By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Happy February! Love is already in the air – love between America and blazing American Idol XIV contestant Maddy Hudson of Pleasanton, CA. Where did this girl come from, and how did she get to be so fantastically talented? We're about to find out, in this month's installment (the first of two!) of The Beat Converses. (Hannah Trigwell's stopping by our metaphorical studio in two weeks, but we couldn't resist reaching out to Maddy as soon as we saw this! Watch the below video, and you'll understand why.)
Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief: So, first off: CONGRATULATIONS on slaying your audition, and quickly becoming a favorite for American Idol XIV! Casual brilliance. How does it feel to get three enthusiastic yes’s, and to hear J-Lo literally say, “I think she could win.” right after your audition? (Caps are encouraged, but – of course – not required.)
Maddy Hudson, AI XIV Contestant: Words can’t even begin to explain how it felt to hear Jennifer say that! I had never seen the audition prior to air, so the minute that everyone else heard her say that was the same time that I got to hear it! It blew my mind to hear those words actually come out of her mouth. I was extremely flattered in the first place to get three yes’s and to have such great feedback, but to hear that on top of all of the rest, I was absolutely speechless. I couldn’t have been happier in that moment. It filled me with such an incredible amount of love and happiness that I couldn’t even believe it. I was crying, but who wouldn’t cry after hearing something so special?!
PL: What is/are your favorite song(s) and/or artist(s) right now? Basically, who & what should we be listening to?
MH: I’m all over the spectrum when it comes to my playlist! I’ve been listening to some older stuff recently! I’ve been listening to “Sleep Forever” by Portugal. The Man, “Only One” by Kanye West, “Run” by Hozier (I love all of the music on Hozier’s album, but I’m especially crushing on “Run”), Arctic Monkeys, Yuna, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke, Cage the Elephant, etc. I honestly have tons of artists that I listen to and I could go on for days about artists I’m into, but with me it really depends on the day! Depending on the mood I’m in and the weather, my playlist could be completely different from any other day. I like to be really well rounded with my music selection, because I find that it makes me not only a better musician, but also a better person. Music changes lives.
PL: Let’s shift back to you for a second: how did you discover your passion for music, and how did you develop it?
MH: My passion for music really started around age 6. I was in first grade and we were doing a play, “The Three Nanny Goats Gruff”, and I was cast as the troll (lead). I never really knew much about singing or whether or not I could do it, but right before the big show my mom came up to me and said, “Maddy, this is your one time to shine, so get up there and do it”, and after hearing her say that, I got up there and sang my part with a huge smile. When I finished, everyone looked stunned. They all clapped and made me feel special, but then all of a sudden people were coming up to me and asking where I learned to sing like that, and I was just sitting there thinking, “wait, I can sing now?” This was so funny for me; I realized that I was good at something and that it was something that I really liked doing! From that moment on, nobody could get me to stop singing.
PL: What has been the biggest challenge so far in your pursuit of music? Have you overcome it?
MH: I think the biggest challenge for me has been being able to share what I do with my peers. While I can go and play in front of a bunch of strangers and do really well, if I were to play in front of a bunch of my peers, it probably wouldn’t go so well. I’m not sure what it is, but I just always felt as if my peers would judge me, and while everyone judges everybody, the thought of them judging me was a lot harder to deal with. This is definitely still something that I struggle with, I won’t lie, but with every day I try to work on myself to realize that it’s okay to not be perfect in everybody’s eyes, and that it’s all about me being proud of the work that I do.
PL: Back to American Idol briefly: without divulging any ~super secret~ results, have you found anything about what goes on behind-the-scenes of the show (or, I suppose, in front of the camera) super surprising? What about being on the show itself?
MH: I think the part that I found most surprising about the Idol process was the “family” feel that we have. I can’t speak for everybody, but my personal experience with all the cameramen, sound guys, and contestant coordinators was really what made it so wonderful. With the fellow contestants there is that competitive energy, but with the behind the scenes workers there was truly this loving vibe. I can honestly say that I love each and every person that works for production and I personally did my best to learn all of their names. I love all the people; I think that with any career it is extremely important to respect and love the people that work with you, and I have loved working with each and every single one of them! I never in my wildest dreams would’ve imagined that I would get a family out of this whole process, but I did. While nobody gets to see this interaction, it has definitely been one of my favorite things about the process. As far as being on the show, everything is surprising! Everything is much harder and much less glamorous than it seems on TV, but it’s still such a beautiful process. I love everything about it.
PL: Have you ventured at all into original territory, or mainly stuck to covering for now? Do you think it takes certain objectives or skills (besides songwriting, obviously) to pursue original tracks?
MH: I actually have written many original songs! I think that every person has the ability to write, and that the only reason they may not write is that they haven’t learned how to channel all of their emotions into original words yet. I spent a lot of time covering, and I still do, but I think that writing is definitely something that every artist should do. I think that it just takes time and valuable experiences! Sure, you could write a song about anything, but most of my music is about a real thing that I’ve gone through or witnessed, so I usually recommend writing about things that the artist has actually lived through.
Every person is original every day! People are all different! Writing songs is just as easy as going through regular life. You just need to make sure to write it in your own words.
PL: This next question has become a Beat Converses classic. If you could have coffee (or tea, etc.) with three vocalists – past or present – who would they be, and why?
MH: Etta James, Beyoncé, and Christina Aguilera. These are the artists that have truly shaped how I view music and how I went about singing. They are my biggest inspirations. The thought of getting to sit down with them is just incredible. I would love to thank them for creating their music, because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be the artist that I am today!
PL: And finally: it’s clear from your American Idol audition that you value the emotion of a song. What is your best advice to artists that want to open themselves up and feel more connected to the music they play or sing?
MH: I think that when it comes to music, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through, you can find a way to properly emote a song. Whether or not you’ve had a particular experience, every person has experienced basic emotions such as sadness, happiness, etc. One can simply pick and choose when to use those emotions! You need to remember what it was like in the moment that you felt that deep emotion, and then you need to think about how much deeper that pain/happiness would’ve been had you been in the song’s particular situation.
Singing isn’t simply singing, it’s acting, it’s feeling, and it’s a state of being. Each song has a tone, an emotional tie, and a theme. I’d say just do your best to become the character in the song. Think about how you would feel if you were in that situation. You need to live the pain, feel the happiness, and experience the tears, because without doing this, it’s just another song. It’s probably very obvious by now that I’m a deeply emotional person, so it’s natural for me to feel the music I sing, but I truly feel that every person is capable of relating to a song in one way or another, so they just have to look for the parallels within their lives!
I will resist the urge to ask more questions about AI XIV. [Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!] Perhaps that’s for another installment of The Beat Converses – after the season, of course! Thanks again to Maddy, and remember to stay tuned & cross your fingers for her. American Idol airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 8 pm on Fox! Here’s another brilliant cover for the road –
Peter LaBerge is author of the chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Recent work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, andIndiana Review, among others. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. For more information, visit him online at www.peterlaberge.com.