One name who made incredible waves in the industry in 2019 is Madison Kozak. A series of fantastic singles fuelled the rise of the Canadian artist, and right now the singer is in UK performing for the first time. We caught up with Madison to talk all things music this week!
As you may be new to some of our readers, can you tell us a little bit about what drew you to the country genre and artists that influenced you to go in that direction?
Yeah absolutely, so as you know, I grew up in rural Ontario Canada in a small town outside of Toronto and growing up I was in a big household. I had 7 brothers and sisters and music was always a part of my childhood as far back as I can remember. My Dad was the biggest country fan in the house, he always had country music playing in the background whether it was on the radio, or on the speakers in the garage while he was washing cars or in the kitchen while we were making dinner it was always present, and when I say country music that my Dad listened to I say Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton. That’s the kind of country that I knew existed until one day I turned on CMT on the tv and found out that there was something past 60s and 70s. You know all through country I discovered the likes of Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride. They drew me into the lifestyle they were singing about and I found it compelling and relatable and I guess for me finding out about country at such an influential age, you know when you’re so young and influenced by everything that your parents are doing, I guess I just fell in love with it then and to me now it still feels nostalgic, and that’s why I love it.
So when you moved to Nashville, I know you’ve graduated from Belmont University now with a degree in music business but do you have any memories of early Nashville life from when you first arrived and if you settled in easily?
Yeah, it was definitely a huge transition for me even though Canada and the U.S are somewhat similar in the way they operate, but just moving 800 miles south of where I’m from away from my big big family and everything I knew at 14 was definitely a culture shock, and my parents would kind of split their time with me there in Nashville to look after me but they ran a business in Ontario. And with all my siblings and everything back there they couldn’t be with my full time, so I lived with some mentors of mine in Nashville who were helping me to kind of get my foot in the door – which meant finishing high school for me as a 14 year old. But after classes, after school was out for the day I’d go to Music Row and meet with publishers and songwriters, take as many meetings as I could and go to as many shows as I could to get my feet wet in the music industry and learn as much as I could as fast as I could.
You’re in the U.K right now to perform a number of dates here and in Europe for the first time in support of Chase Rice and his ‘Pint Of Anything’ tour. As somebody who loves that connection with the fans, how much are you looking forward to playing to new audiences and meeting new fans?
Oh my goodness, bringing my Guitar overseas and getting to play my own music for the country fans over here has been a dream of mine from day one; well I shouldn’t even say day one because I didn’t even really think it would really be possible at the beginning. Not necessarily since day one but I’ve been looking forward to it for as long as I can remember, everyone back in Nashville speaks so highly of the country music fans over here. They’re so drawn to the music and appreciative of it which we are so thankful for and after two shows here in the U.K I can honestly say that all the advice I’ve been given prior to this trip is ringing completely true. I mean the audiences have completely blown me away, everyone is so welcoming and there’s just something about the spirit in the rooms here that is really special to me and I’m thankful that my music can translate over here. It’s a magical feeling, being in a genre that translates over borders. Being Canadian myself, moving to Nashville I think people kind of look at me like a bit of an outsider but I just want to prove to everyone that country music is not exclusive to the south and you guys are proof of that as well so I’m thankful to be here.
I can definitely say from looking at country groups on Facebook people have been really raving about you -especially after the Glasgow show, asking who she is, saying you could hear a pin drop when she played this song etc?
It’s the craziest thing. It felt like I was playing at the Bluebird that night in Glasgow but here we were in a club of 600 people, sold out show and yet it was a really intimate vibe and we still had a lot of fun too.
Last year you became the flagship artist for the female focused ‘Songs and Daughters’ label which was started by Nicolle Galyon . You have to juggle so many things as an artist to be successful in this era so what does it mean to you as an artist to have that backing behind you?
Oh man, I mean growing up looking and just studying artists past, whether it was classic country artists like Loretta Lynn or artists like Taylor Swift, if you study their journey you know that they’re a big part of artists life so I knew that for me to get wheels off the ground as an artist I needed the support of a label and I was really hungry to do that when I moved to Nashville. Signing with Songs and Daughters feels like a completely tailor made situation for me, being able to work with a legendary songwriter like Nicolle who has influenced me so much as a writer. To work with her and to have her as my mentor, it feels so perfect in every way. I’m thankful to have her on this journey, her advice and her leadership and this team, I believe in her so much and the team at Big Loud as well so it feels very tailor made and I’m thankful to be a part of something they’re building from the ground up, I’m all about that.
