Pop star Madison Ryan discusses her debut EP, winning the Emerging Artist Contest at Summerfest and what’s next for her
Madison Ryan is a pop star on the rise. Hailing from Harrisburg, PA, Ryan, who is 19 years old, has already opened for bands such as Minshara, Jeffrey Gaines and SayWeCanFly. She has performed at festivals such as Jersey Shore Festival and Launch Music Festival and recently had the chance to perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI where she won the Emerging Artist Contest of the Day. On April 13th of this year Ryan’s debut EP Primary was released and charted on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. The EP was made with the help of producers Matt Malpass and Matt Holmes (Manchester Orchestra/Cute Is What We Aim For/Train). Full of energy, optimism and excitement for the future of her career, Ryan is just getting started and has no intention of slowing down! Staff writer Emily May had the chance to interview Ryan recently via email in which she discusses the new EP, winning the Emerging Artist Contest at Summerfest, charting on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and what’s next for her. You can stay up-to-date with Ryan and all upcoming tour dates, as well as purchase her EP, through the links below. You can check out her videos for “Paranoid” and “In Too Deep” below.
Your debut EP Primary was recently released. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the album? What was the writing and recording process like? What was it like to work with producers Matt Malpass and Matt Holmes?This record is me in a nutshell. I looked at this EP as my beginning and kind of ran with that-that’s actually where the title comes from! The process of creating the album was amazing. There were so many late nights and laughs and I will never forget those memories. Working with Matt and Matt was incredible. They’re so creative and talented and overall just great people to be around. My mind worked so well with theirs and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
Primary had been described as capturing the point of view that girls have a voice and they should use it. What kind of message are you hoping to convey through your music?
That’s definitely a huge one. A huge goal of mine is for everyone no matter what gender, race, or sexual orientation to be able to relate to my music. Everyone has a voice. Things like anxiety and depression can be quite hard to talk about. I hope that my songs can spark conversation about these difficult situations because they don’t get talked about enough, and a lot more of us share these problems than we realize. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to stand up to your demons. I want people to feel empowered, because that’s something that can never be taken away from you no matter what.
I read where you mentioned that you have learned a lot about yourself, both as an artist and a person, while making your EP. What did you learn?
I learned so much through this journey. As an artist I’ve really started to find my voice and my sound. As a person I’ve become so much more comfortable in my own skin and I’m able to write about things that a year ago I couldn’t even talk about. Music helps me grow as an individual so much, and I just love that.
You recently won the Emerging Artist Contest of the Day at Summerfest! What was that experience like for you? What was it like for you to perform at the festival and who were you the most excited to check out while your were there?
SummerFest was by far the best moment of my life thus far! The energy of that place was just unreal. I’m so grateful to have been apart of the festival this year. Winning the Emerging Artist Series Contest was the cherry on top. I never expected that to happen. And seeing The Neighborhood that night was so cool! I’ve been dying to see them for quite sometime now. I hope that I get to go back to Milwaukee sometime soon. It was a dream.
You have released videos for “Paranoid” and “In Too Deep”. What is each song about and what was the inspiration behind each video? Did you have an idea of what you wanted the videos to look like or was it a collaborative effort? How did you meet and come to work with director Josh Nesmith?
“Paranoid” is about the internal struggles that come with anxiety and depression, and “In Too Deep” is about a relationship that you know isn’t working but you can’t let go of because it means so much to you. I met Josh through some other people and word of mouth. He does amazing work and I’m so grateful to have him around as our minds work so well together. Any time I have a vision for something he knows exactly what I’m talking about, which is crazy! I could be saying random words and he’d just somehow nail it. For Paranoid I had a few different ideas but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I always wanted to do a one take video and Josh had access to this crazy mansion so we just went with that. Because it was a one take video, we had it all finished and ready to go the night we filmed it. For In Too Deep I wanted to do a continuation of Paranoid in a way which is why we filmed it in the mansion again. That video was so much fun to make and the goal was to really just play with cool shots and colors and make it look a little insane to capture the idea of drowning in a relationship.
Primary charted on the Billboard Heatseekers chart! How does it feel to have such a positive response to the EP in such a short amount of time?
It’s absolutely crazy. I never in a million years thought this would happen. I’m just so pleased that people relate to these songs which is by far one of the best feelings in the world. The response continued to blow my mind and I’m so humbled by it all.
Have you found it challenging at all to navigate the music industry at such a young age? I read that your dad was always in a lot of bands. Did he give you any advice when you decided to pursue music?
It’s definitely challenging. I’m still figuring so much out and I find it hard sometimes to be a 19 year old female in what feels like a male dominated scene. I’m also a perfectionist and tend to want too much too soon so being patient isn’t always my strongest suit. But I’ve quickly learned that’s it’s all about being patient and getting it right. My dad helps so much! He definitely had learned a lot too. The music industry is much different now than it was 20 years ago for sure but he does everything he can to help me out.
You went to art school in high school for acting but decided to do music instead. What prompted that change in direction for you?
I loved acting and I still do. I hope one day to get back into acting in addition to music. It all goes hand in hand for me if I’m being honest. After my first year of high school I started singing more and writing and that’s really how it started. Being around other musicians at school opened up a lot of doors that I didn’t realize were there and I just completely fell in love with music.
You were a competitive figure skater before becoming a musician. What was the transition like for you? Do you feel that competitive figure skating prepared you at all for life as a musician? They both seem to require a great deal of motivation, dedication and perseverance!
It’s so weird but there’s actually so many similarities between the two. I don’t look at music as a competitive sport but the drive and passion is all very similar. No matter what sport or career, they all require the drive and passion. With figure skating there was a lot I had to give up. I didn’t always hang out with friends or go swimming because I was always skating. With music it’s kinda similar. I’d rather be in my room writing than going to a party. Because of being a figure skater all those years, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to give up other things to get exactly where you want to be.
What’s next for you? What are your goals going forward?
Right now I’m super focused on writing. I’ve also got some cool shows coming up, and potential tour opportunities. I’m so excited to see where the future takes me. I want to continue to find myself and my voice and just grow as an individual and as an artist.