NewTracks New Artist: Madeleine Howard

NewTracks New Artist: Madeleine Howard

Following up on a stunning acoustic rendition of Ladyhawke‘s My Delirium, Christchurch-based songwriter Madeleine Howard has arrived with her original debut, a single that balances fierce energy and vulnerability. Remarkably for a first-off release No More earned a place among the great songs featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this May!

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play (if any)?

I’m Madeleine Howard, originally from Napier in Hawkes Bay. I sing and play guitar.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I started having singing lessons in year 10. The lessons weren’t super formal, it was more about getting my confidence up, I was so terrified of singing in front of other people before I had those lessons. It wasn’t until I went to university (Otago) that I had proper training and learnt how to use my voice properly and safely. Being around like minded vocalists/ musicians in that environment was so inspiring, and intimidating at the same time. There was a lot of talent. But I thrived off of it in the end, I wouldn’t have written half of my songs if I hadn’t lived in Dunedin.

What’s the background to your solo work? Is anyone else closely involved?

I’ve always sung, but didn’t start taking it seriously until I did music at high school. I started writing when I was 16. It wasn’t until my last year at school that I decided I wanted to study music at university and gain a bit of life experience before throwing myself into the music industry – something I knew nothing about at that stage. I studied at Otago uni for four years, I graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Contemporary Performance and a Post Graduate Diploma. I wrote a whole lot of music and learnt a lot about myself, grew up, and all that cheesy stuff.

I moved to Christchurch where my parents had relocated, at the end of 2017. I worked full time for a bit in retail and wasn’t doing anything with music at all. I’d lost a lot of confidence and just didn’t think I was very good at it anymore. It was in 2018 that I met Sacha Vee through SOLE Music Academy. She got the ball rolling for me and inspired me to start again. She gave me a sense of direction in where I wanted to go with my music. In 2019 I met Will McGillivray through songwriting sessions that SOLE holds every week. I had been impressed by the work that he had done for local duo Nat & Jono as well as his own band Nomad and knew I wanted to work with him at some stage. I was lucky enough to get to record this EP with him. I’m so pleased with the end result – he captured what I wanted for each track so perfectly. I’m very grateful.

How has your songwriting evolved from its beginnings to now?

I used to write about pretty generic topics, things that didn’t relate to me personally. It wasn’t until I started being honest with myself and drawing from personal experiences that the songs started getting better. It’s quite a process, it’s like writing in a diary I guess. It can be pretty scary sharing all that information with other people, but it’s so rewarding when people connect to what you’re saying.

Why did you choose to stick with your real name?

I thought about calling myself something cool and mysterious, but that doesn’t really suit the music. The music is just me and my stories, it didn’t need a fancy name to go with it.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

I’m just starting out! But so far being picked for this month’s NewTracks by NZ On Air. I couldn’t believe it! I had resigned myself to the fact that the track might not get picked this time, as it was our first time applying for anything like this. But it did! I burst into tears when I got the email from Sacha telling me the news.

What makes No More stand out for you as a single?

It’s powerful, it’s fierce. It’s something that a lot of people can relate to. I feel like it draws you in straight away.

What is the story behind No More?

I wrote it back in 2014, in my teeny tiny bedroom in a cold flat in Dunedin (classic) I was 19. I had basically been ghosted by this guy, and it was really the first time anything like that had ever happened to me. I was pretty naive. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I wrote No More. It basically says, “you really hurt me, so I’m never going to let anyone hurt me again.” If only it were that simple!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The chorus, hands down. It’s catchy and makes me want to get up and dance! Hopefully it makes other people want to do the same.

Who did you write/produce the single with and where?

As part of my degree we were put into bands with the other students in the course. Once I’d finished writing the song, I showed it to my band and we added it to our set for our end of year performance. My guitarist at the time, Vincent Criglington, added this super cool riff to the chorus. I’ve never forgotten it, and the song just didn’t feel right without it, so it had to be in the final recording. Five years later I recorded it with Will, in his home studio here in Christchurch.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Boys are dumb… but sometimes dancing to your favourite sad music in your bedroom is the best way to deal with it! A glass of wine in hand always helps too.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

We chose No More as the first single because we felt like it grabs your attention straight away. The chorus is memorable and packs a punch. I think a strong chorus is always a good sign of a good single.

Who else is in your team?

SOLE Music Academy. Sacha Vee and her team are doing incredible things for artists here in Christchurch. I’m so lucky to have had her guidance. I wouldn’t have had a clue how to do any of this without her.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

I’m planning on releasing two more singles in the coming months and my debut EP, ‘Just Reaching Out’, later this year.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

PsychosocialBrooke Fraser
My Delirium – Ladyhawke

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Not so much, I just like browsing Spotify for artists that are similar to the ones I like. I’m always eyeing up local playlists and listening to new NZ artists. Most of my favourite music is by Kiwi musicians. Currently I’m obsessing over Georgia Lines. Such a beautiful voice, I have her track Vacant Cities on repeat at the moment.

Any last words?

I hope you love No More as much as I do! I hope it connects with you in some way, or that you at least think that it’s a banger and play it at your next party. (When we’re not in lock down of course… stay home!)


New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, New Tracks is one of the ways that New Zealand on Air promotes kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.

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