Maddie Jackway talks new EP ‘Kindred’: “The underlying inspiration has been authenticity”

“I hope that from listening to the EP, listeners feel like they can relate or are understood,” Maddie Jackway says of her latest project ‘Kindred’. 

Last month, we were treated to the soul-baring confessionalism and stirring production of ‘Kindred’, the sophomore EP of Victorian artist Maddie Jackway.

Across five tracks, the singer-songwriter traverses the sounds of soul, pop and R&B, all while wearing her heart on her sleeve with incisive tales of modern romance and coming-of-age. 

Maddie Jackway EP 'Kindred'

“When I was writing and creating this body of work,” Jackway tells us, “I felt like I was living authentically as my creative self.”

Below, the rising artist dives deep into the process of her lyricism, experimenting with new sounds, and the affirmative power of “trusting your gut.” Catch out full interview with Maddie Jackway below, and scroll down to listen to her new EP ‘Kindred’. 

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

MADDIE: Today I was fortunate enough to have the day off and so I’ve been running errands, planning cool things (more on that soon) and reading a good book.

HAPPY: Tell us a little about where you live, what do you love about it?

MADDIE: I currently live in Geelong and it’s a great spot.  It has everything I need and I love how accessible it is to the water (Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula) while also being an easy drive away from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.

There’s a close-knit music/creatives community here who are really supportive of one another which is nice to be part of.

Maddie Jackway EP 'Kindred'

HAPPY: Can you tell us about your journey as a musician and how you developed your unique sound?

MADDIE: Growing up my parents played a lot of the divas (Celine, Mariah, Whitney) so I was always around big voices.  When I was about 6 or 7 I started to write songs secretly in my bedroom.

At that age I was mainly inspired by whatever pop songs were on Video Hits, MTV and Rage.  I kept writing songs throughout my teens and didn’t perform any until Year 12.  

It wasn’t until university where one of my teachers gave me a lists of songs and writers to listen to and I went away to start broadening my listening.  It was really eye-opening to see how narrow my listening palette had been up until that point. 

I thought back to the songs of my childhood and the formula I was using to write my songs up until then (standard pop structure) and this new world of folk & neo-soul that I had been introduced to – I liked all of them and they all seemed to fit. 

When it came to describing my genre of music to my friends and family, I hated feeling like I had to stick to one genre when I was constantly inspired by a variety. 

My friends and teachers were saying that I was writing good songs, and it felt right to me while writing and performing them, so I kind of stuck to my guns and just went with the idea that what makes my music identifiable is that I write it, irrespective of genre.

HAPPY: Can you walk us through your creative process? What’s a typical day in the studio like?

MADDIE: I’m usually a lyrics-first kind of writer.  It could be a word or phrase, feeling or experience that prompts the start of a song.

Usually I’ll do some stream of consciousness about the idea and then go through and highlight some key phrases or words that stick out to me and see if I can’t arrange them into some kind of verse. 

Then I’ll work that little bit over the top of a chord progression, generally the first one that comes to mind, and just try different phrasing and intervals to see how it fits for a melody. I’m usually at my keyboard with a notebook or my notes app. 

I’ve been interested lately in using song formulas as more of a suggestion rather than a guide. One of my general rules is that as soon as I start getting frustrated or hit a block, I need to leave it and come back after some time away from it. 

I haven’t had the experience of writing in the studio yet. All of my songs are written first before taking them into the studio. 

Sometimes I have an idea of the arrangement and other times I go in with only the chords and melody and invite the musicians to play what comes naturally to them until I find something that feels right for the song.

Maddie Jackway EP 'Kindred'

HAPPY: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind ‘Kindred’? It seems to explore a variety of genres and styles. What inspired you to embrace this eclectic approach?

MADDIE: I think the underlying inspiration for the EP has been authenticity.  When I was writing and creating this body of work, I felt like I was living authentically as my creative self. 

To box myself in to creating an EP in one genre wouldn’t be a true reflection of who I am as songwriter and artist, or even as a listener. 

What is true to my artistry is that I am influenced by a variety of music which is why ‘Kindred’ crosses genres in the way it does.   

HAPPY: Could you share the story behind the creation of ‘Pity Party,’ the opening track of ‘Kindred’? What emotions or experiences influenced its creation?

MADDIE: At the time, I was on a Zoom call with my dear friend and fellow songwriter Meredith Louise and she asked how I had been and I was saying how I just felt really negative about everything that was happening in my world at the time and that I’d been having a pity party.

It was a lightbulb moment and we just followed that lead and wrote about 75% of the song that night.  We got talking about how yes we can complain but also it’s important to practice gratitude for all that we have.  

From the outset we knew that it would be a song for my project and I had heard a couple of different tunes that influenced the final version that you hear today. It’s a fun song and I love how it’s turned out.

Maddie Jackway EP 'Kindred'

HAPPY: As an artist, how do you navigate the balance between staying true to your own artistic vision and experimenting with new sounds and styles?

MADDIE: I think as humans we can be quick to label things to create order and familiarity.  Musically it’s a matter of what feels right to me. 

I’ve long thought about the question of “how to know when a song is finished” and what I’ve concluded is that it’s about trusting your gut. 

I’m always open to trying new sounds but at the end of the day, it has to feel right and suit what the song needs.  I am realising that what works for me is authenticity, so my music needs to feel like me and be something that I like.

HAPPY: How do you think your influences, such as Yebba and Adele, have shaped your music and songwriting style?

MADDIE: Adele helped me lean into writing and recording ballads. A lot of my songs are slow and quite melancholy and it can be easy to think that people don’t want to listen to those, but Adele, at least in her earlier work is a great example that people can be down for a good ballad.

She can also just write a really good, traditionally structured song.  Yebba is a great example of a vocalist who uses her voice as an instrument. 

I was drawn to the freedom that comes through in her vocals; she sings without fear of being wrong and is experimental with how she uses her voice within songs. 

This encouraged me to try and be more experimental and expressive in how I sing and use my voice.  Yebba is unafraid to ad-lib to her vocal performances and that’s something that has definitely encouraged me as well. 

I feel like I can be more liberal in my performances and the use of my voice than before.  Yebba also lends her voice to a variety of genres without stifling her own style which is fascinating to watch.

Maddie Jackway EP 'Kindred'

HAPPY: What do you hope listeners take away from ‘Kindred’ after experiencing the EP as a whole?

MADDIE: I wrote all of these songs to make sense of my own experiences and feelings.  I hope that from listening to the EP, listeners feel like they can relate or are understood.

For someone to take one of my songs and share it with someone they trust and say listen to this song, this song is how I feel about this situation. That would be very powerful.

HAPPY: Looking ahead, what themes or musical explorations are you excited to delve into in your future projects?

MADDIE: I’m excited to collaborate more with other musicians, producers and songwriters.  It would be great to really do so more regular co-writing sessions. 

I think also just further experimenting with how I can blend all of my influences in a cohesive way that feels authentic to my artistry.

Maddie Jackway EP 'Kindred'

HAPPY: What makes you happy?

MADDIE: The feeling of finding your new favourite song and wanting to play it on repeat. Reading a good book. Writing a really good song. Snow falling. Seeing live music.

Catching up with friends and family. Going for drives by myself while listening to my favourite tunes. Learning about new places, people and cultures.