IT has been great spending time with MAWD…
as she tells me about her new track, Wandering Eye, and the rather quirky story behind it! She explains how health issues have affected her music and what she has planned coming up; which albums and artists have made the biggest impact on her – I ask whether the American artist will come to the U.K. and perform at any point.
MAWD talks to me about the music she grew up around and how she got that incredible, raw voice; if she has advice for artists coming through; which rising musicians we need to be aware of; what she hopes to achieve by the end of the year; if she gets time to chill outside of music – she picks a great song to end the interview with.
Hi, MAWD. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, there! Well, the week has just begun for me (it's Monday... although, being a musician, what day even is the beginning of the week?!). But, so far not so bad! Feeling a bit run down so I went to Whole Foods and stocked up on an ungodly amount of vitamins to kick this bug I feel coming on. Now, I'm catching up on all my emails and hoping to squeeze in some music writing time while everyone is out of the apartment.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi, there! My name is Madeleine Mathews but I go under the moniker ‘MAWD’ (a few reasons for the name: I LOVE Harold and Maude and want to embody Maude's positivity and outlook on life...minus dating a man sixty years my senior. If you haven't seen the movie, it's my favorite! And, MAWD derives from the '60s slang, ‘mod’, which is one of my absolute favorite eras. And, lastly, my grandmother pronounces my name ‘Maude-lin’ with her adorable Swiss accent; so, therefore, I am MAWD!).
A little about me: I have a chinchilla named Caper (who I've had for five years). I moved to Los Angeles about a year ago and we have a love/hate relationship...mostly love! Due to some recent health problems, I've had to really restrict my diet and find it hard to eat out because of that. But, on the upside, I have found I actually really love cooking! And, if I do say so myself, I'm pretty dang good at it. I have an amazing boyfriend (who you can see shaking his booty and driving the ‘MAWD-mobile’ in the video) who has been incredibly supportive of me throughout this whole bad health and musical journey. My favorite show is Seinfeld.. and I play music!
Wandering Eye is your latest single. Can you give me a sense how the song came together and what inspired it?
It came together about a year ago. My boyfriend and I were in a parking lot and he was poking fun at me saying I have a wandering eye after this man walked past us. He then went on to say “I'm going to write a song about how you have a wandering eye” and I snapped back: "No…I'm going to write a song about how I don't have a wandering eye!".
And, so; the next day I wrote a majority of the song in my room and a few days later took it to my good friend (who is actually producing my E.P. and produced/co-wrote this song), Josiah Mezzaschi, and he loved it! I, of course being the indecisive and most self-critical person I am, thought it wasn't very good. But, after he encouraged me that we should finish it; we did that very day and now it's one of my absolute favorite songs I've written!
PHOTO CREDIT: Ben Thomas
I hear little shades of Janis Joplin! Did it take a lot of work to provide your voice that rawness or is it a natural sound?!
It's funny how my voice found me…
I didn't start attempting to sing until I was seventeen. I always felt I had this desire to get my emotions out through song, but had no idea what I was doing when it came to actually singing them. I would mimic other artists like Amy Winehouse, Joanna Newsom or Norah Jones for fun…and eventually I found my own unique sound. Voice teachers have always had trouble with me because of this and the way I pronounce things when singing. I don't want to sound like everyone else: I want to sound like whatever feels most natural and real to me!
When it comes to those scratchy, belty parts of my voice - that developed over time. I first started out singing light, folky songs and in college, while playing in a few bands, I found myself wanting to rock. I love Folk music and love playing/writing it, but there's a part of me that just wanted to let loose. I still have no idea how I do it but it just feels so right when I do. It's an unexplainable thing but I only hope to develop and improve my voice over my lifetime. Just a short three years ago, I would of never imagined my voice being able to sing Rock ‘n' Roll. I think all artists grow into who they are truly meant to become.
Can you tell me what sort of music you grew up around? Which artists struck your ear?
Oh, dear. These questions are the hardest because I could write a novel…
When I was really young (like five-twelve), my mom played a LOT of Beatles, Carole King; Simon & Garfunkel, Partridge Family (don't laugh...this is my best-kept secret...I love them so much) and all the classics while my dad and I would rock out to The Rolling Stones and Beck. One of the people who truly made an impact on my life musically was my best friend from basically birth, Hannah Grubba.
In fourth grade, we would drive around in her mom's car listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath; Queen etc. (we thought we were so cool). In middle-school, we'd listen to Devendra Banhart, The Shins; The Strokes, early Kings of Leon (Aha Shake Heartbreak is so good); Vetiver, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and so many other bands. After getting exposure to Indie music, I was obsessed with finding new bands. I'd go on Pitchfork and all those other early blogs and try to find my next favorite underground band. In high-school, there was a lot of Fleet Foxes, Radiohead; Joanna Newsom, The Kills; Dirty Projectors and all those early Indie bands that really set the bar high.
