Maddy O’Neal Takes It Slow Preparing for Tour [Exclusive Interview]

Maddy O’Neal may have gotten her ear for a tune from her musical family but the path she is paving within this industry comes from staying true to herself. She made the leap from a group to a solo career and has strived within this male-dominated industry for years now. She does so with grace and a wicked backbeat and for that, we salute her. We had the pleasure of catching up with this versatile electro artist to discuss her tour, a new EP and making a career out of music.

Festival Squad: Hi thanks for taking the time out of your day talk with us. You just started a new tour last week, how does it feel to be touring again?

Maddy O’Neal: It feels great! It’s definitely exhausting but at the same time, I get home and I’m home for a week and I start to get anxious because I want to get back on the road. That’s when I feel that most alive. I spend all this time in the studio working on music by myself so it’s great to get out there and show people what I’ve been creating. It’s kind of polar opposites really. You spend all this time creating in a room by yourself and then you go out on tour and there are so many people, things happening and overall stimulation overload. It’s a good balance though.

FS: Are there any stops that you’re really looking forward to?

MO: This fall is really interesting because I’m doing primarily east coast stuff and those are the markets that I haven’t touched as much. I’ve done a lot in the midwest and west coast. This will be fun because it’s a lot of markets I’ve never been to, like Albany and I’m playing a bigger venue in Boston. I don’t get to venture up there that often so this will be nice.

photo taken by Brittany Teuber

FS: This fall tour features stops with a variety of artists: STS9, SunSquabi, OPIUO, SoDown, and Megan Hamilton. Does who you’re playing with affect your set in any way?

MO: Yeah I definitely tailor my set to where I’m playing, who I’m playing with and I try to figure out my audience as much as possible. Like for Sound Tribe, a lot of their fans follow them around the country. I just played with them at Wave Spell and I think a lot the same people are going to be at these stops as well so I make sure I play a diverse set every night. I’ll be doing a lot of my new stuff and making sure the people who might be seeing me multiple stops on this tour get a unique show each time.

FS: You’re attempting to reach out to your fans even more so this fall, by the introduction of a direct number fans are able to stay updated on your projects and even talk to you personally with. We haven’t seen an artist do that before, how did that idea come about?

MO: It’s actually still in beta testing, it’s a new company called Community. There’s a lot of artists and celebrity type people, like actresses who are using it. My manager happens to know one of the developers of it and asked me to be a guinea pig for it, so they’re watching what I’m doing and how it’s working. It’s cool to be in on the ground level. It’s a phone number, not my actual number, but they can text me and I can respond to them personally or I can target-text specific areas. So if I’m playing in Philadelphia, I’m able to send a mass text to the fans that are in that area updating them on shows and after parties. It really does seem to be the best way to get the word out about what you’re doing. I don’t have to depend on people maybe seeing a post that might’ve gotten pushed lower due to the Instagram algorithm.

It’s cool though, I had like 100 people reach out to me in the first couple days. I’ve gotten a bunch of stories about different places people have seen me, or this song really affected them. It’s a really cool way for me to get direct feedback from people. I feed off of those responses, it makes me realize I am actually making a difference and people do care. 

FS: You’ve been producing music for years but have gained a lot of traction in the past few years, do you have any words of wisdom for developing musicians going through that process?

MO: Number one, if you really wanna make a career out of this you really gotta be all in or all out. I sacrificed so many things about my life to make this work because I love it so much. You sacrifice your time, especially at the beginning. You sacrifice relationships with people because you’re gone and when you’re home you have to be preparing for when you are gone. So you really have to love it and be all in. Second, you’re gonna wanna give up a million times because it’s not an easy industry to be in but I think as long as you love it enough and you’re willing to keep learning, I would like to believe that you will make at some point. There are some people who have been doing this for 20 years and they’re just now getting their time to shine so it’s a process and you have to be patient with it. Overall, it’s really in your hands.

FS: You have a new single coming out this Friday called “Take it Slow”, we’re excited to hear it and the new EP. What direction did you take with this EP?

MO: It’s a collage of projects that I’ve been working on throughout my time touring. Sometimes I’ll sit down and write multiple songs in the span of two months and that’s how the EP comes together. This is more of a collage of ideas that I have had in the past six months — some I don’t even know when I started honestly. It’s funny how it all comes together in the end because I kept wondering “is this cohesive?” but the more I dove into it the pieces just fell into place and told their own story.

The theme is relationships. Your relationship with yourself, with other people and my relationship with my own art. It features some cool collabs, like with Dom from Big Gigantic and Torii Wolf. Torii and I actually followed each other on Instagram years ago and we finally made a track together. She sounds like Björk; she has a beautiful voice. It’s a lot of relationships that I’ve had for a long time finally coming together for these tracks. 

FS: Who is the number one artist you would love to collab with in the future?

MO: I would love to work on a track with Little Dragon. I just like their vibe and I think we would make great music together.

FS: We didn’t even know we needed a Maddy O’Neal x Little Dragon collab, and now it’s all we can think of. Luckily, we don’t have to wait quite as long for her new EP, which will be dropping in early November! So check out the new single and catch Maddy O’Neal at a tour stop near you!

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