We chat with London-based singer-songwriter Madeleine about life as a musician, supporting Arlo Parks, and her debut EP 'Colour Me'.
Amidst powerfully clear vocal flourishes, Madeleine’s dreamy keyboard riffs roll effortlessly and fade into an echoey glow. Her elegantly layered neo-soul sonic delights - at once rhythmic and chilled - are bursting with originality and evoke the energy of the contemporary UK jazz scene. Madeleine has already supported a number of household names including Arlo Parks and Poppy Ajudha, and her debut EP “Colour me” enriches a framework of jazz instrumentation with captivating keys and elegant charm and grove.
Now a decisive force in the vibrant London scene, Madeleine built a strong foundation for her music through years of practice at Brit School and Goldsmiths University, live gigs and jams at venues across the capital. Madeleine’s reference points are in equal parts eclectic and contemporary, paying respect to artists like Lianne La Havas and Flying Lotus.
Read on below for our interview with Madeleine...
How are you feeling and what are you up to these days?
It's definitely been a mad couple years and it’s amazing really when you think about how much we’ve all had to adapt to everything. We honestly don’t give ourselves enough credit most of the time. These days I’ve been lucky enough to be back gigging and touring with Arlo Parks, which has been super fun. We were on tour on and off from August last year, and I’m currently back in London which has been beautiful; seeing my people and producing new music before we fly off again in February.
Tell us about 'Colour Me' and how it emerged?
My debut EP came into fruition when I was overcoming some of the most intense emotional hurdles I’ve had to face, and in essence ‘Colour Me’ draws upon the healing process, and the idea of finding the colours even in the darkest moments. After I made the single I kind of had this epiphany that I needed to make an EP to encompass it. After a few months, I basically had the core of the project finished...
How do your songs usually evolve, and do you have a particular process in terms of songwriting?
All the tracks on the EP evolved in a different way, which is cool. We’d had a jam a couple months previous and I’d recorded this heavenly library of textures and different feels that we’d played together, and I just found this particular moment in the project and turned it into a drum loop. From there, I started jamming over it on the keys and found the chord progression that really stuck. I loved it so much and just started recording everything in and layering sounds, in my bedroom, like the bass which I played in on synth (it’s actually an organ sound that I messed with). I often find vocals take the longest in the writing process, cause I never want to rush the lyrics which I feel are at the forefront of the music. I really love the fluidity in writing, but I’d probably say my favourite way of coming up with ideas is jamming over drums and starting from there.
Coming from a family of musicians, did you feel any pressure to get into music?
I feel pretty blessed to have grown up in a household of musicians and I sometimes forget this isn’t the norm. There definitely was a point when I was younger when I lost interest in music, like one year of secondary school, but when I came back to it I realised how much I was in love with it. I think having that break made me come full circle in a way, and I was just so enveloped in this musical world that to remove myself would have gone against my nature. I listened to a lot of jazz/soul/fusion genres growing up, which really opened my ears to harmony and textural rhythms which I often aspire to create now. Artists like Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald (the list goes on), are kinda at the heart of my influences.
Both my parents are music teachers too, so there definitely was an element of trying to teach me a lot as I grew up. My father (Dave Jones) was always introducing me to really interesting modal chord progressions, which at the age of 7 didn’t go down too well, but I’m only thankful for now. I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without his guidance and support, and being encouraged to pursue something creative is something I don’t take for granted. John Jones, my brother who features on bass on Lost To U, also follows it as a career, so I think it just shows the influence our parents had on us. Also, I can’t even comprehend the influence my mother (Meredith White) has had on me; seeing her performing and leading ensembles really gave me the courage to pursue music as a female musician in a predominantly male industry.
Do you consider yourself spiritual? is there a connection to the universal in your work?
I think there’s definitely something spiritual going on, although I’m not religious. I can’t really pinpoint it, but to be a musician I think you have to be spiritual in a way. Even when you jam with other musicians I feel you connect in a way that I can’t even describe, it’s so instinctive. It’s a feeling I don’t really get with anything else. It kinda comes from somewhere within and I’ve always found music is a form of therapy for me, especially when writing and drawing upon moments you’ve experienced lyrically, or just jamming and having this kind of emotional release. Also, I really love drawing upon nature in my lyrics, as this feels like a big part of living, and that seems spiritual in a sense too.
What would you tell yourself five years ago?
Keep going. It’s f****** hard out there, especially with social media forcing you into this comparative mindset, but you have to remind yourself that everyone is sharing their absolute best, edited self. I remember when I started meeting musicians who I really admired and looked up to, and I had this moment when I realised that we’re literally all people. We’re all human, we’re all the same, and social media is not a realistic depiction of anyone. I think once you kind of realise that, it helps. Like Erykah Badu makes breakfast and sits at her laptop making beats in her bedroom just like me?? As well as that, the most useful advice I could ever give is go to jams, meet people playing the music you’re into and network, cause that’s so crucial to moving you and your art forward. Not only that, but you can learn so much from watching and listening to other people; that’s something that really pushes me to do better. And take risks. Nobody really knows what they’re doing. If I was to talk to myself five years ago, I’d say all of this. But sometimes it’s so important to actually think about how far you’ve come, even just mentally, and that can be really humbling. I don’t think I ever thought I’d go on tour and I was never happy with any of my music I made, cause I always knew I could do better, so to release my EP ‘Colour Me’ is such an achievement for me. So yeah, I’m feeling excited about the coming year! But most importantly, I wanna say, take care of yourselves and each other. And give love, because we all need that right now.
Be sure to follow Madeleine on the following platforms:
- PSYCHIC GARDEN