Musing on Music with Madison Olds

Not so long ago, we brought you a great new single by Canadian pop singer Madison Olds called “Best Part of Me.”  Since her album debut in 2018 Madison has taken the industry by storm with support slots with the likes of Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves as well as writing the theme song for Kamloop’s 2018 BC Winter Games and airplay on the radio charts. She has also released another single entitled “3’s A Crowd” which you need to check out!  I recently got the chance to sit down and chat with Madison about her life so far in music, her start, her struggles, and what the future might bring.  Madison was an absolute joy to speak with and the love and care she brings to the craft shine through in her personality as well as her songs.

Photo by Kaylee Smoke

You have been in music for a very long time considering that you‘re still so young!  Was music always something you had from an early age?  It sounds like you come from a musical background so tell me how this all got started!
My dad studied jazz composition at Berkley in Boston and my mom did musical theater all growing up.  She was a competitive gymnast so when they met they both just had creativity out the wazoo.  They both set their dreams aside when they had my brother and me. My brother is older and he’s also in the arts.  He’s an actor and studied drumming growing up.  We’re just a very creative family.

When they set aside their dreams to have my brother and I, they always knew that if we decided to chase the same path they would be there no matter what to support us.  They have really done that for us. If I can describe my parents with one word it would be sacrifice. I will never ever be able to explain how much my parents have sacrificed for me to support this dream.  A normal parent would probably pay money for lessons or drive their kid to lessons but my parents would stay up until 2 in the morning teaching me or practicing or writing music or being at a concert on stage with me.  Maybe I wouldn’t have picked music if my parents weren’t involved but I just saw that light in them that they had to turn off for me. There’s this feeling that I want to keep the light going for them so when I was about 12 I picked up a guitar and I haven’t put it down since.

That’s amazing!  And you’ve done it independently. It’s not like you were a kid getting discovered somewhere and signed by a label and had money thrown behind you.  You’ve really done this grassroots and getting yourself out there.
Sometimes it’s been hard.  I was in a band for a little while and my first recording experience was because the band won a competition. We went to Nashville which, by the way, is one of my absolute favorite cities in the world. I love that city so much; the people, the food, and the overall environment is so homey.  I always make this joke that Nashville reminds me of Canada just because of the way that people hold the door or are have almost too kind personalities. I love going there.

Anyway, the band had started to get a little bit of notoriety but then it broke up and I wasn’t making a lot of money because there isn’t a lot of money in this.  I ended up having to sell my car to do my first album so yes, it’s been hard. But this year things are starting to pick up. I signed with a manager and I’ve been working with some PR companies.  I hit my first time ever getting over 100,000 streams in the first 2 weeks which is a huge thing.  It’s been a long couple of years but it feels like it’s starting to pay off.

Do you suppose because you were so young when you started out with the band did that help you in the long run?  You have that fearlessness and those balls of youth that you just go for it.
I grew up dancing and a lot of things taught me to be bold and to have a drive and that sense of accomplishment. Dance was definitely one of those.  I would say out of everyone I know, friends I grew up with or whatever, my brother and I are probably the most hyper-competitive people I have ever known.  I’ll even have other managers reach out and talk to me about their artists and how they are low-key or just doing it for fun.  I’m like yeah no. If I’m not winning I’m losing. I’ve always had this sense that I’m in it for a big win. My dream is Madison at Madison Square Gardens and if I’m not that then I haven’t made it yet.  I’m going to keep busting my balls until get there.

Part of the reason the band ended up breaking up was because I was willing to not go to school. I was willing to give up a job. I was willing to sacrifice all my materialistic things because I believed that I had what it took and that the band had what it took.  The other girls didn’t see that value and I think they were more afraid to not have a plan B or some sort of stability or structure.  You have to live a little on the edge and make that sacrifice.  I think a lot of people don’t really understand how much it takes and how much you have to give up to try it.

You are already miles ahead to have that drive and, as you said, you have that family support behind you which a lot of people don’t have.
Oh yeah, it’s such a blessing. Even the girls that were in the band would be asking what the plan was or checking in if maybe it’s time to go back to school or something.  Never! This is my life.  Maybe it had to do with me being younger as you said earlier but when I picture myself as more of an adult I still see it the same.  Now I have a partner in my life too and he’s really supportive of what I do.  That’s always nice and he says if we have to live in a cardboard box then we live in a cardboard box if that’s what it takes.

