When BC based recording artist Madeline Merlo signed with RGK Management and Open Road Recordings in 2012 it was the realization of an ambition she had since she was a child. In just two short years, she released her debut EP and was nominated for two BCCMAs. Madeline graciously took the time to talk about her journey, the EP and what's ahead.
It was from a very early age that you knew that you wanted to pursue music as a career.
Definitely. My father was a musician, so I grew up in a very musical household. I started singing when I was six years old. My first performance was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in my kindergarten talent show.
Growing up in a musical household, what types of music were you exposed to?
I was exposed to a really wide variety. My mother was all about country music. She played a lot of Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline and took me to my first concert ever when I was ten years old, Shania Twain. My dad listened to Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys. It was a cool combination to grow up listening to and really makes sense to what my music is today.
Having that combination, what made you gravitate to country as opposed to R and B?
Country just really made sense to me. I grew up in a small town an hour outside of Vancouver, and country music was part of our culture. So not only did I grow up listening to it, but when I entered talent shows and singing competitions, I always chose country music. I felt right at home performing country songs. There is so much depth and storytelling in country music - and I really love that aspect of it. I’m an emotional singer who just loves to dive into songs like that.
You started singing at a young age, when did you start writing?
I always wrote as a kid, poetry and stuff like that, but I had a fear that I wasn’t very good. When I met my producer when I was 16, he helped me develop my writing and now it is such a huge part of what I do. I learned that you really have to put your ideas on the table because you never know what you could inspire.
You were eighteen years old in 2012 when you signed with RGK Management and Open Road, now two years later you released your first EP. Do you think things have moved fast for you?
Honestly, in most cases, the industry can be so difficult to break into. I am really lucky it went the way it did. I met my Open Road team right after I turned eighteen. We worked really hard over the past few years during a development period so I could focus on writing and recording better songs because I am always striving to be my best.
A big moment for you was the release of your self-titled debut EP earlier this year. Did you have a hand in writing for it?
I’m a writer on a few of the songs, but for me, the best song wins no matter who wrote it. I think it's cool to have that combination of both songs that I have written and outside songs on the EP. For me, when I choose a song to record that I haven’t written it has to be one that really resonates with and moves me. For example, there is a song, “Meant to Last,” that when I first heard it I listened to it eighteen times in a row! It was really clear that that was a poignant song for me. It’s a gut feeling and sometimes you have to go with that.
You were recently nominated for two BCCMAs. Definitely not too shabby of a way to start off a career.
It was such validation! To be recognized when I am such a new artist was a really huge honor. Most of all, I felt very welcomed into the country music community. I felt like they were saying ‘you’re doing good, keep doing what you’re doing.’
Your most recent single is “Alive.” Talk about that song a little bit.
It was a song that I wrote with my producer. We were pretty much finished with the EP when we wrote this song and that changed everything; we had to have it on the EP. “Alive” is really a page out of the book of Madeline. The song is about the things that I need to be reminded of every day: just to take a moment and thank God I’m breathing. There is so much positivity in the song, we hope it hits people the way it hit us.
Is the country scene in Canada different from Nashville?
I do my recording in Nashville and am quite aware of the scene there. There is a bit of a different structure, but the quality of music in both places is the same, just dynamite! In both places though, it is male dominated. There is a big pocket for girls to break through and hopefully it will come full circle and girls will rule again like in the 90's.
What are your professional plans for the remainder of the year?
Well, I will be promoting the EP, then I will continue to work on a full length album for release sometime in the New Year. I have lots of holiday shows, so I have to get my Christmas song chops warmed up.
You said that you are always striving for things in your musical career. Is there one thing you would like to accomplish in 2015?
I try to shoot for really big goals in my life because you never know where life is going to take you. I would love to have a CCMA nomination, such as Rising Star. I would also love to do some big festivals like Boots and Hearts, where lots of people could hear my music.
Finally, I always like to know, is there is one album, any genre, that you cannot stop listening to?
The country people might hate me for saying this, but I am a huge fan of pop music and take inspiration from some of those artists. I am really excited for Taylor Swift’s new album; she is an incredible songwriter. I also really enjoy Sam Smith, who has this whole crazy soul thing going on. It’s like he is from another generation or something, he’s terrific.
Watch the video for "Alive" here
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