Mags Duval Biography
"I feel so fortunate to be able to have my songs as an outlet for my life, my feelings," Mags says from her home in Nashville. "To be able to give that to people—to provide an escape, help them feel understood and like they're not alone. That's what I want to do with my music."
Music as a gift she can give to others is a theme 19-year-old Mags returns to again and again in conversation. "When I'm feeling something and don't think there is a song I can jam out to to get me over it, I think, 'Okay. I guess I need to write one. Because if I'm feeling this way, chances are there's someone out there who's feeling this too.'"
Mags started writing songs when she was about 9 years-old in Clearwater, Florida. The third of four children and the only daughter, she jokes that at first, her parents assumed her increasingly around-the-clock songwriting habit was just something little girls did. By the time she was 13, they realized there was more at work, and Mags recorded some songs in a local studio, which led to her first meetings in New York City.
While her parents were supportive, they were also adamant that Mags focus on school, remain a kid, and foster any relationships in the entertainment industry herself. "They told me from the very beginning, if you want to do this, it has to be run by you. We're not going to send people emails," Mags says. "At first, it was really difficult, because it was hard for me as a 13-year-old girl to get people to take me seriously." A challenge—and one that she tackled beautifully.
In addition to wanting Mags to build her own career, her parents also nixed New York in favor of the doors that were opening in Nashville. After years of meetings and visits to co-write with other songwriters in town, Mags and her family relocated to Nashville in 2012. "Nashville has been incredible for me because I'm a songwriter first," she says. "I wouldn't do any of this if I didn't write songs, and Nashville is a town that really values the art of songwriting."
Mags signed with elite music publishing and management hive Creative Nation in 2013. Now, almost 20 years-old and already a veteran, Mags is ready to introduce the world to the distinct sound and finely crafted songs she's always dreamed of making. Asked about the new nom de plume, she doesn't miss a beat. "Mags is my nickname, what my closest friends and family call me. That's the kind of relationship I want to have with the people who get to know me through my music."
Co-produced by Grammy winner Luke Laird (Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Little Big Town, Eric Church, Tim McGraw) and John Hill (Eminem, Shakira, Snoop Lion, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Wu-Tang Clan, Jay Z), Mags' new music proves it was more than worth the wait.
"Pop music has always been what I wanted to make—what I've always heard in my head," Mags says. "But pop is such a big genre. I think you have to have more of a sense of self to be a pop artist who stands out now than ever before. It's hard to create that from nothing and to find the right people to help you bring your vision to life."
Mags' sound defies easy categorization: smart storytelling layered over hooks that nod to 90s hip hop and iconic 50's girl-group harmonies, all from a distinctly empowered female perspective. "I find power in femininity," she says. "I love to dress up. It's a huge part of my self-expression."
First track "Stay Lonely" is a slow burning exercise in brazen honesty. "I don't love you enough to be your lover / But I love you too much to be your friend / I want you to stay lonely / Cause if i can't have you / Nobody else should have you," Mags sings over percussive guitar and a thick beat. "It's not always pretty," Mags says with a laugh when asked about the roles we all play in relationships. "You don't always get to be the good guy. There could be a lot of interpretations of this song, but I don't think it's ever intentionally mean."
Moody and vivid, "Cinnamon Gum" relishes in being hung up on the wrong someone. Mags wrote the song after a few dates with a guy who made a strong impression but wasn't the right fit. "There is strength in vulnerability," she says. "I don't think you have to act like everything's okay to be strong."
"Pink Cadillac" is a smash. Mags co-wrote the song with frequent collaborators April Geesbreght and Tiffany Vartanyan, who also sing harmony vocals on all of the new tracks. The three were on a writers' retreat in Denver, walking to get coffee as Mags showed them her secret wedding board on Pinterest—"I think most girls have one!" she says with a laugh. One of the photos featured the bridal party in a pink Cadillac, and when her friends picked it as a favorite, Mags told them about her childhood dream car.
"My dad is in the car industry, and when I was little and at his showroom, I'd sit behind the wheel of his business partner's pink Cadillac and pretend to drive it. I'd look at my dad and say, 'This is going to be my car someday, right?' and he'd say, 'Yeah, baby girl, of course.' So then out of nowhere Tiffany began singing the hook, "Hey baby girl, whatcha lookin' at, lookin' at? / Daddy, I want that! I want that!'
"It felt like we were in a school yard," Mags says happily. "We started walking and just singing the refrain." The resulting "Pink Cadillac" sounds like a street party, all claps, chants, and winking loops.
When asked what she hopes listeners get out of the new music, Mags is her signature blend of pensive and lighthearted. "I hope people feel that it's honest. I hope they can dance to it. And I hope they can drive at night to it," she says, pausing for a moment before adding, "I hope it becomes a part of people's lives and gets them through things."