With over 46.4 million global streams, folk-rock and two-time Grammy nominee Madison Cunningham talks about her latest album Revealer and embarking on her first headlining tour.
Listening to Revealer is like listening to someone reading your diary aloud as they filter through your racing thoughts. It’s comforting and frightening having a piece of art encapsulate so eloquently something we all fear and struggle with: how we handle life and what gets thrown at us, the pains of growing up, self-acceptance, and uncertainties. Revealer is Cunningham’s story, but she shares it universally; her pain and doubt are echoed by everyone who listens. Revealer is a story about the universal human experience, and Cunningham elegantly captures the fleeting, harrowing, and somber realities everyone has felt.
The lyric “Time to act your age no one’s gonna show you how” from “Who Are You Now” is the perfect sound bite for Revealer. Growing up, we are told what to do and who to be, but we are not taught how. We are thrust into a world where we’re all expected to 100% assimilate and fit a mold that was made for us. Cunningham describes being a child and asking her mother existential questions at a young age, looking for answers beyond what she could see. She laughs as she recounts her quandaries and sees how even parents, the people who are supposed to know everything, couldn’t really answer her daughters loaded questions about life, death, and the meaning of it all. “The more you know, the less you know. And that’s what I wanted this record to be about. I wanted to hug all these questions together and say, ‘I don’t have an answer here; all we have is conversation.’ And I want to have those conversations. ”
The album contains many contradictions: from In From Japan, “The world’s greatest song Is one no mortals ever heard.” or “Spending more to not feel broke.” (Sunshine Over the Counter) yet with all these contradicting statements, Cunningham so cooly makes it work, “Creating the album meant I was coming to terms with life’s contradictions. The whole time I was trying to get back to the love of the music and write from a pure place.”
Cunningham’s authenticity and vulnerability are so incredibly beautiful, there is whimsy and wonder lyrically and sonically there are contradictions weaved throughout. Folksy, whimsical melodies with heartbreaking and intrusive lyrics, very reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens. Cunningham reveals she was heavily influenced by the Mystery of Love singer, “He [Stevens] has been a big inspiration while making this record. He has zero pretence around what he’s trying to say and the way he says it is always so effortless.”
The themes of Revealer are relatable and universal, it’s a device to help you open up and explore the parts of yourself that are undefined and uncertain. The ‘Revealer'(personified), in a sense, is just an emotion, something so powerful that it forces you to look at yourself and actively reflect on what you see inside yourself. Cunningham shares,” I hope that Revealer makes people excited about the possibility of shedding a different light on what can be done sonically. I hope people on a personal level people find it relatable, and I hope it’s a conversation starter.”
One month into her first headlining tour Cunninghman reflects on her most significant achievement yet, “Opening up for Harry Styles at Madison Square Garden was a rewarding moment it felt like a random combination that worked really well” (some would call this is a contradiction. We see you, Madison!). Going from an opener, nervous people would discredit your work and yawn until the main act gets on stage is terrifying. But Harry’s fans were so welcoming and receptive, performing in front of an audience that veracious and tentative was something the singer-songwriter will never forget. “It helped me shed some nerves you start to understand how to wield an audience as a part of the instrumentation…it showed me what the songs could be and it showed me that they could survive a room like that,” she smiles earnestly and laughs, “it’s difficult and exciting when it all comes together. I’m ready.”
Be sure to catch the wonderfully insightful and talented Madison Cunningham on tour this fall, and get your copy of Revealer in-store or online.