Get carried away by the delicate and dreamy voice of Toronto-based singer and songwriter Maddee. At only 21 years old, she is quietly but steadily building a career as an artist speaking of Gen Z, whose creatives struggle more and more to stand out from the rest in an unstoppably crowded scene. Merging jazz and R&B, her music finds a midpoint between something appealing for everyone and something more intimate and personal. “It’s not just a collection of songs, it’s a concept and a process and experience all put into one piece”, she tells us. Drawing inspiration from life experiences, she captures very personal feelings and emotions such as love and pain with honesty and distance.
It’s impressive to see how fast you started to build your career as a 21-year-old artist. What sparked your interest in music? Do you feel that your hometown (Toronto) is embedded in your music?
I really have been interested/passionate about music for as long as I can remember. My parents listened to a lot of music growing up and we would go to concerts often. I think it’s almost unavoidable to not have Toronto be embedded in my music as an artist from here. A lot of my inspiration comes from my peers and artists from Toronto.
Your vocals have been described as soulful, captivating and dreamy. Do you relate to it? How would you define your style?
I guess I relate to it. It’s a hard thing to define yourself in any way, but I’ve always sort of had a low voice and I guess it translated well when I decided to start singing, although it took a long time and a lot of work for it to get to how it sounds now. I could say my vocals are heavily jazz-influenced and it feels buttery when I sing. Apparently, when I was little, my aunt thought I’d be a news broadcaster or something because I had such a low voice for a kid.
You’re part of Generation Z, the first digitally native generation, so we’re very different from the previous ones. How do you feel this change influences our lifestyle, thoughts and, more especially, the way we consume music?
Everything now is so accessible, whether it be information, art, music, etc. meaning we’re forced to have to constantly think outside the box and figure out ways to separate ourselves from everyone else. We’re subconsciously drawing inspiration from everything online at all times, so it’s a hard time for people – especially creatives – to stand out. People constantly want something new because everything is at our fingertips. You have to be changing and evolving and constantly releasing new content at all times or people will lose interest.
And for you as an artist, do you feel producing and creating music is more different than the way previous artists did? For example, with the increasing use of streaming platforms and the loss of ‘physical’ music – basically albums, if we don’t take into account vinyls –, are you more into just releasing singles/songs?
It’s completely different. On one hand, you want to create something that’s true to yourself and what you represent, and on the other hand, you want to create something that will do well and be successful and that the average person will enjoy. It can be extremely difficult to find a balance, but I think staying true to yourself is the best way to get people to like what you are doing. For the sake of the career and the current age of music consumption, yes, there's definitely more success in releasing singles, but there’s so much more that goes into creating a body of work. It’s not just a collection of songs, it’s a concept and a process and experience all put into one piece.
I feel that many artists that belong to Generation Z don’t focus on one specific musical style anymore but rather tend to merge many genres – just like your music, which mixes R&B and jazz, for example. Why do you think the Gen Z is moving in that borderless direction more than previous generations?
Realistically, there are just more ‘genres’ being created, we just don’t have names for them yet. For decades, artists have been merging genres. I think there’s just so much that’s so appealing about all the genres that it’s hard to not have all of them influence what you’re making. Some of my new music strays so far from R&B, that for a minute I was like, ‘oh no, this should be more R&B to be cohesive’, but then I was like, ‘fuck it, I am making a rock and roll love ballad’.
You are not only a singer but also a songwriter. What’s your creative process when you write a song? How do you enhance your creative process on a daily basis?
It’s very different depending on the song. Sometimes it will be when I’m alone and feeling some type of way and sit at my piano or guitar and write for a few hours, or I’ll be in the studio with someone and we’ll start a ‘vibe’ and I’ll draw some life experience as some inspiration and elaborate on that. I’d say I enhance my creative process on a daily basis by just listening to music and thinking about how I’m feeling in a poetic and lyrical sense. Just drawing inspiration from what people are saying or how I’m feeling at any point in the day.
The song Clouds, from your latest EP was, according to you, “written about getting over an unhealthy relationship. It’s about coming back to myself and my strength.” Was this cathartic process difficult? How did it help you?
At times, it definitely could be difficult, but for me, it’s one of the main ways I process my emotions and feelings. It undoubtedly helped me get through that pain I was experiencing and felt empowering to write about it.
Do you have any advice for people facing this same problem?
Everyone processes things differently, but if there’s one thing that has worked for you in the past, try and do that thing. Some people need to talk about it, some people need to write about it, some people make art… just find an outlet for the feelings, otherwise they’ll just stay bottled up inside.
From your song Weight to your last EP, Red Mind, you refer to a love story that ends up badly in many of your songs. Why is that? Do you feel that, this way, there is a continuity in your work?
Honestly, at that period in my life, I was so young and it was the first time I had my heart broken, so it truly was the only thing on my mind. It definitely created a sort of continuity in my work. I think calling back to that previous question, that’s why it worked well as an EP. Because of the recurring thematics of heartache.
As a curiosity, I see chromaticism is important in your work, especially red – your latest EP is titled Red Mind. What symbolism does this colour have for you?
The inspiration for the EP title came from the song. I felt it most represented the feeling of the project. Red for me represented love and pain and naivety, ie. Red Mind it was the only thing on my mind and what I had been writing about.
You worked a lot with the producer Harrison and you created songs that are a bit further from your regular music style, especially when it comes to the EP, Colours, which is more electronic. In what way did this collaboration nurture your music?
Working with Harrison just introduced me to an entirely new world of music that I had not even known about before. I started to learn how to use Ableton by watching him and him teaching me, and from there, would write and lay down my own tracks. I think making house/dance music was a big change from what I was writing before, which was more in the folk/indie category. But working with Harrison definitely sparked inspiration to all the different directions I could go with my music.
Who are your musical referents? And other creative forces inspiring you working on other creative fields?
Right now, for me, it’s been all about my relationships – love and loss. It’s inspiring me in all the ways.
Social media is a springboard for visibility. Nowadays, anyone can share their work and become famous somehow. What is your relationship with social media? As an artist, how do you stand out from others?
I mean, I'm addicted to social media just like everyone else, but I try not to take it too seriously. I don't know if there's anything that really makes me stand out, I guess I try just to be myself and not think too much about it.
What do you expect from the upcoming months? Where do you see your work going?
There will be some exciting collaborations, possibly a single or two, and just a lot of hard work. My work is already starting to take on a new really exciting direction and I just can't wait to share it with the world.
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