Madeleine Mayi Is a Rising Indie Rocker With a Penchant for Sad Songs [Q&A]

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Santa Barbara-raised, Madeleine Mayi, is a rising indie rocker with a penchant for sad songs. The young songwriter began releasing music in 2017 with her debut EP, the Mk.Gee-produced, Just the Six of Us. Since then, Mayi has performed a 35-date tour across the country, won a songwriting contest which sent her, all expenses paid, to England, and released the entirely self-made follow-up 2018 EP, "shy".

Released on Valentine’s Day, Mayi returns to music with her latest track, “love me.” A plea for unconditional love during a particularly difficult period of her life, “love me” reveals Mayi at her most vulnerable. To the songwriter, “love me is about learning to love yourself in the dark times - the song is meant to be a spot of light in the darkness.” Blending fleeting moments of optimism with honest, heartfelt ballad construction, “love me” is a quiet masterpiece. For fans of Daughter and Phoebe Bridgers, the track features raw, lo-fi guitar and subdued vocals with minimal hints of psychedelia.

Ones to Watch had a chance to talk to Mayi about her upcoming debut album, her inspirations, and why she chose to release this track on Valentine’s Day specifically.

Ones To Watch: I was a big fan of your last project, the self-produced "shy" EP. What was the process of putting together “love me?” Did you work alone or collaborate with anyone?

Madeleine Mayi: "love me" is actually the first song that I have ever released that I didn't write all on my own. I wrote this song with my homie Matt DiMona who I love very much. I am usually a solo flyer, but for this upcoming project, I wanted to stretch myself creatively and try something I hadn't done before. This is the only song on the record that I wrote with someone else. I also worked with my good friend Dani as a co-producer on "shy" and on "love me" as well.

I love how you described the single, “love me,” as being about “learning to love yourself in the dark times.” Is this a theme we can expect to see across the upcoming album as well?

Yeah - that is definitely a narrative throughout the album, but the overall themes of the album are love and loss. The overarching story is about a character losing someone close to them and responding to it. "love me" is a song towards the end of the record where the character has gone through the worst of their grief and finally decides to be open to love again; the first place to start is with yourself. 

Which track on your upcoming album are you most excited about and why?

Hm, I don't know. I’m excited because I am getting a little more into the rock corner of music and am excited to release those tracks… but right now it's gotta be "love me."

It seems that the colors and aesthetics you choose to accompany each project are very deliberate. From your early tracks having black-and-white art to "shy" featuring these vibrant oranges and pinks. How important are visuals to your music?

Visuals are very important to my music but I think that attitude has developed over time. I worked with a friend who I consider a visual genius on "shy", and she taught me to appreciate that angle and use it in a way that expands my vision in a different way. "shy" was lighter because the textures of the record were very simple (on purpose), so it felt right to fill in some of that negative space with color. With “love me,” the visuals are darker and more lonely feeling, which very much reflects the narrative of the record. I actually gain a lot of my inspiration from visual art - Barbara Kruger and Rothko are good examples. Music has always been my go-to medium, but all art forms inspire me.

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Why did you choose Valentine’s day to release “love me?” Is there any significance to it?

There’s actually a lot of significance. My whole album is based on my Valentine's Day in 2019. I was supposed to play a show that night, but a few days before a family friend unexpectedly passed away. Her funeral ended up being on Valentine's Day in the morning, and I was considering canceling the show but my mom convinced me not to. It ended up being one of my best shows ever. It was just the craziest day of highs and lows… So yeah, this whole record is based on a lot of what I felt on that day.

Who are some artists that have really inspired you while working on this upcoming project?

I think this single is the first song where I feel that I have really arrived at my sound. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but I think a lot of this has been brewing inside for a while and now it's finally coming out. For this record, I have been really inspired by The White Stripes, The Stones, Snail Mail, Phoebe Bridgers, etc.

Who are your Ones to Watch?

My friend Erez is killing and my friend Jessi Mason as well. I think Beck Pete is rad and also my friend Hong Kong Boyfriend. Ginger Root, and Hayden Everett.

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