We had the good fortune of connecting with Madelyn Paquette and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Madelyn, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
In my teens, I was definitely risk-averse. I stayed out of trouble, steered clear of parties and drinking, and focused on school. I liked staying in my lane, sticking to the things I knew and was good at. But since I was ten years old, I always pushed forward and took risks when it came to music. Though the grind of being an independent musician keeps getting more competitive and the pressure seems greater with time, I have found it to be incredibly rewarding.
During my junior year of high school, I learned something very important: I only have a chance to succeed if I give myself one. I had applied to the National YoungArts Foundation for a scholarship in the singer/songwriter category. I didn’t think I had a shot at an award, but with my mom’s urging I submitted the application. Months later I received news that I was selected as one of five singer/songwriters out of over 7000 total applicants from across the country. I got to perform at the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida and study for a week with incredible mentors, talented peers and industry heroes. Even now when I’m feeling insecure, I pull the trigger without thinking twice when it comes to building on my dream.
Now at 21 and about to enter my senior year studying recorded music and music business at New York University, I realize these past few years have been incredibly transformative. I’ve gotten to know myself in ways I didn’t know before, practicing my craft and experiencing so much love, friendship and mentorship.
Through all of this I’ve built confidence as an artist and a young woman, but the risks associated with my career are always on my mind. I realize I’m not guaranteed a recording deal when I graduate college, and being recognized on a large scale may take me a while. And costs associated with music, like production and promotion and more, do stress me out. All of this I have to figure out.
When I post my music to social media, I feel the uncertainty of how my followers may respond and if they will engage. What if, despite the hours of work, love and conviction I poured into a song, it flops on Spotify? What if I fail to promote it enough to reach people? What if after 10 more years as an artist I’m still not where I want to be? These are all questions I ask myself.
But I haven’t given up, and I won’t. I know I was born to be a storyteller through music, to connect with my listeners, positively impacting them in meaningful, authentic ways. Even when it’s hard and I fear failure, there’s a force inside me that just says “do it.” And the thing with risk is, even if you do fail, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for the next time. It’s a win-win.
I love the risk I am taking to pursue my art, and am more dedicated to it than anything else in my life. I know sharing my vulnerability through my music isn’t always easy, but I hope it inspires others to be more comfortable with their insecurities.
So, I think it’s important to keep writing the songs that make me feel uncomfortable and share them, play shows that seem overwhelming, and try new things that push me out of my comfort zone. After all, if my favorite artists didn’t take risks in their art, who would I have looked up to my whole life?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a country-pop singer/songwriter from a suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up listening to folk, country and Americana music by artists like John Denver, Dolly Parton and James Taylor, and my world flipped upside down when I heard Taylor Swift’s debut record. That’s when I began writing my own songs, and became obsessed with telling stories in unique ways with clever lyrics. In middle school, I started using Logic Pro X to produce my own music because I wanted to have the knowledge and autonomy to execute the visions in my head. Since then, I have either fully produced or co-produced all my released music. I have so much fun leaning on my instincts and ending up with a sound that’s true to me.
I believe my songwriting is what makes me stand out. I’ve been studying the craft since I was nine, analyzing songs by classic writers like James, Dolly and Carole King, as well as modern country and pop music from artists like Ben Rector, Maren Morris and Hunter Hayes. I’ve written hundreds of songs, a handful of which have even been recognized by organizations like the BMI Foundation, John Lennon Songwriting Competition, the Independent Music Awards, and the International Songwriting Competition.
Something I’m most proud of is my upcoming single, Perfectionist, releasing on July 9th. I’ve struggled a lot with insecurity and perfectionism throughout my life. This song tells one of my most personal stories, and reflects what I know so many young girls and women feel: the pressure to compare to others, to cut through the noise, to say the right things, to look the prettiest, to excel the most. Writing this song helped me finally feel comfortable with where I am in my journey. It reminded me to enjoy the process of learning and growing, and treat myself with grace when life gets tough. I hope another young person struggling with insecurity or anxiety will hear this song, take a deep breath and know they are enough. This song is definitely one of my favorite things I’ve ever made.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When my friends visit me in NYC, I’d definitely bring them to a show at one of the incredible local venues, like Berlin Under A, Arlene’s Grocery, The Bitter End, or Piano’s, to name a few. There’s something so fun about grabbing drinks and seeing live music, especially from talented artists in New York’s famous spots. During the day, it would be perfect to stop at a little cafe, get some breakfast and coffee and just explore. Strolling around Washington Square Park is a favorite activity of mine, or having a picnic on the grass at Central Park. Just walking around the city is exciting; there’s a lot to take in and it’s never boring!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family has been so incredibly supportive of me my whole life. I am beyond grateful that as soon as my parents noticed my passion for music, they encouraged me to create, practice and share it with the world. I know- and they know- the artist path is uncertain. They could have steered me away from the arts when I was young and pushed me towards a more traditional career. Instead, they helped me cultivate my skills starting in elementary school. They introduced me to voice lessons, coached me on being professional, helped me record my music, drove me shows hours away, and were ecstatic when I got accepted to NYU to study music.
My younger sister Becca is my best friend, and even though I’m a few years older, I look up to her so much. She is strong and wonderful in so many ways, inspiring me daily in life and in my music. She’s usually the first person I share my new songs with.
If it weren’t for my family’s love and belief in me, I would not be pursuing music the way I am. As I get older, being able to call my mom and get her opinion on an opportunity or a new song is reassuring; I know I always and unconditionally have someone in my corner to bounce ideas and strategies off of. Overall, getting my parents’ feedback on a song is a grounding part of my process. They listen a million times, give thoughtful, constructive comments and passionate feedback. They want me to be the best I can be, and believe in myself. Knowing I have their full support as I navigate this wild career means more to me than anything.
Purple with guitar- GigFinesse Hat, white background- Madelyn Paquette Studio with guitar- Madelyn Paquette In front of a crowd- Sofar Sounds NYC In studio next to microphone- Elizabeth Strileckis Blue top- Celia Tewey White shorts- Celia Tewey