Colorado treasure Maddy O’Neal is one of the top producers in today’s EDM scene. She stands out for her zesty arrangements filled with rich harmonies and texture. Over her eleven years producing and deejaying in Colorado, O'Neal has left her mark on the state’s EDM scene, keeping soulful samples of the early ’00s alive. Catch her throwing herself into a live show, and you’ll find that her performances are as fun as her music.
Recent track “Zest Please,” released in March, is a collaboration with CloZee, who's now based in Denver. The song is filled with spicy, trippy hooks and plenty of grit. She also recently dropped “Holding On,” a collaboration with producer-duo Spectacle. O’Neal demonstrates her versatility on the song, and the result is an eerie, atmospheric anthem about emotional support that keeps us dancing.
Westword sat down with O’Neal ahead of her upcoming Red Rocks performance to discuss her two new singles, the importance of female role models in the EDM scene, and her return to live performances.
Westword: “Holding On” is a relatively topical title for a song. Was that deliberate?
Maddy O’Neal: Spectacle reached out to me pre-pandemic with that song idea, and then my computer crashed at the beginning of the pandemic, so I was dealing with all of that [laughs]. It kind of got sidetracked for a while. Then they reached back to me in the middle of [it], and yeah, “Holding On” did resonate even more because of what we were all going through.
Being that the track is a collaboration, what was it that Spectacle wanted you to contribute?
One of the things that I think I’m good at adding in collabs, and in this song, is a lot of those textural tones, with those Middle Eastern undertones you were picking up on. They’re not at the front of the track, but they add so much dimension. And that’s kind of a fun, cinematic track. It’s fun to add all of those details and bring it to life.
Your other single, “Zest Please,” is a collaboration with another female producer, CloZee. Besides having a successful dynamic with each other, do you feel it’s important to collaborate with other female artists?
I do. One, just because I feel like women are forever the underdog in this scene, no matter how many people are crushing it in that space. And I always like to kind of “help the movement.” It's almost more rare. You automatically have so much in common. We start off on this page of, “Hey, we’re minorities in what we’re doing, and we’re crushing!” We just start off on this level of commonality, and that makes this creative collaboration flow.
People learn by having examples, and there’s so many less examples of women doing what we do. And so I admire women in the scene that much more just for doing what we do.
Do others approach you about the fact that you’re a female producer?
Yeah, I’ve had people come up to me after sets and be like, “I’ve never seen a female DJ!” My mind is just blown when people say that, but really, if I think about it, I can count on two hands how many are out there, so, ya know. We’re all normalizing it. The more female producers that are out there, it won’t be so shocking.
You have a few more collaborations about to be released. How did you get to the point of productivity while coping with the social restrictions of the shutdown?
It was interesting. I think everyone was pivoting and adjusting and figuring out, “How are we going to survive? What’s going on?” There were definitely times where I isolated myself and went through my own shit. But then I got to a point where I really craved and needed that creative interaction. I was having trouble finishing songs. I would start an idea, work on it half way, then start another idea and finish that halfway. There was no motivation, so I would kind of finish a song halfway. Whereas when you have a show, you're like, “I’m gonna finish this song!” There was nothing pushing me to finish things; the creative blocks were pretty intense.
So I would reach out to people here and there and just say, “I started this idea.” So, yeah, I have a lot of collaborations that are in the works that are coming soon.
What's coming up?
I dunno if I should tease it or not, but I have a song with Charlie 2na coming out!
And as far as returning to performing live, how does it feel to go from the studio back to the stage?
Well, I did a Colorado run recently: two nights at Cervantes' and then the Aggie and Boulder Theater. These were really my first real shows back, and those felt really crazy. I definitely shed a couple of tears on the first song that I started playing. Just feeling the music and the loud monitors. All of my friends were out there that I hadn't seen in forever.
It was wild. I got chills on stage. I was literally trying not to cry. Makes you appreciate things, that’s for sure.
Maddy O’Neal performs with the Floozies at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26, at Red Rocks. For more information, go the Red Rocks website.
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