Californian singer/songwriter MAWD released her new single “Dark Room” on March 15th.
Influenced by the likes of The Staves, First Aid Kit, The Head and the Heart, The Alabama Shakes, Nancy Sinatra, MAWD is introducing an explosive soulful rock ‘n’ roll single “Dark Room”, which will be followed by the release of her self-titled debut EP. Produced by Roger Gisborne of Los Angeles based record label Sound x3 and Josiah Mezzaschi (Rilo Kiley, Kate Nash, The Jesus and The Mary Chain) and mastered by Brian Lucey (The Black Keys, Beck, The Kills), the upcoming EP will be revealed later this year.
“Dark Room” is now available on all major streaming platforms.
Introduce yourself. What’s your story?
My name is Madeleine Mathews. I grew up in a small town in the foothills of Northern California called Placerville and graduated from California State University, Chico for Music Industry. I recently moved to Los Angeles with my boyfriend, Benjamin, and my chinchilla, Caper. I’m a huge Seinfeld nerd and when I’m not playing/recording music, you can find me thrifting with my friends, crafting, swimming in the ocean or any other body of water (if weather permits), or listening to paranormal Podcasts.
When did you start feeling connected to music?
I’ve always been obsessed with music. I was that girl in high school who would scour music blogs for my next favorite band and create customized playlists for all my friends (before the days of Spotify) and rush to the record store the day one of my favorite bands released an album. Although nobody in my family played music while I was growing up (unfortunately my great grandmother who was a professional piano player passed away before really getting to know her), my mom introduced me to some of the songwriting greats like The Beatles and Carol King at a very young age. I’ve always just felt like it was a part of my soul. Even before I began writing songs, I knew I wanted it to be a vital part of my life in some way or another.
Tell us about your childhood. What did you grow up listening to?
As a younger child, my mom introduced me to The Beatles, Carol King, Queen, all the sixties/70s classics while my Dad and I would rock out to The Rolling Stones and Beck on our long road trips. My longtime childhood friend Hannah was actually a huge influence on my musical taste. In elementary school we thought we were so cool rolling around in our mom’s cars blasting Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin or all the naughtiest songs from Hair the musical, eventually getting opened up into the world of that real classic indie music right when it was beginning to get big in the early 2000’s like The Shins, Devendra Banhart, The Strokes, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Belle and Sebastian, and so many more that hold a near and dear place in my heart.
Who/what introduced you to a musical path?
It took me a while to find my love of songwriting and singing. My great grandmother was a professional touring pianist and when she passed away my grandparents wanted to continue her legacy by taking me to piano lessons. As much as I dreaded them and only did them for a few years, I never stopped playing and eventually found that the reason I didn’t like piano lessons was because I was playing other people’s music. I really began to find my love of my playing when I started creating my own music. I didn’t start writing songs with lyrics or attempt to sing (and I mean ATTEMP, I sounded awful… but we all start somewhere) until I was about 16 or 17. I would try to emulate other female artists I admired like Alela Diane, Joanna Newsom, Amy Winehouse and Norah Jones. I eventually found my own sound and had trouble taking any sort of singing classes because the teachers didn’t know what to do with my voice.
When did you know you had to become an artist?
Since discovering my love of songwriting at about 16 or 17, I knew I had this burning desire to play music for a living. However, I knew I had to go to college and following my dream to be a musician seemed like a pipe dream. Yet, I still wanted to be in music somehow so I decided to go to school and major in Music Industry at California State University, Chico. While in school, I was able to continue honing my writing and I performed regularly in the local music scene. Moments from graduating, I had found that all the hard work I put in to build up my resume to land a job in the music industry didn’t feel right anymore as I had developed to the point that I caught the attention of a Los Angeles indie label. I had worked for other bands and produced countless music events, but I always wanted to be that person on the stage interacting with an audience. I wanted my songs to touch other people the way I’d been touched so much by my favorite artists. So instead of getting a "big girl job”, I decided to put all my energy into pursing music and using all the knowledge I had gained from school and working for others, into my own music career. It’s only been about a year since I made that decision, and it was the best and hardest decision I’ve ever made. It’s not an easy road, but no longer do I have that feeling of potential regret in not following my dreams. At least now I can say I tried.
Could you tell us about your new single “Dark Room”? What’s the story behind it? Who did you work with?
“Dark Room” was a song I wrote while in college when I was interning for a small indie record label in Los Angeles. I was staying in a small dingy dorm room and felt that longing for my small hometown and missing my boyfriend and loved ones. I spent days alone, trying to fit in to what I thought would make me seem cool in the LA scene, quickly realizing that it was just my false perceptions in my head perpetrated by bad reality shows and stereotypes. I felt really isolated and began to discover the darkest corners of my mind.