Does that all help to keep you a bit grounded as well so you don’t quite go off the edge?
Yes, and because both of my parents were in the industry but neither of them had kept going with it quite as far as I have there’s a lot that we learn as we go along.  There are frustrating parts that we come across but it is nice that at the end of the day I have somebody to call or complain and cry to on the phone.

You really do have to have that thick skin!
Tell me about it!

That’s part of why I appreciated “Best Part of Me” when you put that out because a lot of your songs are very fun, upbeat, and feel good.  Even on your socials, you’re so bubbly and so vivacious and fun and full of life.  As an observer, it’s easy to see that and think “Well, she’s in her 20’s. She’s doing great. She’s got it together.”  Then you come out with a song like that and it makes you realize that nobody has it all together and that’s totally ok! I appreciated being able to see that side of you as well as the fun side.
I really appreciate hearing that because that’s really what the song was all about.  We do put on those faces but at the end of the day, it’s really important to be able to find comfort in your discomfort. It’s totally OK to not be OK.  Everyone deals with anxiety and that’s just a normal part of life and I think we have to normalize that.  I think we’re getting close to getting rid of the stigma and knowing that mental health is just as important as physical health.  But, I also didn’t want anxiety or depression or sadness to be my brand because as an entertainer I am here to entertain. I’m here to make them forget their woes and worries but I wanted them to know that it’s not always rainbows and sunshine.  That song is a way for me to talk about the fact that I struggle with my own insecurities and my own mental illness and it’s OK.  It was a little piece to say it’s here and we can talk about it but be sure to get back to having fun and focus on being happy and finding the goodness in life.

Is that something that’s important to you, to have that platform to be able to say what you want to say when you feel it needs to be said?
That’s actually been a struggle for me with everything that’s been going on because with COVID and BLM and all of it everyone has an opinion and it’s really hard to be open and honest about it on social media and not know who you’re going to offend…

Everybody (laughs)
Yeah, right? I’m a white person so I feel so uncomfortable to even say that I’m in support of the Black Lives movement because then someone says that I’m just supporting it because it’s popular right now. I feel like it’s so hard because you never know who might be hurt by what you say.  I never know exactly what to say with super sensitive subjects like that.

Some things I am super passionate about.  My partner broke his back a few years ago and he’s in a wheelchair so diversity in disability representation is super important to me. Animal rescue is another important thing to me.  I always said the only reason I would be chasing music in the way that I do is because I want to have a bigger voice to talk about the things that are important to me.  I wish I could say more or share more just to say something but I just never know what the backlash will be so it’s tough.  I will just share like some random COVID status and I’ll get like fifty people who backlash at it so it’s hard to know what to support or not to support.

Social media is hard. I’ve had the struggle where recently I had an interview that just hit my heart and I was so proud of it and shared it and nothing.  Then I got my haircut and it’s instantly like 120 likes and comments.  Then I shared the documentary “13th”, a super important BLM documentary and it was crickets.  It’s hard to say what you want to get out there in the way you want to say it and have it paid attention to.

It’s true!  There’s this interesting thing going on TikTok now where a lot of people are using the Black Lives Movement as a way just to bump up their algorithm since it is such an important thing right now. It’s a fight that people are standing up for but now it goes either one of two ways. You’re really cool because you’re supporting it or else how could you be supporting this right now just because it’s at the forefront. It’s an interesting thing, those reactions. Obviously I’m very in support of it. I think it’s ridiculous that this is even a conversation in 2020. It’s baffling to me that this is still an ongoing debate.  As a white person I will never ever understand everything or completely understand my privilege as much as I have it. Social media is just so tough with using your voice for something you believe in.  None of it makes sense.

Do you find now during COVID times that you can use the live stream thing? I saw the one you did when you hit big streaming on your video.
I’ve done a few.  I really struggle with them.  I’m such a personal face to face type of performer. I love to feed off of the room.  Comedy is part of my show too. I love to poke fun at myself and make jokes with people in the crowd. I have been borderline sad playing shows online.  I feel like I’m fake smiling to a screen.

