American Idol 2018 winner Maddie Poppe is gearing up to embark on a Christmas tour at the end of the month. In the meantime, she’s been traveling on tour with her boyfriend, 2018 runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson, as he supports his latest set, Slot Machine Syndrome. In fact, she’s been working as his “merch girl.”
Maddie plans to release a new record with a new sound in 2022
But that doesn’t mean she has not been working on her own music. In a new interview with The Brett Allen Show podcast, Maddie talks about her “new sound” and how getting dropped from Hollywood Records threw her for a loop in 2020.
Maddie has been hard at work on a new record. “Right now, I am spending about a month in Nashville and I’ve been writing almost every day with people. And I’ve got some really exciting songs that have come out of some of these sessions,” Maddie shared. “My plan is to drop this [record] at the beginning of next year.”
“But I’m independent now, so I have to make all those decisions for myself. I just need to be confident with it, go forward with it not hesitate, not have questions,” Maddie admitted.
The singer describes the new music as a “new vibe” describing the new material as “a new side of me that I’ve not really shown much of. ”
She further explains that she likes the singer-songwriter, Americana, bluesy type stuff she’s written. But she would never LOVE them. “I wasn’t ever like ‘Oh, this is me. I love this. This is my thing’.”
Maddie recently started experimenting with R&B/jazz. The new music “feels like me”
Maddie reveals that she “recently started experimenting with more R&B sounding things. Sort of R&B meets kind of jazzyish.”
And it feels like home. “These songs that are coming out of these sessions feel like me and feel like ‘this is something I’m so proud of’. And this is something I can stand behind and say ‘this is 100% me’.”
“It feels like one of the first times I’ve really felt that strongly about my music.” She stresses that she loves her post-Idol album Whirlwind. She loved making it. “A lot of those songs were really special to me.” But the new stuff makes her feel like “a cooler version of myself.” It’s a notion that made her laugh.
When the interviewer pressed Maddie on specifics, she said “It’s kind of like Corrine Bailey Rae.”
While she’s back in the saddle as far as music is concerned, she had a difficult 2020. After Hollywood Records/19R dropped her in May 2020, she retreated to home renovation. She bought a house which she completely rebuilt. Even creating her own fireplace.
Maddie admits that getting dropped from her record label “really kind of shook me.” She says “I didn’t see it coming.”
“In 2020 in May, I got dropped from my record label. And that really kind of shook me,” she becomes emotional, “I had this whole plan, had this whole EP ready to release and everything seemed to be going great, and it hit me out of nowhere. I didn’t see it coming.”
At first she brushed it off. “I’m gonna be fine!” But eventually, she realized that “this is a lot more than I thought it was going to be.” She admits that she didn’t get back on her feet right away. “and that’s something that I’m still working on,” she admits. “I think that was a big part of 2020. When that happened, and Covid happened…I was like, well I guess I’ll buy a house and renovate it.”
Between losing her record deal and COVID shutting the music industry down, Maddie says “It definitely took me for a ride there a little bit.”
“My life is just trying to stay relevant”
As far as takeaways from the experiences she’s had since winning American Idol, Maddie says, “My life is just trying to stay relevant, and it sucks. It’s every morning. Literally, every morning in 2020 I would wake up and kick myself–‘you need to stay relevant. you need to put something out. you need to do something so people will remember you. You need to be on social media’. It is a headache. I hate that. I hate it so much.”
But her boyfriend Caleb helped her put things into perspective. ”
“Caleb has been just my rock through all of this. We’ve been through everything together. He said to me, ‘You don’t need to worry about being number one or being at the top and staying at the top…you just need to put stuff out that you’re proud of.”
“I know artists who haven’t put out music in years, but I love their artistry so much that I’d go to a show in a heartbeat for them. I’d buy their new stuff in a heartbeat. There’s other people who are relevant as ever, but you can tell it’s not authentic.”
Maddie laments that the music industry is a “numbers game” and she hates that she allows it all to get inside her head.
She finds monitoring social media numbers tiring. “I didn’t sign up to be an influencer,” she said. “I auditioned for a show to be a musician. And that’s what I want to be. I want to play music. And unfortunately, in today’s world, you have to be an influencer too…and that sucks, to be honest.”