Heartbreak, finding yourself, and finding love – these are the things that singer-songwriter Madison Hughes makes music about.
“A lot of what I talk about in my songs definitely comes from true experience,” Hughes tells Evie Magazine. “I’ve been kind of a late bloomer, and I’m also an old soul, so that shines through in my songs. Topics of finding love, how do you go about that in today’s modern dating, and finding yourself.”
A country artist who doesn’t want to be confined to just one genre, Hughes wowed the celebrity coaches with her blind audition for Season 22 of The Voice. She covered Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and had Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, and Camila Cabello begging her to join their teams of vocalists. Ultimately, Hughes chose country legend Shelton.
Hughes, 27, just released a cover of Morgan Wallen’s “I Deserve a Drink” that went viral on TikTok. While covers are a great way to attract new fans, Hughes has new original music on the horizon, she tells Evie Magazine. She has already released several original singles, including “You or the Whiskey,” which has nearly 150,000 streams on Spotify. Meanwhile, she’s also honing her skills as a performer – including singing the National Anthem at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home opener in September (Hughes is a native of nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.).
“I just want to be able to take it to the next level as Madison Hughes, the artist, not Madison Hughes, The Voice singer,” she says.
I caught up with the singer about her musical influences, making it in Nashville, and more in an Evie Magazine exclusive interview.
Evie Solheim: What projects are you working on right now?
Madison Hughes: Up until this point, I’ve done everything super DIY and independent, and I’ve only just now started to collaborate with producers. Honestly, I’m trying to figure that out, whether that’s an EP or an album. I have enough songs where I could do both of those, so it’s just a matter of thinking in a business mindset. Is the audience ready for that big of a step? Is it just going to get lost on Spotify?
I have the songs, but it’s just a matter of do I release them as singles or couple them as an EP or album? I’ve been exploring different sounds with my music, so that’s another thing to consider. Are some of the songs not going to be country enough? That’s something I’ve got to do some soul-searching on. But I’ve been known to be very versatile in my sound and my taste, so it’s very hard for me to narrow down like I’m told to.
ES: You’ve already put out Renditions, a cover album with songs like “Shake the Frost” and “Vienna.”
MH: After The Voice in the fall of last year, I wanted to capitalize on the new fans I had. Since I didn’t have originals at the time, I sat in my room and recorded nine songs – my favorite covers – and self-produced them and uploaded them on my own. That’s been the journey. I do a lot in my room, so people can be inspired by that too. It’s not like you need a whole bunch of funding. You can learn how to do it on your own.
ES: What is your favorite compliment you’ve ever gotten about your voice or your music?
MH: That’s a great question. I need to scroll through the TikTok comments because there are so many good, thoughtful comments. One person said, “Oh, your voice, it just sounds like home,” or “Your velvety, smoky texture, it reminds me of Stevie Nicks or Mazzy Star.” That’s just such a compliment. And how they call it a classic, timeless sound, which is definitely the goal. People think I’m a 50-year-old woman sometimes because I have that mature sound.
ES: What is the biggest lesson you learned during your time on The Voice?
MH: You’ve got to build your own self-confidence. You can’t solely rely on external validation. Some of the best talent might not take a shot on themselves because they didn’t have an external “chair turn,” I guess. But it was such a cool moment, how the three chairs turned, and that was the moment for me when I had the green light to chase my dream and actually decided to believe in myself.
When I tried out for the show, I had just turned 26, and I’m 27 now. Some people might call that a late bloomer. A lot of us wish we had started to believe in ourselves at an earlier age. That just wasn’t my journey. So I’m glad I’m exuding more self-love. Other lessons were being your own cheerleader and not neglecting the gifts God has given you. At the end of the day, it’s not all about making music for myself in my bedroom. People want to hear my voice. I see the comments, and it changes people’s lives, just singing.
ES: Who are some of the people around you who are pushing you to the next level?
MH: Definitely my mom. She’s always told me, “I told you so! I told you you’re awesome and amazing. You just need to see for yourself.” My advice for people is please listen to your parents when they say you can do it. I wish I had not shrugged it off or laughed it off and said, “Oh, you’re just saying that because you’re my mom.” So many of us can have that cynical attitude toward people who are trying to be positive influences in our lives.
ES: Did she say, “I told you so,” when you got all those chair turns?
MH: No, she actually was scared that I was trying out for The Voice! She did not know that I applied. My mom said later, “I was so nervous when I flew out to Los Angeles, and I didn’t know what was going to happen.” That was the only moment when she was worried because we thought The Voice was about being a Beyoncé-style powerhouse. It just goes to show it’s powerful enough being yourself. That hit the judges’ hearts and made them turn.
ES: And you picked a pretty cool Bob Dylan song, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
MH: They let us pick our blind audition song. As you get further on in the competition, the coaches coach you on what song they want you to sing from their catalog. But yeah, I chose a Bob Dylan. It was a very simple song, and I’m a pretty simple person, so it fit the vibe.
ES: You play guitar – are there any other instruments you play?
MH: I grew up trying to play mandolin and harmonica, but I decided to narrow it down to accompanying myself while I’m singing, so basic guitar strumming.
ES: And now girls with guitars are cool again, thanks to Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, right?
MH: Yeah, oh my gosh. That’s awesome. I do think what Taylor Swift has done is amazing. She’s definitely the opposite of me. She was such an early bloomer, and she knew exactly what she wanted from the start. My journey is so different. It took me forever to figure out what kind of music I wanted to make and to believe in myself and have a vision. Being in Nashville, everyone tells me how important that is. I thought the industry forms you into something and molds you, but people were telling me no, you have to have your clear vision. If you get signed to a record deal, they just help you amplify that.
ES: Another question going back to genre-bending – who are some musical influences you have that people might be surprised about?
MH: I said this on The Voice, but I got introduced to a lot of modern R&B music in college. My roommate and I, we would make Drake and Bryson Tiller covers in our dorm room. That’s just so far away from country music. I really love a lot of Drake’s music and Afro beats and Latin music. I don’t just listen to “country” right now.
Then current country legends like Chris Stapleton. I’m super inspired by him too. If I could find a way to have my own sound that blends country, bluesy, soulful rock – I’ve got to come up with a name for it, like smoky country? People mainly like to hear my voice singing in a lower tone, and a lot of that recently has been a country-style voicing. Right now, I’m thinking that’s the move, to stay in the country umbrella for now, because this is what the fans are really resonating with. The main thing for me is being able to make emotional music that evokes feelings in people.
ES: What are some of your goals for 2024?
MH: The goal would be to step out of DIY mode, although there’s still a part of me that wants to do that. Transitioning out of Madison Hughes, The Voice contestant, to Madison Hughes starts her own artist career and journey, whether that means a tour or putting out my first album.
ES: Anything you’re posting and sharing to get eyes on your music, I can tell you put a lot of work in. I feel like that always pays off. Since we’re close to the holidays, I have to ask – do you have any Christmas music coming out?
MH: I need to do a Christmas cover for sure, something very classic, maybe an Elvis cover. “Blue Christmas ” or “Christmas Time Is Here” could be cool.
ES: Is there anything else you want to add about being a woman in the music industry?
MH: I can’t stress enough how important it is to stick up for what your vision is. I never want to be a corporate figurehead or a puppet in Nashville. I have to stand for something.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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