I did get to play a live show at a winery a couple of nights ago. I played with my dad and it was so amazing to sit there and something inside of me just sparked. I was so jazzed after doing it and it was great because I had someone to do it with.  It makes me sad to hear that they’re not expecting live shows to not happen until at least fall of next year.  I’m going to have to get over myself and put up the Facebook camera and do a damn show already. [laughs]  I just love to do shows in front of people and have people sing along and have them yell something at me or come up and talk to me after because I just love to make people smile in person and see that reaction.

Do you find it difficult then in having to get a little more creative on developing that number growth and that base?  Usually, that relies on touring and getting out there and having people see you….really getting out there to develop that relationship with people and fans.
Aside from setting up a different background with balloons and stuff it’s hard to not get swallowed up as just another girl with a guitar-playing music.  That’s why I was so excited to get to do that live on Saturday with my dad.  I’m doing a fundraising thing on TikTok and I was so amped to get to talk to people about it.  Otherwise, it feels so lonely to play on media when it’s just you and a camera.  I think as things hopefully socially start to open up I’ll feel a bit better about it.  Then I can do like Christmas shows which I normally do a Christmas cover live show.  It’s interesting to see people coming up with great ways to spice up their lives. I have just not been smart enough to do that myself.

Someone else asked me how COVID had affected me creatively and I just didn’t even feel inspired to write music. I didn’t feel like there was a point if live music isn’t going to happen and I can’t pay my bills and I’m going to have to give up music anyway.  I think that’s how I felt at the beginning of COVID and it’s just now that I’m finally getting to really love music again. I’m getting to spend some time with my family over the summer.  It’s resparked things and hopefully now the last part of 2020 and as 2021 rolls in I can hit the ground running.  I think it was more of like the rug got pulled out from underneath all of our feet and some people were quicker at getting up and I was still jaw on the ground.  Now I’m realizing we can keep doing things and the creativity is happening again. Studios are opening up again and I can write with people and that’s really nice because, again, writing with someone on Zoom is so difficult!  You’ve got to talk over and it cancels out someone else’s voice and it gets really frustrating and then you never understand if someone in the room is enjoying what you’re working on or if they can read off of you because writing is such a personal thing for a lot of people and it’s such a creative experience.  It took away the joy of so many things for me to do everything online because it’s such a disconnect.  But I’m learning to love it.

Do you write collaboratively a lot?  Does it just depend on what you’re working on?
My dad is starting to produce which is really fun because I love to work on stuff like that with him.  I love to collaborate with people. I think iron sharpens iron and you never know what someone’s going to bring to the room and a song is only as good as you are and the more people you have involved it means a better song.

Well, you’re songwriting is very….I don’t know that mature is the right word…
That’s actually a very good word to use.  A lot of people my age do talk about surface fluffy stuff and I appreciate the word mature.

It’s deeper than a lot of the things that are out there in the pop world. I appreciate that because I’m an old school lyrics girl.
That comes from Nashville. I kind of knew how to song write and then when I got my feet into Nashville, that’s where I feel like I really learned how to be a songwriter.  They’re all about stories and heart and connecting with your audience.  I loved that. I always said I wanted to be a folk singer but I knew I wanted to dance and I wanted to have a big show and a real lively experience so there was that turn there.  But I love songs that tell stories because that’s how songwriting started. People had a story and they wanted to tell it in a unique way.  I love songs that have more meaning to it or double meaning.  I’ll be listening to a song with a friend and I’ll have to go back to the 1:46 mark just to hear that line again because something is so clever.  I love the lyrics. It’s so important and I think that it’s a piece that people forget.

You lived in Nashville for a bit but you’re from Canada.  I’m curious what some of the differences are that you experience between being a musician in Canada vs. the US?  Canada seems to be a lot more supportive of the arts in general. 
With music as an artist in Canada, there are so many grant opportunities which are such a blessing.  Basically our government will pay people to create music and that’s really been huge during this time right now.  There were grants to do live stream shows so I got to be a part of those opportunities.  There’s been grants to record music, to release, to do marketing strategies.  It’s great.  But I think in terms of development of the overall industry we’re a really small population.  I think our overall population is the same as just the state of California.  Our people are spread out and we’ve got such a small percentage of it.

