By Brittney Goodman
The HPR caught up with singer-songwriter Madison Cunningham to talk about her upcoming album, “Revealer,” and her August 2 concert at Fargo Brewing. This Los Angeles-based musician wrote her first album when she was 15 and has been nominated for two Grammy awards. She is the opening act for Lake Street Dive at The Fargo Brewing Company, August 2, 7 pm, outdoors. Tickets are on sale via Tickets 300 – Jade Presents.
High Plains Reader: You were nominated under American and Folk for the Grammy Awards. What do you consider your genre or style, and what have others described it as?
Madison Cunningham: It has been classified as multiple different things and I laugh and enjoy some of them.You know, I don't know that I've heard a description where I'm like, oh,I feel comfortable with that description and feels a bit non-binary in that way.And I’m completely fine with that.I think the less that people are able to describe what it is that they're hearing, the more it turns into a bit of a more original thing.So, I hold comfort sometimes by the fact that even I don't know how to classify it.I think first and foremost,I'd probably just say singer-songwriter. Because those are my values.
HPR: Especially in some of your most recent and, I understand,perhaps in your upcoming album “Revealer,”your songs are confessional. Do you say that that's true?
MC: I would say that's true -- and purposefully.So, it's there.I think in the time that it was written,it was just really a hard couple of years. For that album, my writing cycle came in the middle of 2020.So, there was no other way for me to actually get songs out. Like it had to be done incredibly honestly. Not that I hadn't written that way before,but it just was a new level of - oh,I have to lay bare, you know,these ugly things and these harder truths about myself,in order for me to actually sing something that I believe in and care about.And that was a harder process because it goes hand in hand with exactly what the title says: Revealer. It's the thing that we know that we constantly come up against: I can't run from this.I can't avoid the truth here.That’s what I hope the songs convey because I think that it is important to confess.
HPR: Where are you originally from?
MC: I am originally from Orange County, which is about 45 minutes south, but I moved to L.A. when I turned 21.
HPR: How do you think you have changed as a songwriter and a musician between when you were 15 and writing your first album, and now?
MC: Probably in about every way. The beautiful thing about writing at that age is that it is very unencumbered. You don’t really have many bumpers on yourself. You’re like, okay, that’s cool, let’s see what this does... There’s nothing but curiosity. Nothing was really holding me back at that age. But I do think, in terms of craft, and skill, I’ve spent so much of my time and energy homed in on that. I am a little more well-rounded or just more experienced as a songwriter and as a performer. I am more engaged with my own voice. And it's not just throwing every color at the wall. Now I have a more established idea of who I am.That's how I have progressed.
HPR: Tell us about your musical influences.
MC: Man, I have many and they're changing all the time.Some essential figures for me would be Joni Mitchell, Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple, Jon Bryant.An artist that I love, Juana Molina. And Radiohead, of course. All of those people shaped me.
HPR: Talk about your songwriting process.
MC: It's a changing process, but for the most part I really have to be influenced by something musically in order to say something, or in order to feel the need to finish a song.So, I guess the song will kind of form on my guitar first.Sometimes I'll be kind of sculpting full arrangements. And then I'll go and I'll have the melody and everything.And maybe even like the cadence of how I want the words to sound and feel, and the rhythm and all that.But figuring out the actual words and the subject matter will come usually last.I think it was Gillian Welch who said when everything's working right,all three things are happening at once,which is melody, music, and words.And I completely agree. My favorite moment in songwriting is when the song comes out fully formed and you're like, oh,I know exactly what each piece needs to be doing and what they need to be saying.But, generally, I try to avoid it; there's no formula. The Madison Cunningham formula is usually starting with a musical idea and then going from there.
HPR: Have you always been interested in music and writing?
MC: Yeah.Always been interested.Always been in love with it.I mean, my dad is and was a songwriter and that was my first example,and it was a constant one: I'm watching him play guitar.That was the first, first thing that really got me into it, was just love for that instrument and all the things that can be done with it. It was endlessly exciting and interesting to me
HPR: What do you think the audience at the Fargo Brewing Company will like the most about your performance on August 2?
MC: That's a great question. I can't predict exactly what they will like, but I hope they will really latch onto the songs. And just the musical experience,my band and I put a lot of work into just how people will hear it and feel it. And I hope that that is what people enjoy most about it.
IF YOU GO
Madison Cunningham opening for Lake Street Dive
Fargo Brewing Company, August 2, 7 pm.
Tickets 300 (Jade Presents)
By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com“Citizenfour” Oscar-winner Laura Poitras profiles photographer and activist Nan Goldin in “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” Like its talented subject, the movie cannot be confined to a…
By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comIf you’ve ever driven down the Enchanted Highway, the 32-mile ribbon of road connecting Regent to Gladstone in western North Dakota, home to the world’s largest salvaged metal sculptures,…
By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…
By John Showalter firstname.lastname@example.orgThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…
By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comPhoto by: Michelle Tait, Memory Makers Old Time PhotographyIn August URL Radio personality Stacy Sturm knew she wanted to do something for Halloween. She tossed around the thought of a Halloween…
By Waylon Hedegaardretiringwithcats@gmail.comFor all those who still decry my departure from the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian faith, understand that I will never return. I see the examples you set and want no part of…