Madison Cunningham is on tour with Punch Brothers even as we speak. This 21 year-old country artist has been attracting attention with her songs “So Long Frank Wright”, a Paul Simon cover, and “Beauty Into Cliches.”
She released an EP in 2017 called Love, Lose Remember and recently signed to Verve Forecast. Cunningham brings a storied canvas to her lyrics with a voice that has a hint of Alanis Morissette. She released “All at Once” today:
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.” What attracted you to cover that song?
MC: I was asked to play a song for a Paul Simon tribute and I figured all of the hits were already taken, so I chose from the B-side. When I gave it a closer listen I realized the lyrics were simply profound. The chorus goes, “architects may come and architects may go and never change your point of view”
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Beauty Into Cliches.” How did the song develop?
MC: I was driving to Walmart and the first line of the song jumped in my head. Then I finished the rest of it that day on my parent’s piano. It was a quick one. Songs don’t usually come that easily for me.
FEMMUSIC: With both “Song Long Frank Lloyd Wright” & “Beauty Into Cliches” you worked with Tyler Chester. How was he to work with? What did he bring to the project?
MC: Tyler is one of my favorite people on the planet to work with. He’s been my producer since I was fifteen and has proven to be one of the most talented folks I know over and over!
FEMMUSIC: You’ve recently signed to Verve Forecast. What made you decide to sign? What benefits to they bring?
MC: When I first met the A&R at Verve (Mike Viola), I felt like I already knew him. Being an artist himself he seemed to get it and bring a perspective from the label side that was in favor of the artist. I was persuaded to keep the conversation going. And then when I met the rest of the team and the president of the label (Danny Bennet) and saw how genuine they all were I was convinced.
FEMMUSIC: You’re touring with the Punch Brothers. What are you most looking forward to on the tour? Tell me about working with Chris Thile?
MC: Working with Chris is totally inspiring. He’s a hard worker, inclusive, genuine, and the truest form of talent there is. Glad to know him! One of the things I look forward to every night is watching their set.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
MC: The technique is: wake up, coffee, give it your best, sleep, repeat.
Making a routine out of song writing seems to be the only thing that truly works for me.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
MC: That’s a hard question. I think I’ll name a body of work. Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell was the first record I was able to see myself in. Still my favorite to this day!
FEMMUSIC: As a woman in the music industry have you been discriminated against?
MC: I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been discriminated against in an overt way. I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful men and women who care about my well being more than my music, which I know isn’t everyone’s story. It’s reared its head in more minor ways. In the instrument store employee who can make you feel small for being a woman asking for guitar strings, or in the expectation an audience can subconsciously project onto you for walking out with an electric guitar. All and all it’s a male-dominated industry which can be discouraging for any woman, but I have many men to thank for building me up and believing in me more than I ever believed In myself. It’s a two sided coin in the end. We all still have plenty of room to improve as both men and women on how to treat each other as equals. It’s not an easy feat, but we need each other.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
MC: Rufus WainWright or Fiona Apple. I’m a huge fan of both.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
MC: There will always be a good and bad side to the industry. I wish it wasn’t designed to be a product to consumer type of business, but more of a gift to the receiver. Maybe I’d rather have a life of music where it wasn’t just money making but simply for the joy of it. That may be wishful thinking. I try to focus on making honest music myself and hope that it will land on the right ears.