I‘m familiar…Montana!
Yeah, right?  You know girl! It’s so hard to be able to hit as many people as an artist in the United States.  That’s why people like Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber and people like that went down there. They knew it was going to cost them less to do a small tour in the states as it would to try to cover Canada.  Also, radio is really important there.  Canada is too spread out to have radio be consistent throughout.  So to have support with money and funding, Canada is AWESOME.  To build a network and a find producers and studios and more quantity, the US has more to offer just because there’s more people and more reach.  It seems like people go down there anyway so even if I wanted to work with a Canadian I would still have to come visit you there. [laughs] I’m a really proud Canadian, but there’s a lot I love about the United States too.  I go there and I feel like I’m in Disneyworld.  There’s just so much there!

I want to touch on one other part of your past for sure which was having your song chosen for the BC Winter Games!  What could that possibly even have felt like?
Oh yeah!  The president called me and said “I know you’re kind of getting into songwriting.  Would you be interested in writing the theme song?”  I thought I knew what songwriting was at that time but I peed my pants a little and realized I had no idea what I was doing.  It was a great opportunity and a couple years went by and I procrastinated the crap out of it.  I had nothing done for them when they were ready to have a song.  But, there’s this great mountain near my home town and I had a friend who was going through some stuff at the time so we woke up at 2 in the morning and we hiked the mountain to watch the sunrise.  That’s where that song “Moments in the Mountains” came from.  I wrote the song not with it being the idea of the theme song.  I was kind of playing through the song and was thinking about how I needed to write this theme song and how I had no idea how I was going to relate to a bunch of young athletes that chose running for fun.  But I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t about the sports and it wasn’t about connecting them to music or me connecting to skiing. It was about being in the mountains.  That’s important about the west coast is that we have something that the other side of the world doesn’t.  When I thought about all these kids coming to one city to showcase their talent it was a huge moment that was super important to them.  They would probably remember it for a really long time.  So when they called again I said “I think I have it done.” It was great because I think often times when people give me a task or a topic I hyper-focus about it and I can’t get out of my own way.  So I wrote the song not realizing I wrote it and then when I presented it to the team they all really loved it and thought it was great.  It was one of those things that was an unintentional awesome move on my part.

That’s awesome and to be able to have that be at sort of the beginning of your solo career is huge!
It’s still my biggest song and it’s funny because I think back to a young Madison Olds who was so naive or didn’t realize what she was doing in the industry yet.  She was so young and so immature. How could she write a song?  But people still say it’s their favorite song so that’s just me being insecure at the time about my songwriting. I need to be more proud of it.  It’s happy and that’s who I am. I need to embrace that more.

And then you had your album Blue.  That has my favorite song on it, “Second Chances”.
Yes, the heart-wrenching tale of a daddy loving his daughter. My dad loves it too.

This year you’ve been putting out singles. Are you going to be putting out a full album or are you just kind of sticking with singles as you go for a while now?  You had “Best Part of Me” earlier this year and you just put out “3’s a Crowd”. What else have you got coming?
I’ve definitely got some new music coming out.  A new album for 2021 is definitely the plan but it’s going to depend on what’s going on in the world but that’s goal if we can get the right funding for it. There could definitely be an EP with these singles and a couple little surprises.  Madison Olds isn’t done for 2020.  We have some things up the sleeve and I think they just keep getting better so I’m excited to release them!

And we’re excited to hear them!  Lastly, in my research I discovered that you’ve really been having fun these past months with gardening and baking.  I’d love to know, what are four of your favorite recipes or items that you’ve made during quarantine?
That’s actually funny because I’m in the process of picking a new Kitchen Aid mixer because baking is one of those things that gets me out of my own head. I loooove to bake. So this is great!

  1. Recently I made the most delicious Maple Cream Cheese Walnut cake. I actually drove it 4 hours for my parents to try because it was probably the best cake I’ve ever made.
  2. I made a homemade pumpkin pie in the middle of August as well because it was really cold and it felt like fall.
  3. I also made some Cookies ‘N Cream Cheesecake cookies that were divine. Just divine.
  4. Oh! And I made homemade sub buns. We ended up making almost like a mozzarella one night when we were at my parents’ for dinner so I made fresh sandwich rolls that were like a foot long each and they were delicious!

Those are probably my four right now but as fall kicks in my baking is nowhere near done.  I’ll probably be making a dessert weekly.

Don’t miss out on Madison’s recent singles, “Best Part of Me” and “3’s A Crowd” and be sure to follow her socials so you don’t miss what she has coming up!  There’s plenty more to come from Madison Olds!

Madison Olds on the web:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram

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