You had a very busy year of releases last year, you had your independently released EP ‘Heartbreak School’ as well as 4 separate singles which were ‘OMG ILY’, ‘Click, ‘Household’ and ‘First Last Name’ all through the Songs and Daughters label. They received adds on some of the biggest playlists on Spotify. The track ‘First Last Name’ I feel this is an especially meaningful one for you, can you tell us a little more about it?
Yeah, absolutely. So as I said before my Dad is the one who introduced me to country music and taught me everything I know and love about country and this song was definitely inspired by him completely. I was coming up on Father’s Day a couple of years ago and was short of a gift for my Dad so I thought you know, maybe I should just write him a song, it would be cheaper than trying to FedEx something back to Canada so I got together with some friends and just started reminiscing on all these memories I had from my childhood and the kind of man that my Dad was and is. He’s a very hardworking guy, he is a family man, a music lover and I tried to get all of the aspects of him in 3 minutes and that’s just what we did with the song. I’m thankful to see the effect that it’s had on people and you know, it tied me to Nicolle, that was my intro to her was the song ‘First Last Name’ and it felt really full circle to be able to have that as my first release on the label and now seeing people use it as their first dance song, you know with their fathers at their weddings, and the way that people relate to it, it being such a personal song for me is really special.
You lived a lot of country artists’ dreams last year by debuting on what a lot of people would consider the two most legendary stages in country music, the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry as well as receiving incredible standing ovations at both. Can you describe your emotions while performing on those stages especially with a lot of friends and family in the crowd watching?
It was definitely an overwhelming feeling of just a mixture of things I guess. One, so thankful, this being a dream I’ve dreamed since I knew about country. Those two stages date back to the very beginning of country music, I feel like everything begins and ends in that circle of wood at the Grand Ole Opry and the new Grand Ole Opry wouldn’t exist without the Ryman Grand Ole Opry so they’re very closely tied together and closely tied to all of my influences like I named earlier, the Willie Nelson’s, the Johnny Cash’s, the Loretta Lynn’s all stepped foot on them. Going into it I felt a little bit of pressure on myself to just serve that stage well and it was just an honour to be on those stages and mostly to have my family there, my Dad at the side of the stage, my Mum there, my brothers and sisters, it was cool to look out at them and kind of smile thinking about how far we’ve come and how at 9 years old that was just a longshot dream and now I get to live it out, it’s really special, I’m thankful.
To add to the list of incredible achievements you had last year, you were inducted as a member of the CMT Next Women of Country Class of 2020. I’ve always been impressed by how humble you are, but when you’re achieving so much how do you manage to keep your feet on the ground?
Well thank you for saying that, man I think the music that we’re surrounding ourselves with in country music is humble itself. It’s humbling to be able to live out these dreams and the biggest thing for me, I just wanna be able to lead by example and show other people that you know nothing is impossible and when you put your mind to it, if it’s something you love and you’re willing to work hard for. All my heroes have taught me that and I’m trying to follow in their footsteps and hopefully leave a trail for the next trailblazing woman to come behind me in the same fashion. I’m humbled to have these experiences, I don’t take for granted that they’re one in a million chances and my 5 brothers keep me in check, they’re the first ones to bring me back down to Earth when I come home for Christmas and I’m looking not so great waking up Christmas morning they’ll be the first to tell me.
As you’re getting busier in your career now, on the increasingly rare occasions you do get some free time what do you enjoy doing outside of music?
Well I guess this is still a little bit part of music but I found journaling really therapeutic for me. I started journaling at the beginning of last year not having a single clue of what was to come and it’s pretty awesome now that I get to look back at the journal and experience all these firsts, it’s really cool that I have that to look back on, you know polaroid pictures and ticket stubs of playing the Opry and stuff like that. I find it therapeutic to be able to have a space to write freely and a place to reminisce and reflect in journaling. I love to read and see movies, I feel like as a creative I feel like I always have to be taking in inspiration if I want to spew anyone out you know. I’ve got to be fuelling my tank with lots of creativity so whether it’s drawing or writing, reading a book or watching a movie I’m just fascinated by the creative headspace. I like to do all that kind of stuff.
