Madison Cunningham

Seasoned folk singer shares stories of her Grammy-nominated single, Life According to Raechel. Madison Cunningham has been steadily rising in success within the folk scene since her first release, Authenticity, in 2014.

With some changes to her image and sound, Madison has seen critical and commercial success through genre-blending music and

soulful, relatable lyricism. Her latest single up Life According to Raechel is nominated for a Grammy this year. A mellow yet moving song discussing the emotions that follow the loss of a loved one, the song resonated with listeners around the world and brought new fans to Cunningham’s music.

In conversation with 1883 magazine, Madison discusses the intricacies of her sound and how it has changed over the years.


Hey Madison! You’re nominated for two Grammy awards this year; Best Folk Album with Revealer and Best American Roots Performance with Life According to Raechel. This is massive; how are you feeling!

Yeah, I mean it was a total surprise as it remains to be, it was a fun day and I hope it will be fun.


Life According to Raechel – I love that song; and you’ve got a lot of great reception from people relating and going through grief. What inspired you to write that song in particular?

It was topical; a song about my grandmother that had passed in 2020. I think because I’ve never lost a loved one before that grief provides a lot of clarity, in that the song was able to form under those circumstances. I didn’t know I was going to experience a lot of guilt.


Guilt from where?

Guilt from feeling like if I had longer I would’ve spent more time with her, remembering text messages I didn’t respond to, that kind of thing. What I realise is, whether you live until you’re 20, or 50, or 70 it’s never enough time to do and say all the things you want.


Do you find it therapeutic to talk about these things through song?

I suppose it is. It didn’t feel like it as it was happening and I was also very worried about getting the song right that would be dedicated to her, you know? I think it was a real outpouring of my honest feelings.


With your first release eight years ago, how do you think you’ve grown within your success and learnt with time? Big question, I know!

Probably so many things I haven’t articulated for myself yet. Probably I’ve grown in confidence, I know my own voice more, I know how to stand up for the things that I want. I’ve come to an understanding of what I love and what I don’t, and at 17 years old I didn’t know. I just wanted to be good.


You had a fairly religious upbringing and released an album in 2014 with religious themes. But from my understanding you’ve moved away from it a bit or had some new feelings about it; are you still influenced by the music you used to make and Christian music?

I’m really proud of that record. Musically it was a very unencumbered time and I wasn’t afraid of putting in too many chords; it was a little bit ambitious for the time so I’m proud of it in that way. You know, lyrically I felt like I was really young and that was a part of the reason why I took it down. I’ve moved away from writing from a religious perspective in terms of how I used to. I haven’t detached myself from that umbilical cord but just as a songwriter I feel like I’ve found a different way.


Does it still influence your current music?

I don’t know if thats where I take from, but whatever it is that you’re wrestling with or working through, that shapes your worldview, so I guess in that way that’s where some of that influence comes from.


I’ve been listening to your EP Wednesday a lot. You’ve got covers from some music legends like Radiohead, John Mayer and The Beatles – you obviously have a massive scope of music that you like. Given the chance, who would you like to collaborate with?

I mean honestly, any one of them. The Beatles are a little bit different now. If Paul McCartney called me I would not turn it away! That EP was just some of my favourite songs ever, so any one of those artists I’d love to collaborate with, for real.


I can really see your influence from Radiohead, in your chords, melodies…

Yeah. I mean when I heard Radiohead for the first time it spoke to all the things that I loved, it was just on a completely different level to anything I’d heard. There’s a darkness in it and a melancholy that I really, really relate to.


You’ve got a sold-out show tonight at Rough Trade! How are you feeling?

I’m excited! I didn’t know it was sold out, thats awesome.


Yeah! Well there you go! How has touring the UK and Europe been? Is it a culture shock?

You know, not as much as you’d think, or as Americans would think. I grew up coming to England almost every summer with my family. My best friends lived here so we would always travel and hang out, so I’m pretty familiar with the culture but I don’t feel like there’s massive differences between us. I even feel that way in Europe. Humanity’s humanity and if anything I feel like it’s better than America!


What can we expect next from you?

Just a lot more music, I’m gonna start writing early in the new year, probably playing shows here and there but for the most part writing.


Which three songs would be the soundtrack to your perfect day?

Chilli Gonzales Solo Piano – Manifesto

Björk – Bachelorette

Grizzly Bear – Southern Point


Revealer is out now, follow Madison via @madicunningham


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