You’ve probably never heard of 18-year-old, up-and-coming pop star Madison Ryan, but she makes an immediate impression with her powerful vocals. I got the chance to talk with her about her past as a figure skater, how she got involved in music, her new EP Primary, her love of Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
How old were you when you first stepped into making and performing music?
Music has always been in my life ever since I was a kid, but I didn’t really start getting serious about it until I was thirteen.
Was there something or someone specific who inspired your realization that this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
My dad was always in a lot of bands. He’s a drummer and he always used to write songs and stuff. Before music, I was a competitive figure skater.
For 10 years of my life, that’s what I did. I was always into music. I think what happened [was] I went to an art school for three years of my high school career. I actually went for acting, but I came out of it wanting to do music. I met some people [there] and I just started getting more into singing and I started writing. That’s what made me realize that I really want to do this. It kind of became an outlet [for me so] I could just escape.
If you went to art school for acting, then music must be a very new thing for you.
So how long have you been doing music, like actually focusing on making music? A year? Two years?
More like three, [where I was focusing on it in] a more serious kind of way.
That’s awesome. I think it’s cool that you went from figure skating to acting to music. It’s a unique path.
Yeah. It honestly all kind of goes hand in hand in a weird way. I take what I learned in those things and use it towards music as well.
Do you miss figure skating at all?
Sometimes, especially this past February when the Olympics were on. I was like, “Oh, I kind of miss it.” But it was one of those things… It was 10 years of my life and my coach moved back to England and I started to realize that I really wanted to do music. In figure skating, you kind of get to a point where it’s like, you’re either going to do it or you’re not. And it’s one of those really tricky things where there’s really not much of a career for it unless you’re super good…
And going for the Olympics.
Yeah, exactly. That was my dream at one point, but I just kinda got tired of it. It was just time to close that door and open new ones.
Moving on to your music, you just released your EP, Primary, which I really enjoyed. What is the inspiration behind the name? I know the cover features primary colors, but it has to be more than just that, right?
[laughs] Definitely. It just kind of hit me one day. First of all, I do really like the primary colors. I think they blend well and they look really good together. But the whole inspiration behind “primary” was just the fact that this is my beginning and that’s really what that word means. I always liked that word because it’s pretty bold and it feels strong and that’s the entire vibe that I wanted to capture for this record.
This EP put you on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, which is incredible. What was your reaction to that when you found out?
Well, I originally didn’t think it happened. The Billboard charts come out on a Tuesday, so the Friday before that I got an email saying that I was most likely going to chart. I looked on [that] Tuesday and I didn’t see anything. Then on that Thursday, I was just looking in the wrong place, I guess, so I found my name and I was just over the moon. I couldn’t believe it. That was something that I really, really wanted to achieve and for that to happen was just insane.
Were you aware of the Heatseekers chart before you found out you were going to be on it?
Yeah, I definitely knew about it. What I didn’t know was that the Heatseeker charts [are broken down into sections]. There’s one that’s the whole entire world, there’s some that are more regional, so I didn’t realize those existed. I just was like, “Oh no, where’s my name?”
Yeah. I didn’t realize Heatseekers, in general, existed. That’s awesome.
It’s like a fairly new thing that they started doing. I think it’s super cool because it gives these new artists, and people like myself, an opportunity to have that.
And I think it’s a cool way for people, like me, to go and find new music and new artists.
I’ve had your single, “Paranoid,” on repeat. I think it’s really great.
You’re welcome. What was the inspiration behind that song?
I struggle with anxiety, OCD and depression, and music has been my escape to all of that. It’s really nice to write about those things sometimes and that’s really what that song is about. Those things are an uphill battle every day. But there have been times where I realized I just need to tell myself, “No, it’s okay.” That’s where [the lyric] “you’re only paranoid” comes in. There’s reality and then there’s what you are thinking in your mind. It’s kind of hard to explain, but that’s really what “Paranoid” is about, just the struggles of anxiety and feeling trapped almost.
And that was where the video came in too. We did one take in that mansion, just to catch that vibe of feeling super trapped. It’s this battle with your self almost because you know that you are only paranoid about things that are not real, but there’s times where you just let that go and you freak out a little bit.
I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the writing process for this EP. Are you someone who always has to write by yourself? Do you like collaborating with others?
For this EP, I co-wrote it all with Matt Holmes and Matt Malpass. They are absolutely amazing and we just really worked well together. But before that, I only wrote on my own. I would sit in my room with my guitar and piano and that’s how I would do it. So it was really interesting to co-write, especially five songs because I had never done that before. I almost liked that better because there were times where I was stuck on something and I didn’t know where to go with it and they knew exactly what I was thinking and they’d be able to put it down. So it was super cool just to have that.
For sure. Since we’re talking about being inspired to write songs and the writing process, who are some of your musical influences when it comes to songwriting and the sound you want to create?
I’m pretty much influenced by everything. But some songwriters that I am totally influenced by, and I hope you can maybe hear it in my music… I really love Taylor Swift in terms of songwriting. I think the way she writes is super clever and that’s something I always strive for. Those catchy hooks that she comes up with that’s always what I like to do as well. I like to write choruses; verses always seem to be kind of tricky for me, but choruses I’m fairly okay at… But music wise, I’m a huge Paramore fan. I always wanted to have one foot in each door of [both] pop punk and then straight up pop, to have that kind of variety. So those are probably my two biggest influences for this EP.
Is there a track from the EP that you feel best represents who you are and who you are as an artist?
I would probably say “In Too Deep.” That song has always stuck with me and that was the first one that we did together. I really think if I could pick what my sound was, it would definitely be that song.
Obviously, you just came out with the EP, but musically what can people expect from you for the rest of 2018? Are you going to be playing some shows anytime soon?
Right now I’m really focused on shows. I have Summerfest in Milwaukee coming up. I’m super excited for that one because that’s a huge festival. Some of the headliners are Halsey and Logic.
Yeah, I’m super excited for that. That’s kind of where my mind’s been at, but I’m definitely writing more because I want to keep putting out music.
That’s awesome. I just have a few quick, fun questions left. If you had to pick your dream tourmate, who would it be and why?
It can be band or solo artists, whatever.
Am I allowed to say more than one?
Yeah, go for it.
Okay. I forgot to mention this earlier but I really, really love Panic! at the Disco. I am definitely influenced by that style of music as well, so that would definitely be one. Paramore, obviously… Those are the top two with where I’m at right now.
That’d be a fun tour. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not making music?
When I’m not making music I’m usually binge-watching Netflix shows.
What are you watching right now?
Right now, I’m super into The Vampire Diaries.
That’s been on my list forever. I just need to start it, but I haven’t gotten around to it.
Yeah, I used to watch it with my mom and then I stopped watching it. But all of the seasons are on Netflix now. I need something to watch and I’m super hooked. I also work at Starbucks. So that’s fun.
What is your favorite drink to make for people? Or just your favorite drink in general?
Well, we don’t have it anymore because it’s off-season, but I love everything about the Pumpkin Spice. That’s always fun.
Last question: our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us so what is something that you nerd out over?
Well, I’m also a huge Supernatural fan, like the show, so I guess that’s kind of nerdy in a way [laughs].
No, that’s definitely nerdy. Since it’s been on forever, have you seen every episode? Like all, I don’t even know how many seasons…it’s been, what, 13? Something like that?
It’s still on season 13, and it’s all on Netflix, so that’s another show that I just binge-watch. I’m caught up, so I’ve watched every episode ever.