of Shreveport the summer after graduation, she met an actor who encouraged her to buy a keyboard. “I taught myself to play in two weeks,” she said.
Soon after, Maggie caught the eye of a producer and recorded her first album Quarter Life. She also got to know two New Orleans musicians, Kristin Diable and David Shaw, lead singer of The Revivalists. Maggie and David co-wrote “Hey Na Na” for Galactic before Maggie moved to New Orleans in 2012, and later the duo wrote a second song for Galactic called “Dolla Diva.”
In 2013, Maggie got the opportunity to perform at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, with Galactic. “David Shaw and I were supposed to sing ‘Hey Na Na’ together,” Maggie said. Unfortunately, David got sick and couldn’t make it on stage, but Maggie got to sing “Hey Na Na” with Galactic’s lead singer Cory Glover. “I was wearing a rainbow terrycloth muumuu,” Maggie said with a laugh. Today, Maggie tours and sings with Galactic on a full-time contract. “I’ve been touring constantly since January, and I’m with them until the end of the year.”
Maggie has been doing a lot of co-writing with artists she met while on the road with Galactic. She’s currently working on collaborations in L.A., New York, Nashville, Austin and London. “I want to sing the hook of a rap song as much as I want to write a country hit,” Maggie said. This is an artist who refuses to be defined by just one genre.
“My dream was always to go on tour,” Maggie said. “But then you realize that you miss your bed, you miss your boyfriend, and you miss New Orleans. New Orleans is where I belong, where I can become the woman I need to be.”
20 Questions with Maggie Koerner
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
A family trip when I was a toddler. I remember taking a drive up Esplanade in the caravan from the river to the park and seeing the huge oak trees covered in Spanish moss on City Park Avenue and then the houses along Moss Street on Bayou St. John. The memory of that drive and that small portrait of the city stuck with me. An overwhelming sense of past-life nostalgia for New Orleans was always in me, and I eventually moved here in 2012.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
I chose to lay down roots in the Bywater. I feel very connected to my neighborhood. I like that most of the people on my block have been in their homes for over 10-15 years. The city has a lot to show and teach me as a human and as an artist. I need to be by the crazies, the creatives, the mix, and the Mississippi.
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
I love rollerblading in Audubon but I’ve had many more memories in City Park. I love that big ole piece of land. One of my favorite spots to zone out is the Chime tree.
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?
My initial response is to say some of the home-cooked meals I’ve had at my house, at dinner parties, or in someone’s front yard. I certainly cannot cook, but my boyfriend and many of our closest friends can throw down in the kitchen. From Spanish tortillas for breakfast to birthday honey-butter fried chicken, and then an Asian inspired crawfish boil (coconut milk broth, yum), I am blessed to be surrounded by such great friends and community in New Orleans. But when we aren’t doing that, there’s a good chance I’m walking down the street to Pizza Delicious for something fresh, locally sourced, and good because it always is.
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
Surf & Turf from Parkway.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
Café du Monde for beignets, walk around the Quarter, take a streetcar ride on St. Charles Avenue, ride bikes to Audubon Park, City Park, Bayou St. John, take a walk along the levee to the end of the world in the Bywater, dinner and wine at Bacchanal, BJ’s on a Monday night for dancing with King James & the Special Men, Tipitina’s for a show, and hopefully a second line parade.
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
Mimi’s in the Marigny. I’ve met more people and had some of the best times of my life in that place. Great food, too. The first year I lived in New Orleans, I stayed a few blocks away and I didn’t have Internet or cable so I spent a lot of time at the downstairs bar alone at a table smoking, drinking and writing in the candlelight. In retrospect it sounds romantic, but my liver is much happier now that I don’t live within walking distance to Mimi’s anymore.
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
French 75 with Kristin Diable at Green Goddess.
11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
Snowball from anywhere. Strawberry and/or coconut.
12. Best spot to see live music?
Tipitina’s or One Eyed Jacks.
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
My good buddies, The Revivalists. They’re just such nice men, super talented and hard-working. Their songs are incredible, and if you haven’t seen them live, you’re missing out.
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
St. Anne Parade. The home-made costumes/ensembles are out of this world. It’s just the most beautiful sight to stand on the upstairs balcony at Mimi’s on Mardi Gras morning and look down at the thousands of people in the streets … all of that color and happiness and celebration!
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
The Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA. My favorite one is Do Ho Suh’s Karma, or as I like to refer to it, the vertebrae man stack.
18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?
Wherever I’m invited.
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
I’ve been out on the road so much this year that every time I get back home it’s like falling in love all over again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?