NewTracks New Artist: Madeline

NewTracks New Artist: Madeline

Now London-based, former resident of Sumner, the beach and sea plays large in Madeline Berry‘s life and is the focus of the frolicking video for her new single Still That Girl. The song itself is a kind of open letter to a former love that dwells not on the negative but rather on the fun times shared, working to remind listeners of happy times in their own romantic past. It’s featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this June. 

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Madeline Berry, but you can call me Madeline. I go by the pronouns she/her and I am a vocalist with basic guitar and piano skills that I use to write.

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

I went to Marian College in Ōtautahi, Christchurch. My music teacher Ms Woods was extremely supportive and was a huge influence on me, along with my vocal coach and absolute idol, Naomi Ferguson. Even now, I think about them and what they would think when I write or perform.

I also attended jazz school in Tāmaki Makaurau where I met Jessie Booth and we started our band She Loves You. She and the women in that band (Katie Baya and Cassandra King), are the most important thing to ever have come out of my musical education. They are my safe space, my happy place and my rock. I couldn’t do what I do now without them.

Any other projects that we might we know you from?

As above, I was a founding member of Auckland-based all girl rock band She Loves You, which was my first musical project that I really took further, and I’m still so proud of it.

What’s the background story of how your own project came to be?

This solo project for me as Madeline came so naturally. It wasn’t even really a conscious decision, it just found me at the right time. During and after Covid, there wasn’t much going on musically and I needed an outlet. If I’m not writing or performing, then I honestly don’t function, and I had all these songs sitting there waiting to be completed. I moved back to my parents place in Sumner in 2021, got the recording gear and just sat down and it all fell out. I’ve not looked back since.

What made you decide to stick with your name as your artist name?

This is very leo of me, but I love my name. I feel like my parents did a perfect job. I’m such a Madeline! I also loved the ‘Madeline’ books growing up and I wanted to pay homage to that childhood love.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

Nowadays, it’s so comfortable. I think I’ve finally started to accept that I’m actually quite good at this. And I know that sounds silly, but I think it’s such a Kiwi thing to down-play our strengths when we need to build ourselves up. Along with this, lot of confidence comes from just knowing myself more and being strong in what I want to say. So I guess that’s all to say that my process is very much the same; but my attitude and approach to it, has made creating so much easier.

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

Oooh making #8 on the NZ Top 40 for my first single Consume was a huge pinch me moment for sure. That and playing Powerstation with She Loves You. I think about that night all the time.

What makes Still That Girl stand out for you as a single?

That’s a really good question. It’s the most heartfelt thing I’ve ever written, and I think it stands out because of that. I love the music and the production behind it too, but whenever I hear it, I’m transported back to that time and place and person in the best way. You can hear just how authentically grateful I am for them and that time we had together. Hearing how it has evoked similar reactions in others when they reflect it against their own lives has been a privilege. I’m just happy it’s making people happy.

What is the story behind the song?

Still That Girl is inspired by a past relationship with a lot of history, distance and expectation. It reflects on what it’s like to have to dance on the line between the idealism of being in a long distance relationship and real-life. I’m so grateful for that time, and this person is still very special to and in my life. However, when anything ends, and you look back, there’s always part of you that wants to ask “do you still remember me the way I was with you?” or “do you still think of me at all?.” That’s what really inspired the overall concept of the song. I was also very heavily inspired by the house music scene in Australia because that’s where I was living with this person. I wanted it to sound like them if they were a piece of music. I think that we managed to achieve that.

Who did you record the single with and where? 

I made wrote and recorded this song in Wellington with Jonny Avery. Honestly, every day was fun. Working with him has been one of the best things on my journey so far. One of the moments I loved most was us laying down the first draft for Still That Girl and then heading out in a potential cyclone to get vegan doughnuts. It was so windy and even the GPS in the car was like, ‘Turn Back, Cyclone Warning’! But we didn’t die and the doughnuts were sooo worth it!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of Still That Girl?

For me, it’s absolutely the lyrics in the bridge. That takes me right back to the moment it was inspired by. The words themselves are taken directly from a poem I actually wrote on the day that inspired them. They were some of the first words I had when it came to writing in studio, and I was determined to get them in there. There was a moment where Jonny wasn’t sure if they would fit, and I basically like “it’s happening, or this song isn’t how it should be.” I think we managed to not only to get them in there, but fit them in so that they actually lift the song. As creatives, we always need to stick up for the ideas we believe in, and that’s a perfect example.

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

I want listeners to feel uplifted after listening to this song. I hope it makes them feel nostalgic for a special time in their lives, but grateful for where they are at the moment. You know those moments you get in life (hopefully more than once), where you look around you, and you’re like “wow this is truly freedom?” That’s what I want them to feel when they hear Still That Girl. That’s what I was feeling in every moment of living out the moments that inspired it. And it’s how I felt when I wrote it.

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

Honestly, I think if it’s authentic to you, then people will feel it. Obviously, having a good hook or two is pretty vital, but overall, all the singles I’ve ever loved feel like they come from a place that’s very true to the artist.

Who else is in your team? 

I have an amazing team of people around me including my music/production team Jonny Avery and Jake Stokes who I write and record with. Working with both of them has been so seamless and a real privilege. I also have my little team that we like to call Made In Haus. It’s a collection of women in my life that all have creative business endeavours and we use Madeline as the vessel to try make those dreams happen. These women are my manager Julia Morris (you may know her as Jupita), my social media consultant/London housemate Megan Flynn, and my graphic designer/ bestie Grace Naylor. I’ve always been very much about women supporting woman and if this project can be a small way of doing that, I’ve achieved a huge personal goal.

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

I am releasing so much music over the next 12 months, and I’m so excited about every single song and where the sound is going. Jonny and I are also collaborating a little on a house track, as that’s a love we both share. I’m hoping that’s something we can work on more in future around the Madeline sessions.

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

  • Siobhan SainteDidn’t Lie
  • Night WavesLike Deja Vu
  • The ButlersBabe I Miss You

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I have applied so many times and honestly my advice is to just keep going no matter what. Release everything you have however you can, and the growth and recognition will come. Rejections are just lessons.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? Which was it and how did you work it out in the end?

I definitely struggled with the monthly listeners but I hadn’t released anything in a long time. So again; just put out your art. The audience is there for it.

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

I’m a huge fan of Zane Lowe’s Apple Music interviews. I love how in-depth he goes into the artist’s process, and also into what makes a song fly. I always walk away from watching those so inspired, and I end up just furiously writing.

Who did you make the video with?

I made this video with Victoria Ellison back in March 2022. She also took all the stills for this release and the upcoming ones too. It was such a perfect day.

Any last words?

Do what you love in whatever way you want to do it. Don’t let anyone make you question whether you’re doing it right or make you feel like you’re being judged. If it feels authentic to you, chase it and see it through.