Stevi Madison | From Cover Bands to Keith Urban
The Power & Perseverance of a Country Pop Artist
“I’d love to be like a gypsy, free to travel and sing anywhere and everywhere.” —Stevi Madison
Everything about country singer Stevi Madison screams “I’m going to make this happen no matter what.” I’ve always had a particular interest in artists at the beginning stages of their launch into full-time artistry. What does it take to sing in front of 15, 000 people alongside Keith Urban? What’s the feeling that keeps you going? What are the sacrifices? The moment I saw her, I thought ‘here’s a stunning young woman covered in maple.’ Her hair and eyes are maple colored with tickles of honey. She’s very well put together, all-American looking. It’s the vulnerable tone and content of her songs and her burning desire to be nothing but a songstress that, to me, have the essence of a traveling, musical gypsy. She’s poised, kind, straightforward and consistently places herself on stages, in competitions and on the media’s radar. She has plucked everything from her life that weighed down the plight of her dreams. Stevi Madison speaks candidly and inspirationally about her drive and desire to sing and be heard by many.
Q: What was it like singing with Keith Urban?
Stevi Madison: Well, there were roughly about 15k people in the Irvine amphitheater. The seating starts low, and I looked all the way up and it was like this huge wall of people. I’ve never seen so many people looking back at me. The sound check was the most intimidating. I play in a cover band, and I’ve done lots of festivals. I know a lot of people who have done well in the industry, but when you’re the one performing, and you want to impress everyone it’s quite scary. Fortunately, I was able to meet Keith at the soundcheck. I heard that sometimes you don’t meet until you’re actually on stage during the performance. Luckily it didn’t go that way for me. Before I went on I had all of these nerves running through me, but I thought ‘I’m going to do the absolute best I can!’ And I did. After the show I had so many people texting me, saying they saw me and giving me so much love. They said that I didn’t look like a contestant – that I looked like a real pro. It felt SO good.
Q: How did you end up on stage performing with him?
SM: I’ll try to make a long story short here, I had gone through another competition more recently and didn’t win in that one. After almost ten years of pursuing music and not feeling like this could work out, I received an email through our local country station, Go Country 105. Keith Urban was looking for someone to sing “We Were Us” at his concert in Irvine. I had to hold off immediately whipping out my phone and just singing into it (laughs). I had already planned to get together with my guitarist friend Billy that Wednesday to record some original songs. I asked him how quickly he could learn Keith and Miranda’s hit so I could send in a video by the 5pm deadline the next day. We got it recorded that Wednesday afternoon; I sent it in and luckily got a response within an hour. Their live nation rep was impressed and invited me to the concert regardless, but he would have to clear my video through Keith’s management before he could tell me if I would be the winner. That Thursday afternoon, I got an email on my phone, which took what felt like FOREVER to load, and then I saw it: CONGRATULATIONS at the top of the email. I couldn’t even control what I was text messaging to my girlfriend Monica (it read “IM SINGING WOYH KEITH IRBAN”)…. How funny is that?
Q: Do you want to do any vocal reality TV competition shows?
SM: I tried out for American Idol around ’06-’07. But after the huge cattle calls in front of the network people, I felt like that’s not the way I want to go. I saw Gwen Stefani recently. She’s such an inspiration to me ever since I was little. She’s the original OC girl who worked her way up through the old school way of doing it.
Q: Why Country?
SM: I started doing pop originally and had so many people tell me that I have a country flavor to my voice. I think it’s because my parents are from the south, and they’re very southern and I’ve grown up in that environment. But it wasn’t til the past few years where country has gone more pop, with Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldeen, etc. that I was drawn to it. They’re still country, but they have so many pop influences and I’ve been drawn to that. Plus, I enjoy the song writing and storytelling aspect of Country.
Q: When did you start singing and when did you know that it was something that you wanted to do?
SM: Ever since I was little. I grew up doing musical theatre. Around the age of 18, I sat down to do my first writing session, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain—a compulsion. When you go to school and get a job, there’s often some set plan. Being an artist, it’s hard to gauge where you’ll end up. But it’s not about the money. It’s about living your life and doing what you love. That’s what fulfills me.
Q: I read that you were disenchanted for a bit and took a break from singing.
SM: I think it happens a lot when you have that safety net there, that job when you know you can make a living. I’m bartending now, and it’s flexible. But when I was living in Nashville for a year and a half, I made the decision to buy a house. I put myself in a position where I had to work all the time to make sure I could make the payments and take care of the house; this took me out of music. It was hard to be so far from my family too. I think there’s something cool about renting a room and not having too many things going on and just dedicating yourself to your art. So I sold the house and now I’m back in the OC, living with my parents. I so appreciate their support. But I always knew I’d go back to singing. So when I did get back here [OC] I knew that I could rely on my family for certain things and not be so concerned about working every day and making a living. It’s giving me a chance to get back into music and stop thinking about being that adult where I have to make a living. I’m 28, so it’s scary not having that backup. I have a lot of skills in finding a good job, but I want to do singing. So it’s nice to be able just to focus on it. I make enough to support myself, but I’ve taken off other financial burdens, and it’s nice to have that freedom.
Q: What’s on your mind when you sit down to write music?
SM: I think that the inspiration comes from a lot of different places—like from a random thought or a word that someone says. I wrote a song called “The Chase” about my ex-boyfriend because I felt at the time that whenever he had me, he didn’t appreciate me like he did when he didn’t have me. So I wrote “The Chase’ in Nashville about that whole experience. And just recently I met an awesome guy. I felt that I could finallly move on from my ex. So I got together with a writer and wrote “Easy” because we both were having great feelings about relationship and how easy it could be.
Q: How do you think your art has evolved over time?
SM: I was always reserved growing up. I was social but kept my singing to myself because I was afraid to share it. Even in the last year my stage presence and vocal ability have grown. I’ve been getting more and more comfortable with different aspects that I never thought I could do. And I think I’ve learned a lot from criticism. Everyone has something to say, but at the end of the day it’s about what you want. I have a friend that I was driving up to a gig with, and he told me that he had recorded a George Strait song. His friend told him to change so many things about the song, but little did that friend know that the song had already gone #1 —a perfect example.
Q: What is it that you want your career to look like five years from now?
SM: I want to be touring. I want to record an album that I really believe in. It’s been hard to find a producer that’s on the same page. I think it might help just knowing the right people. Hopefully, Keith Urban will invite me back on stage one day (she says with a big smile and giggle).
I just think that this door that’s opened now for me will lead to other great things. I’m headed to Nashville to meet with a label, possible management and a publishing company. I don’t want to be overly optomistic. But I feel like there will be some good forward movement and even just to be able to get their guidance and critiques and to have that line of communication opened as I grow and move forward. As artists, we have to move forward. Receive all the encouragement we can, give all the encouragement we can and move forward.
For more information: www.stevimadison.com