Madison Cunningham Tells Stories of Trauma and Loss

Folk rocker Madison Cunningham.
Folk rocker Madison Cunningham. Claire Marie Vogel
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Folk rocker Madison Cunningham.
Claire Marie Vogel
Singer Madison Cunningham is taking the West Coast folk-rock world by storm, still riding the high of her 2019 Grammy nomination for best Americana album, Who Are You Now. Since then, Cunningham has been busy releasing her new EP and even opening up for Harry Styles on tour. She's slated to headline Globe Hall on September 28.

Like many musicians, Cunningham first played music in a church with her family. She began writing songs when she was ten, but says the process is actually still a mystery to her, even admitting to a fear that if she stops writing for a period of time, she'll forget how to do it.

"I’ll start with a melodic or chordal idea — that helps me fall into the need to write a song," she explains. "Lyrics will usually come later, and I’m usually forging lyrics into a pre-written melody. It happens differently every time."

Clearly, she hasn't forgotten how to write a great song. Her latest EP, Wednesday, is storytelling and poetry at its finest. "It seems like a lot of the songs are sort of attempting to quiet someone who is going through some inner turmoil or experiencing something traumatic," she says.

"The Age of Worry" describes the anxieties of youth while offering advice on dreaming and living. "In My Life" is a love poem in which Cunningham reminisces about the places and people she has loved in life. The songs are full of emotion and detailed descriptions, each one holding its own lyrically and melodically.

Her latest single, "Broken Harvest," is a song about loss. It wasn't until someone she was close to died that she felt she truly had something to say on the subject. "That was the most free that I have felt in writing a song," she says. "I was able to realize, oh, humans were made to go through hard things. We were all made to experience death. That reality really helped me to get through the year. I was like, if this was a part of the plan, then we weren't thrown this crazy wrench."

The track is hopeful and inspiring, framing loss as part of the natural order of things and asking the existential question, "What do I hold that will not fade away?"

Cunningham crosses genres on the EP, exploring the boundaries of songwriting and deviating from her usual electric guitar for an acoustic sound. "A good song is a good song, and it doesn’t matter how you get there," she notes.

She's excited to be touring in support of this EP in the wake of the pandemic.

"As a full year passed, I’m honestly way more excited about touring than I thought I would be," Cunningham says. Being a somewhat shy person, she enjoyed spending time at home during the pandemic, but now she's itching to get on the stage again: "I’m excited about the feeling of being around a bunch of people again, when the pulses align and everyone is in the same moment together."

Madison Cunningham plays at 7 p.m. September 28 at Globe Hall,
4483 Logan Street. For tickets, $20, and more information, visit Globe Hall online.
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Katrina Leibee, a recent graduate of Colorado State University, is an editorial fellow at Westword, covering politics, business and culture.
Contact: Katrina Leibee

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