At all times introspective and infrequently experimental, Madison Cunningham’s music doesn’t match neatly into anyone particular style. The Recording Academy, for instance, nominated 2019’s “Who Are You Now” for finest Americana album, however lately bestowed her “Revealer” with the Grammy for finest people album. This, in itself, is slightly mystifying for a challenge that leans closely into alt-soundscapes and seemingly owes extra of a debt to Fiona Apple than Joan Baez.
Not that it bothers Cunningham. ”Folks like having references,” the 26-year-old tells Selection. “However I’d by no means categorize ‘Revealer’ as people in any respect.” When pressed on how she would label it, Cunningham pauses to contemplate. “I’ve had a tough time actually with the ability to generalize what the sound is,” the California-bred artist says. “It’s electrical guitar ahead and it’s singer-songwriter. I suppose I’d categorize it beneath indie-rock different.”
Classes apart, Grammy recognition is a game-changer for Cunningham. When her title was known as out she “simply began working to the microphone” and likened the expertise to blacking out. “I don’t bear in mind what I stated,” she laughs. “It was very surreal.” The magnitude of the achievement wasn’t misplaced on her. “Folks describe [the Grammys] because the Tremendous Bowl for musicians,” she says. “It feels great to get that recognition out of your friends.”
There’s normally a halo impact from the win that entails the next profile and extra alternatives, however Cunningham has modest expectations. “I’ve but to see the distinction by way of the way it actually performs out in the actual world,” she says. Her greatest hope is that extra folks uncover the album: “That’s all I may have ever needed.” In spite of everything, “Revealer” took greater than three years and a complete lot of heartache to make.
Cunningham describes “Life Based on Raechel,” a tune about dropping her grandmother, because the linchpin for an album that paperwork the mercurial results of grief.
“That tune is the tarp that lays over all of the concepts,” she says. “Once you lose any individual, it adjustments you without end. It opens up components of you and locks down different components of you. The entire document is in regards to the thought of absence and lacking somebody.”
Whereas anchored in disappointment, “Revealer” by no means wallows in it. The second half of the album, particularly, finds Cunningham expressing herself by means of wildly experimental songs like “Collider Particles” and “Your Hate Might Energy a Prepare.”
“Aspect B is enjoyable as a result of it positively goes off the rails slightly bit,” she says, earlier than describing the previous as “an awesome instance of a tune that reaches exterior of the document’s sonic palette.” It’s an train she revisits on a brand new model of “Hospital” that includes alt-pop artist Remi Wolf.
“Remi and I had been speaking on-line,” she says of the collaboration. “We frolicked and bought espresso.” Once they hit the studio, the artistic chemistry was already there. “We had been all simply being led by our curiosity; there have been no guidelines round it,” Cunningham says. It’s the sort of experiment she hopes to do many times. “I’ve at all times needed to maintain the sonic panorama broad. I’m not afraid of delving into that slightly bit extra.”
Whereas concepts are slowly beginning to materialize for Cunningham’s subsequent challenge, she’s at present contending with festivals and reside performances. “There’s at all times one thing that’s brewing,” she says. “It’s very easy to gather melodies, however the follow-through is nearly unimaginable. I by no means write full songs on the street, simply take away souvenirs from a sound test.” She has time put aside this yr to write down. “I very a lot hope that it’s a quicker turnaround than the final time.”
There’s a way of custom in the best way Cunningham approaches music, which will be at odds with the present musical panorama. She balks on the thought of embracing TikTok, for instance. “I hate it a lot,” she says bluntly. “It deeply confuses me.” As a substitute, she outsources the work: “There’s any individual on my crew, which I understand is a privilege, who runs it for me as a result of I can’t ignore it. It’s there, and it’s a great tool for lots of people.”
For her, TikTok is emblematic of a bigger drawback. “There’s a pull between artists and tech, they usually’re at odds, however in addition they can work for one another and wish one another,” Cunningham continues. “However my opinion is that there’s a working order that’s essential. The artist is in command of the tech, but when tech is in command of the artist, I feel it’s a catastrophe ready to occur.” She places that dropping battle right down to shortsightedness within the music business.
“Why don’t we cease to ask ourselves if that is proper for the artist?” she ponders. “I don’t suppose longevity is at all times part of the decision-making. It’s actually simply, ‘How can we make cash now? How can we promote tickets now?’”
It’s a shortcut to the highest that Cunningham isn’t prepared to take. “I like being answerable for the artwork that I make and the music that I write,” she says. “If that implies that it’s a slower burn or an extended street, I’m greater than prepared to take it.”
In the end, nonetheless, Cunningham is glad to be making music at this level in historical past. “Labels are slightly extra lenient than they was once and individuals are beginning to push again towards outdated methods of pondering,” she says. “It’s at all times a unbelievable place to be when these foundational issues get questioned. I feel it’s an exquisite time, regardless of my lengthy rant about TikTok!” She additionally notes that issues are enhancing for feminine artists.
“It was a lot more durable for girls 50 years in the past,” she says. “And there’s at all times going to be echoes of that without end that us girls will take care of. And I’ve and can, however it’s a extra fruitful time, I’d say, to be an artist in that approach.” By not-so-quietly stretching the boundaries of people and tackling social media on her personal phrases, Cunningham is doing her half for the following technology of artists to come back.