Madisenxoxo, 22-year-old Portland-based singer-songwriter, released her first EP, Plead No Contest, on November 14. The EP is six songs in length and is primarily indie/alternative/bedroom pop when it comes to genre. This EP has been a long time coming. Madisen has been involved in music for years, so to finally be able to release music has been very exciting. Madisen has been involved in music for the majority of her life, becoming classically trained in piano as she grew up.
With that being said, this is the first project Madisen has had complete control over, with the help of her producer/boyfriend, Josh. Together, they wrote, recorded, and produced the EP. “The past few years have been a whole new experience for me. [Songwriting is] like getting to know a new skill but also the skill requires getting to know yourself a lot. I think I still have a lot of growth to do but for me these songs represent my first experience with writing songs that I actually like the outcome. Most all of the songs were written each in one sitting. I get an idea and then just go for it. Sometimes I’ll come back and add, but I usually try to finish a section just to conceptualize. I want to get better at taking my time with an idea. I feel like the more time and thought I put into something the better it will turn out,” Madisen shares.
After increasingly songwriting more and more throughout quarantine, Madisen began sharing her music more via social media like TikTok and Instagram. Madisen’s listeners urged her to release more music after the particular success of her first single “Baby in Blue,” but Madisen wasn’t ready to release an album quite yet. “I didn’t want to put out a whole album. I just didn’t feel like I was ready yet. But Josh and I had been working on all of these songs over the past 6 months and I wanted people to hear them. I was really proud of them. So we chose the songs we made that we felt were our favorites. There were quite a few that didn’t make the cut that I still love and will probably come back to. But an EP has to be under a certain length or else it’s considered an album, which worked out perfectly because we felt all six of these were really cohesive together,” Madisen explains.
Madisen has gotten inspiration for her music from artists across several genres. Her favorite song, “Easier,” was inspired particularly by Sufjan Stevens. “Originally when I wrote it I was trying to channel Sufjan Stevens, and then we really got inspired by Ethan Gruska‘s production on his own album and Phoebe Bridgers‘. Which is basically an amalgamation of some of my top favorite artists. Even though the song is really sad we found ourselves dancing to it in the studio which I thought was hilarious and amazing. I like the song because sometimes things you write come in and out of relevancy. Right now, it’s feeling super relevant to me personally. And also the understated nature of it makes me want to listen to it over and over. I love the pulse and the chords mixed with the pluck guitar,” Madisen says. Madisen’s other inspirations for this project included Soccer Mommy and Lana Del Rey on the title track, “Plead No Contest.” Clairo and Lizzy McAlpine were inspirations for the song “Anchor,” and you can hear the influence of Lucy Dacus and Taylor Swift on “Lake Monster.”
The EP’s production is definitely impressive as well. Madisen says that Josh’s inspirations include Bon Iver, Aphex Twin, and Flume. Madisen credits help for helping produce the entire EP, but he had particular creative control on “Seven O’ Clock” and “Lake Monster.” “Seven O’ Clock is the more electronic one, [some of this sound was influenced by] Caroline Polachek, she is one of my favorites. I wanted this one to have some of that in it, that’s where Josh came in. Honestly I let him take the lead on the production in this one (meaning I didn’t give a whole lot of suggestions) and the more he did, the more I loved it… I loved mixing that into my more acoustic sound, I thought it ended up sounding very unique.” Madisen explains.
Madisen also says that Josh helped a lot with the production of “Lake Monster,” which she says was the most difficult song for her to make. “The most difficult song to put together was definitely Lake Monster. It took a week to write I think… The song was actually written from my sister’s perspective. This was the first time I had ever written a song from someone else’s perspective and not my own, and I really felt it stood out in my catalogue. But then when we got to recording, it was really a challenge to capture the perfect mood of the song. We wanted it to really build and get intense, but also come down on certain parts. This was hard to pull off. Then we decided we wanted this huge ending, and that has so many tracks on it I can’t even tell you how many. Josh probably knows. It was hard to find the balance between epic and messy. We came back to it so many times, making more and more changes. In the end, I had to stop listening to it just so I could come back with fresh ears and really see if I liked it. Right before we dropped the EP, I honestly was scared, I felt it was the riskiest one because it’s super wordy and more story focused and not strictly structured like a pop song. But then now after it’s out it turned out to be one of my favorites. The risk paid off! For me the song represents a big growth in my songwriting.”
As a listener with no songwriting abilities, let me just be the first to say that Madisen pulled off everything she intended to do with this EP. Every song sounds different to the one that came before, yet the project is completely cohesive. You can hear Madisen’s inspirations in her music, but she has her own unique style at the same time. Check out Madisen’s EP, Plead No Contest, below. It won’t disappoint!