What can you tell us about your debut self-titled EP? How would you describe the sound of it?
The EP is a culmination of songs written over the course of about 2 years. A lot of heartbreak and growth can be found in the lyrics. With one long relationship ending, there came a lot of vulnerability, drinking, sadness, toxic flings, and going back and forth with an ex. However, though this EP is chockfull of a lot of sadness, it is also filled with hope in finding yourself again after a dark time, moving on, and the beautiful act of falling in love again.
The sound is rather eclectic and ranges anywhere from a foot-stomping Americana number (“Summer in a Dream”) to a more rock vibe (“Dark Room”) to a somewhat dreamy sound (“Heart in a Suitcase”). I think it’s a wonderful example of what a first EP should be, trying to discover your sound and showing multiple sides of yourself. I’m always trying to not only improve my songwriting, but write in all sorts of genres to find what fits with me. I think it’s wonderful when you can blend different aspects of two completely different genres to create something special and new but also old and familiar/relatable.
You live in Los Angeles. How does this city affect your creativity?
It has actually affected my creativity quite a bit, but not diminished it. I grew up in a small mountain town and to move from knowing everyone who walks down the street to being the smallest fish in the biggest pond is quite a change. Not only is the size a huge difference, but the serious lack of nature. I’ve always been at my happiest and most inspired when in nature. Moving to LA has definitely sparked a lot of new ideas in songs however, just like any big change in one’s life could. There has definitely been a lot of songs written recently about missing the mountains, the lack of stars in the sky, wondering if moving here was the right decisions for my well being, etc.
In your opinion, what makes a good artist?
My favorite artists have always been the ones who can make you feel something. Anyone can sing, but to write a really good song that truly resonates with someone and then sing it in a way to evoke that emotion, goes a million more miles in my book. Entertainers are a dime a dozen, and though many are extremely talented, to me the true artists are involved in the writing process, the creative process, the business side, everything. Those are the ones I look up to at least. However, I truly admire anyone who puts themself out there to pursue their dreams.
What are you currently listening to these days? Would you recommend any artist?
I honestly still listen to a large majority of what I listened to 10 years ago in high school (The Shins, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Devendra Banhart, Dirty Projectors, Iron & Wine, The Kills, Vetiver, Fleet Foxes, The Head and the Heart, Sharon Van Etten, Alela Diane, Bon Iver, The Strokes, Great Lake Swimmers, etc.). There is just something so nostalgic and special about the first wave and second wave of indie folk/indie rock in the early 2000s and I feel like a lot of bands these days haven’t given me that magical feeling. However, bands that are a bit more recent like The Alabama Shakes, Sylvan Esso, Lord Huron, The Staves, and First Aid Kit are constantly on rotation in my playlists and definitely do give me that magical feeling. And of course, there are the classics like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Nancy Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Nick Drake. There are far too many to name! My secret guilty pleasure band however is The Partridge Family.
Who are your biggest influences?
I gather influences from all over the place. I’ll hear production on one album that I love or a sliver of a drum beat that stands out or a simple melody and get inspired. Some of the biggest influences over the course of my years writing songs have definitely been The Staves, The Alabama Shakes, Nancy Sinatra, The Head and the Heart, First Aid Kit, and so so many more. I try my best however to create something unique to me, although sometimes it’s inevitable for influences from other artists to seep through.
As an artist, what do you want to accomplish in this world?
I have always just wanted to touch people with my music. Whether that can be getting someone through a hard day or a break up, or simply us just relating to each other on a human level. If I did ever reach that level of fame where you can influence people, I’d love to be more politically vocal and spread awareness about causes I find near and dear to me. If anything, I’d love my music to just touch people like so many other artists have touched me and inspire others to follow their dreams.
What advice would you give to the ones who’d like to pursue their dreams?
I say, JUST DO IT! My parents have told me time and time again what they wish they could have done things differently as far as a career. They have been huge influences on my decision to pursue my dream and it’s so wonderful to have that support system. But, you have to mean it when you say you’re gonna do it. It’s not always something that is so easily handed to you. I wake up every morning with a plan of what I am going to accomplish that day and am constantly working towards my goals. You won’t get anywhere just simply being a great musician, you also need a great work ethic and determination. There are going to be a lot of people telling you it’s just a pipe dream or criticizing your path, your music, how you run/brand your business, but lean on those who do support you and remember to take a moment to notice how far you’ve come when you do reach those milestones. And always remember, to stay you and be true to yourself.
What’s your purpose?
My purpose is to write meaningful, honest, and genuine music that touches other people Ideally, I hope to continue sharing my music by performing live locally and touring and through recordings, which will be available worldwide. I would love to one day be an example for others trying to pursue the same dreams and give them the same hope other artists have given me.
Connect with MAWD: