Madison McFerrin is a Brooklyn based singer and songwriter; she is the daughter of jazz legend Bobby McFerrin and the granddaughter of Robert McFerrin, an operatic baritone and the first African-American man to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Madison’s voice is strong yet delicate, and her delivery is as beautiful as Jill Scott and Angie Stone, two incredible American soul singers. Madison debuted in 2016 with Finding Foundations: Vol. I, an EP that showcased her sublime vocal talents and her soulful take on acapella. Critics, and audience members alike, raved about her music. The New York Times wrote that Madison “shows wonderful vocal dexterity, deftly swerving from sharp, clearly enunciated staccato bursts to fluttery, free-form melismata.”
Music Video © Madison McFerrin
Not long ago, Madison released her second EP, Finding Foundation: Vol. II, which gave her listeners more of what they love and earned her more critical praise. With her perfect voice control and hypnotising sound, the singer is ready to conquer the world. On the heels of her debut European tour that featured sold out shows in London and Barcelona, she is about to embark on another, which includes a concert in the prestigious Jazz Cafe in London on March 8th.
Ahead of her upcoming performance in London, we caught up with Madison McFerrin and chatted about her singing career and life in general.
Madison McFerrin © Nathan Bajar
It’s lovely to meet you Madison! First of all, let’s talk about how it all started. Do you remember the first moment when you felt that music was your future?
Lovely to meet you as well! It’s hard to pinpoint the first moment just given by the fact that I grew up with music around me constantly, but I do remember being 5 and deciding that I wanted to sing when I grew up.
How would you describe your music style?
Overall, I call it “soul,” but “a cappella soul,” and Questlove’s descriptor “soul-appella” are what I would categorize this current iteration.
What kind of approach do you use to write your lyrics?
It all comes down to how I’m feeling. I rarely sit down and say “I’m going to write about xyz,” and if I do, I give myself a very loose framework. But it all comes down to feeling. No matter what parameters I set, if I’m not feeling it, it’s not gonna work.
Video © Sofar Sound
Where do you usually find your artistic inspiration?
Everyday life, universal feelings, and emotions, the world around me. Inspiration comes from everywhere.
To what extent do you think your surroundings shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way?
I find it impossible not to be shaped by my surroundings. I’m a product of my environment, of my upbringing, so it’s constantly and consistently shaping me.
Has being a singer changed other aspects of your life?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s hard to tell how much the act of singing itself has changed my life. I know I am most present singing, and I think that allows me to connect deeper with the people around me, so I’m sure those connections via my singing have changed many aspects of my life.
In December 2016, you released your solo debut EP, Finding Foundations: Vol. I, introducing your amazing acapella vocals to the audience. Everyone, from music critics to the listeners, was raving about the EP. You followed that up with the release of Finding Foundations: Vol. II. What made you decide on acapella EPs? What was your creative process like for the two EPs?
The a cappella route was intended as more of a placeholder while I worked on my EP (that my brother Taylor is producing) to build a little buzz, and it ended up taking off more than I expected. People connected to the EPs in a very real way, which made me slow down and take it that much more seriously as a means of introducing myself as a solo artist. The creative process more or less came about by singing what I could hear in my head, but couldn’t figure out on the piano.
Photo © Lissy Elle and Designer REO
Is there a music/artist you like which/who never fails to make you feel good?
The Beatles always have that effect on me, for sure. I’m always in the mood to listen to them (and they’ve got plenty of moods to choose from)!
Your first European tour, which included London, was sold out. On March 8th, you will perform in the UK’s capital again. You will be performing in the prestigious Jazz Cafe in Camden – the feelings must be running quite high?
My last show in London was such a beautiful night, I could feel so much love and positivity from the audience, it was definitely the best show/crowd of the tour. I’m really excited to return to that energy.
Are there any concepts, or certain music styles that you would like to try out with your future releases?
I think one of the beautiful things about starting with a cappella music is that I feel as though my options are endless when it comes to what different styles I can try in the future. I’m down for all of the things!
When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
I do my best to spend time with friends and family. It’s the best way to recalibrate.
What’s next for you? Perhaps a full-length album?
I’ve got some remixes in the works, plus this produced EP with my brother Taylor. I wanna wait to cultivate my audience a little more before dropping a full-length because listening to a full album is more of a commitment these days. Whenever my album comes out, I wanna know that people are going to be ready to stop and listen, start to finish.
Video © Sofar Sound
We would like to thank Ned Levy for his assistance in the interview and to Madison McFerrin who kindly took the time to answer our questions.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Roxy Simons
Featured photo © Nathan Bajar