Might we see more material next year perhaps?
Indeed! I'm working on quite a few things for next year including my second E.P. Right now, I'm focusing on trying to figure out which songs will make the cut and trying to write more. At this point, I'm trying to release single-by-single until I have enough for my second E.P. - since that seems to be the model these days in the music world.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I have a few goals set for myself. I'd love to get on a notable Spotify playlist and get my music heard by more people! I'd also love to get some more quality live videos up (which are in the works). And, it would be absolutely amazing if I could get a T.V. placement! In reality, I would just like my music to reach and touch more people.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Oh, goodness. I feel like there have been a lot! So far, a couple come to mind...
The first one being my E.P. release show in Chico, CA back in May 2017. I just couldn't believe the large crowd of people there came to see me! It was truly overwhelming and special. Some of the others being our tour to SXSW with my L.A. backing band in March 2018 and releasing this music video! Every show seems to be special in its own way. Every encore, every crowd that comes to see us; it truly means so much.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
This is probably the hardest question ever. But, the three that first pop into my mind are:
Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
This is when I fell in love with Brittany Howard. She is one of my all-time favorite musicians and is incredibly inspiring. This album sort of catapulted me into discovering my Rock ‘n' Roll side.
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
This is one of those albums that are not only so magical and nostalgic, but absolutely perfect. I remember seeing them play it at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA when I was a teenager and I cried from how amazing this show was. One of my all-time favorite albums.
The Beatles - 1
I know this is a compilation album of some of their greatest hits but I remember a specific moment when my rat died when I was like six and my mom bought me this album to cheer me up. And, I'd listen to it every time I was sad. It just reminds me of innocent and wonderful times.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would love to open for Alabama Shakes. I think that would absolutely be a dream come true. My bandmates and I joke about it all the time; saying things like "Just wait till we open for the Alabama Shakes and travel all over the world!".
My own rider?! First of all: How cool would that be!? Since I have such a restricted diet from my health problems, I would definitely have lots of LaCroix (although, I heard they are getting sued for having insecticide in their product?! So, maybe I'll stick to Pellegrino); Throat Coat tea, coconut tortillas and a taco bar…and endless french fries.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I would say...it's a long road but don't give up. If you have the right amount of determination and drive, you can make anything happen. Learn things on your own (whether it's industry knowledge about splitting co-writing agreements or contracts to creating your own content so you don't have to waste money or time paying someone else)! Be creative! Stand out from the crowd but be yourself. Don't ever let people tell you who you should sound like or who you should be. I know I'd rather look back and be proud of the work I've done than compromise to make more money or become more commercial…
You will find your fan base. It takes people years and years and years to break through, although it seems like they got discovered overnight (hey; some people do but most of the time it took them five-plus years to get there). I know I'm still on my journey, but the best things I've learned this year - especially living in L.A. - is to stop comparing my own journey and successes (or lack thereof) to others. Be happy with where you are. If you are playing music and have a band that supports you, that right there is amazing! If you have people coming to your shows to see you (even if it's just a few), that is amazing! Be happy that you get to play music!
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
Right now, I'm going into a bit of a hibernation mode with our live shows. My backing band and I have been playing pretty consistently for the last year (anywhere from three-eight shows a month or more), so I'm taking the time now to get some recordings and videos done and rework our live set. I've got lots of new songs in the mix and new fun covers we want to toss in. Our next two shows are at The Hotel Café’s main stage on October 16th and Sofar Sounds’ L.A. Halloween show on October 30th.
Will you come to the U.K. and play at some point?
I would love to! I would love to do a national and international tour at some point. Just gotta keep hoping for that big breakthrough to get the funds or hop on board opening for another band!
IN THIS PHOTO: Livingmore/PHOTO CREDIT: Suzi Carmichael
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Oh, definitely! Some local L.A. acts that I love are Livingmore, Aloud; KiSMiT and Sarah Rogo. I've had the pleasure in sharing a show with all of these amazing bands/artists. I also know that she is blowing up everywhere - but Phoebe Bridgers has been on-repeat for the last six months or so. She's amazing!
IN THIS PHOTO: Phoebe Bridgers
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Even when I'm not playing or writing or seeing music, I'm usually doing something music-related like answering emails, organizing band practices or recording times; booking shows or trying to make content. But, when I do give myself a little breathing room; I love to go thrifting with my friends; go out for coffee at my favorite spot down the street, go to the beach; draw when I'm inspired, go on fun little dates with my boyfriend and lay in bed with a big cup of tea and watch really bad reality shows.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Oh, my goodness. ONE SONG! This is the hardest yet. I always go through phases of only listening to Gregory Alan Isakov for weeks straight. So; in honor of me being in yet another Isakov phase, how about one of my favorite Greg songs called Big Black Car
Thanks for having me!