Portland-based up-and-coming singer-songwriter, Madisenxoxo, took TikTok by storm this past spring when the video of her recording vocal harmonies for her song, “Baby in Blue,” reached over 1 million views. Six months later, and now Madisen has three singles out: “Baby in Blue,” “19,” and “Plead No Contest,” which came out on November 1. With the release of the new single, Madisen also announced that she would be dropping an EP of the same title, “Plead No Contest,” on November 14. Listen to “Plead No Contest” below:
Madisen’s music can be described as alternative/indie; she has previously named musical inspirations as Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, Joni Mitchell, and Amy Winehouse. But, Madisen’s inspiration for her EP title actually came from the legal jargon, and her songwriting inspiration came from her own emotions. “The inspiration for Plead No Contest was kind of an interesting story. Basically, we’ve been working on this EP for months and we knew we (Madisen and her boyfriend, Josh, who co-produces) were getting close to the end. We were trying to brainstorm names for the EP, trying to base it on what we felt like all of the songs had in common. “Plead No Contest” came to mind for several reasons. It’s a legal term [that] means accepting the charges, but not pleading guilty. A lot of the songs on the album are pretty confrontational, they are things I want to say to certain people but never knew how or felt too afraid. The songs felt like confessions, confrontations, describing bitter or unresolved feelings, sort of processing events that have already happened,” Madisen shares.
Madisen wrote the songs in isolation, while dealing with the consequences of her parents’ separation, the pandemic, and dealing with her emotions.
“Over the past year… I was reeling from the hurt and fear of these things happening, and yet there was nothing I could do. It wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t admitting to guilt for any of it, yet here I was, dealing with the consequences and the desperate want for things to just get better. Stuck at home, stuck between two opposing sides of my family, and the only way I could process it was by myself, just trying to sort through the aftermath.”-Madisenxoxo
Once Madisen and Josh had the name for the EP, she admits it felt weird to her that there wasn’t a song on it with that same name, “So I wrote [the song] “Plead No Contest” all in one sitting. It really felt like the bookend to all of those emotions, and in a way I felt like I was leaving a lot of those feelings behind. I no longer felt sorry for myself, but at the time I needed to just express those feelings of hurt in order to move on. It was weird because we finished the production for the song so fast, it felt like it all just came together so perfectly and it was so much fun to make.”
Madisen credits TikTok for some of the attention her music has gotten, “To say TikTok has been huge for me is kind of an understatement. I am really grateful for the platform and the way it’s designed. I really do think that that first viral TikTok of me recording the background vocals for “Baby In Blue” did start it all. I hadn’t even released the song, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to release it at that point, I was just recording it for fun, and when the TikTok went viral I was like, ‘oh my God people actually want to hear more of this!!'” Madisen explains. She had been posting covers on Instagram and YouTube, but she wasn’t used to videos going viral to that capacity. “When I put out the song, people actually listened and followed me and wanted more which was seriously amazing.”
When it comes to inspiration for TikToks, Madisen thanks Josh for helping her come up with ideas. “My boyfriend Josh who also produces all of my music, he helps me come up with a lot of ideas for TikTok. It was his initial idea for the background vocal video that went viral. Sometimes it’s hard for me to think of ideas because I’m sort of a perfectionist and assume no one will think what I’m doing is that cool, plus when you’re working on something you’re so into it that you sort of become numb to whether or not it’s actually good if that makes sense. He’s always been so great at encouraging me to share things and comes up with ideas that I never would’ve thought of!” But, Madisen also believes that a good video can sometimes be trial and error. “Sometimes certain types of videos do better than others, so it’s sort of a mix of trying new ideas while mixing in videos that you are more confident people will like. But trying new ideas is always important because you never know what could take off!”
According to Madisen, if you’re an up-and-coming artist, TikTok is your best friend. “If you’re a new musician or someone trying to make it in music and you’re not on TikTok… what are you doing?! LOL. But really, TikTok is probably the easiest platform to go viral [on] because of the structure of it, the For You Page, the algorithm doesn’t just favor those who already have a ton of followers, and it’s easier to get followers on TikTok too, I’ve found.” Madisen thinks that TikTok is the easiest place to start when it comes to social media. “Once people follow you on TikTok, then they’re probably going to look you up on other platforms as well which is awesome. It’s just a really easy great way to reach people that otherwise never would’ve seen you or heard of you. If you’re not on TikTok, DO IT!”
As for the “Plead No Contest” EP, Madisen shared some secrets about what listeners can expect. “The EP is six songs, including the single/title track. You can expect it to be raw and emotional, with lots more harmonies and a variety of different sounds. Some are more produced, some are more acoustic. I really enjoyed trading out the electric guitar for the acoustic on a lot of these tracks. It’s how I usually write, so it felt so natural and authentic for me. I feel like these songs represent such a specific time in my life, and I hope that people will be able to relate to those thoughts and feelings throughout.”
Madisen also reflected on her future once the EP has been released. She says that in a non-pandemic world, she would love to be performing her music live. “For me if there was no pandemic, I would really love to play my songs live, even just locally around Portland. Since I started really seriously recording and putting out music, I haven’t really gotten as much experience playing my original songs live as I would like to, and I can’t WAIT for this all to be over so I can get that chance. The amount of confidence I have gained since “Baby in Blue” is huge and I want to take that confidence to the stage. I have never felt more supported in my music as I do right now.”
Madisen is extremely thankful for her listeners, she has almost 60,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. “Just knowing that people are excited to hear what’s next and all of the supportive DM’s is so incredibly touching and it all seems too good to be true. I have such a passion for music and to know that people enjoy it is just the greatest gift. I would love to be able to meet people in person and play live, that sounds like the best experience of my entire life honestly.” In the meantime, Madisen says fans can expect live streams on Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube so she can play some music and talk about her songwriting. “I’d like to do more live streams now that those songs are done and I can have more time. I’d also like to do some live performances for YouTube.”
Madisen has a clear vision for herself and for her music. Her songwriting skills are very impressive and her music has a distinct sound. If you’re a fan of alternative female vocalists like Phoebe Bridgers or Lana Del Rey and you haven’t yet listened to Madisenxoxo, you are seriously missing out.
Check out Madisen’s music below, and make sure to follow her on social media to keep up with her music releases and live streams.