Back in November you were in the beautiful Napa Valley in California, performing at Live in the Vineyard. You were alongside huge names such as Avril Lavigne and Maren Morris. How does it feel going from watching artists like that from the audience to actually be on stage with them?
Oh man, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, because it doesn’t feel real when you’re in it. I remember standing backstage watching Maren thinking ‘oh I remember seeing her at a girls of Nashville writers round, maybe 3 years earlier and me sitting in the audience and thinking wow she’s got a unique writing perspective‘ before I think she’d maybe even written ‘My Church’ so it was wild to see her on that stage having the success that she is, but also very inspiring where she was at one point too and thinking maybe it’s not that far off.
Last year you were part of some really high profile tours supporting artists like Morgan Evans, Mason Ramsey and Aaron Watson and will also be supporting Tanya Tucker ‘CMT Next Women of Country: Bring My Flowers Now Tour’ on select dates in Canada and the U.S this Spring. Does it give you a lot of confidence about yourself as an artist that so many huge names are trusting you to be the artist that gets the audience fired up for them?
Absolutely, it’s a huge honour, the way they’ve influenced me is massive so I’m excited to get to meet Tanya, to be a student of her on tour and learn about the ins and outs of how she operates on tour and hopefully I can gain a few tips and tricks. I’m so excited to go out there and perform in front of her, get to meet some of her fans and hopefully convert some new ones. I’m thankful.
You’re also a member of the Song Suffragettes, which for any of our readers that don’t know is a female singer/songwriter collective dedicated to giving a platform and opportunities to women trying to make it in the industry. With the challenges that female country artists face today such as the lack of radio play, how important do you think it is that they stick together and support each other?
I think it’s really awesome that we can all band together and support each other. Song Suffragettes is a really great place for me to meet talented songwriters in Nashville when I first moved there and the exposure that they give to us all, it’s much needed. We’re grateful for all of their support, I’m also eager to just break down the barriers of you know male and female, you’ve just got to support all music I think, I’m looking forward to the day where it doesn’t necessarily have to be categorised as male or female, it’s just music at the end of the day. I’m excited to be a part of that movement and Song Suffragettes and CMT Next Women are you know helping push the needle there and get us to that stage.
Thinking about everything you’ve experienced, both in your career and general life, if you could go back now and speak to a 10 year old Madison is there any advice that you’d give her?
I think it’s just keep doing what you’re doing. I actually heard Chase Rice last night talking after the show and I asked him, he had a few letters printed on his pass and I asked him what do those letters stand for? It was H,D,E,U and he said it means head down eyes up. I heard a lot of no’s coming up in music when I was younger, and honestly still today. Those are never ending but the few yes’s make it worthwhile and that’s what we’re working hard for and I think it’s just always a matter of keep doing what you’re doing and find your people because those are the people that are going to get you through. Whether it’s your best friends, or your family, you know, your champions in Nashville or whatever it may be that you’re pursuing, find your people, find your crew and stand together and you’ll get to where you’re going.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2020?
Oh man we’re just starting out, there’s a lot to be announced this spring which I’m pumped about. I’m excited to finish this tour and meet everyone here and overseas and experience a whole new year of firsts this year as well. 2019 was a pretty epic year for me and set the bar really high so I’m excited to keep planning it out and get back to Nashville after this tour is through with Chase and write the next set of music and put out more music but mostly just get out on the road and meet everyone. I’ve been writing in Nashville as you know for quite some time but these songs mean nothing if I don’t have someone to sing them to so I’m excited to get out on the road and sing them for people and see the way that they connect with them and just meet everyone.
Thank you for making the time to speak to us.
Catch Madison on the remaining dates supporting Chase Rice on his ‘Pint of Anything’ tour:-
January 15th – Gorilla (Manchester)
January 17th – O2 Institute2 (Birmingham)
January 18th – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (London)
January 19th – Thekla (Bristol)
January 21st – Mojo Club (Hamburg)
January 22nd – Luxor (Cologne)
January 23rd – Hansa 39 (Munchen)
January 24th – BI NUU (Berlin)
January 27th – TivoliVredenberg (Utrecht)
Interview conducted by Craig Brooks (twitter.com/swindonforever)