Nashville native Maddie Medley is only 19, but her trail of Bandcamp releases are the work of an old soul who was raised on Patsy Cline.
I caught up with the songwriter in advance of her show tomorrow at The 5 Spot in Nashville.
Medley dishes on everything from the enduring power of seeing Fiona Apple play The Ryman at age 13 to finding her footing and subsequently community as an artist in country music’s capital.
Joining Medley on the bill tomorrow will be Briston Maroney, Charli Adams and Bowling Green’s Dan Luke and The Raid.
Growing up in Nashville, were you influenced by its fame as being country music’s capitol? I hear tinges of Americana/folk in your music, but I know growing up close by I didn’t really start appreciating old country until I was way older.
I think it was the opposite for me- I was really dazzled by country music as a kid, but I don’t really listen to it as much as an adult. When I was younger, I was really interested in the weird, over-the-top glamor of female country music artists, and I think that maybe helped me develop a sense of confidence in my music that I may not have gotten elsewhere. I definitely think I’m always going to have a really strong affinity for country (even the worst of it) because it makes me feel at home. It’s familiar.
When did you pick up a guitar and start writing songs? Was it a family tradition at all?
I distinctly remember the first song I ever wrote because it was for a field trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I was in third grade, and it was a breakup song. My teacher suggested that I write something a little more happy. I kept writing after that, but I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 12. None of my family members are musically inclined, so I think it took them by surprise a little bit that I immediately was like, “This is what I want to do forever and ever and ever”.
I know a lot of musicians who comment on the fact they are never able to “crack” Nashville and its crowds, basically speaking to the fact crowds there and the scene in general is maybe a bit more standoffish or intimidating. Being native to Nashville have you experienced this or do you feel immune to it in a degree?
God, that’s so interesting to think about. I definitely think there are some scenes in Nashville that feel intimidating when you’re trying to break into them. I think I might be a little immune to it now, but I also think that I’ve found a really special community of musicians here who want to make incoming musicians feel as welcomed as possible, and I’m really grateful for that. I know it’s tough at first. It takes a while to find your people. But I think it’s about willingness to listen. The most talented and kind musicians I know are the best listeners. Go see other bands, tell them if you like their music, listen genuinely to what they have to say and what they have to sing, see if they listen to you. If they don’t, keep moving. Nashville has too many people for anyone to feel alone for too long.
This is a very cliche question, but can you talk about the musical influences that have shaped your artistry? What artists have you always looked to for inspiration? What music or albums have resonated with you lately?
When I was younger, Patsy Cline was my biggest influence. I found out through her that I’ll love any voice that can express strength and vulnerability at the same time. When I was 13, I saw Fiona Apple at the Ryman. That show changed everything for me. It was shocking to me to see a female vocalist writhing on the floor and wailing and still sounding so, so, so beautiful. She barely spoke between songs. Her music physically overtook her, and I loved that. Lately, I’ve gotten so into Big Thief- I’ve been trying to learn how to write less about myself and how to create characters within songwriting, and she does a wonderful job of that.
Do you have a song you are most proud of? Everything you’ve released has a classic, cinematic quality but your song “Edith” really stuck with me. I love the perspective, how you pen this seemingly simple and pure song detailing the qualities you would instill in your daughter if you ever had one. It kind of becomes this manifesto of feminine strength by the end.
Thank you! I definitely love Edith and it’ll probably be a song that I always have in my set, but I wrote it when i was around 16. It’s less of a song to me now, more so a set of guidelines for how I want to live and how I’d want my daughter to. I think my song Jesus Moment is the one I’m most proud of- it’s my saddest song, but I remember how I felt when I wrote it, and I’m proud that I was able to turn those ugly feelings into something that I feel is both fragile and defiant.
What are your goals/plans for the rest of 2017?
I want to learn as much about songwriting as possible, so I just hope to keep meeting new people and gaining new perspectives. I’ve got a lot to learn, and I can only keep singing if I can keep writing.