Former American Idol Contestant & Rising Indie Folk Songwriter Madeline Finn Talks New Single ‘Neat’, Upcoming Album, & More

Imagine the sounds billowing softly out of the dark, back corner of a saloon in an old western film right before the final shootout. Now, neatly package that sound into an American Idol top 70 finalist and former frontwoman of two bands, and you have Madeline Finn. With a voice and an accompanying instrumentation, Finn provides everything but the time machine to take you to the Wild Wild West.

Finn has toured around the country, bringing with her a mix of gothic ballads, country twang, and indie rock. Though not tied to any one genre, Finn does bring one element with her in every one of her multi-styled songs: power. Whether belting vocals or spoken melodic words, Finn manages to tie in tones that pluck directly at the heart. 

Finn began singing professionally at age 14, an accomplishment that lends itself to her precise vocals. As a noticeably autobiographical songwriter, Finn’s authenticity stems from not only her professional experience, but also her lived experience. Whether it’s pouring soul into velvet vocals with a gravely vibrato, or singing softly along to a touching acoustic accompaniment, Finn’s sound is as unique as it is true. 

It’s no surprise that Finn’s music is on the rise. Aside from her personal talents and expertise, Finn is also working with Dave Schiffman, the same producer who worked on projects with Jimmy Eat World, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, and countless others. Schiffman and Finn’s ability to mesh together to create something remnant of past successful artists all while staying true to her roots is apparent in her discography.

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Finn’s sound transcends eras. While her song “When It’s Dark” has a distinct Billie Eilish feel to it, with eerie, slow vocals, her 2018 hit “The River,” gives off something a little more Fleetwood Mac-esque. 

Finn’s newest single, “Neat”, released on August 7th, has a psychedelic-country feel to it, akin to Kacey Musgraves. From the very beginning, the steel guitar sets the stage for a ballad to be told. Peppered with wailing harmonies, “Neat” is almost haunting. Without warning, Finn pivots the song drastically into an explosion of vocals and percussion, turning it from a crawling, somber story into an earth shattering thunder of sound. 

We at Music Mecca had the chance to sit down with Madeline Finn and ask her some questions about her past accomplishments, her current work, and her future projects. Keep your eyes out for some awesome music from her later this month!

Between fronting two bands and competing on American Idol, you’ve had an extremely full and diverse music career. Can you tell us about some of your favorite moments? 

That’s easily one of the most difficult questions I’ve received! I’ve been doing this professionally since I was 14 years old , so I’ve had a TON of wonderful memories. I think my favorite and most memorable moments are always special connections with fans during and after the shows. I’ve had some really lovely opportunities to listen to stories and hear how the music is impacting others. Hugging Katy Perry wasn’t too bad either… ; )

I was hoping you could talk about your writing process. How do your songs come together?

They come when they want to come mostly. Every time I sit down and say “I’m gonna write a song today!” It NEVER ends up feeling right. I have found that my most impactful work comes in pieces and parts (or sometimes in one 20 minute fit of emotion). I’ll come up with a first verse and then wait for the pre-chorus or chorus to come to me. I hope that I can always write from a place of less self exploration and more channeling the things that need to be said in the moment if that makes sense. Then once the song is finished I will go through and edit accordingly before we record.

How did you get involved with music? Was it always your plan?

Absolutely music has always been my plan, with a few distractions and necessary deviations along the way. I started playing in my church youth group and haven’t looked back since.

When listening to your songs, it’s impossible to pin down just one style. In your opinion, what genre has influenced your music the most? 

I’m glad you noticed that! That means I’m not nuts lol. I’ve been spending the past few years exploring my sound and I think my new record coming out soon is basically a catalog of that exploration. I’ve found that my most favorite things to play are small, timid, quiet, folky tunes with some BIG dynamic journeys interlaced throughout the work. My earliest influence comes from pop-punk (more specifically Paramore & Senses Fail type stuff) but as I’ve grown I’m starting to notice that phasing out of my work and have been finding more inspiration in the ambient folk type of  genre. I’m a massive Gregory Alan Isakov fan and hope to be bringing more of that influence into my upcoming releases.

You’ve toured a good chunk of the country. Has there been a specific region or city that stands out as a favorite to play in? 

You are KILLING it with these questions. Touring is my favorite part of being an artist. I LOVE traveling and the fact that music can facilitate that for me is such a gift. I have spent the most time in New England/Boston/Upper East Coast but I think my absolute favorite area to tour in was the Pacific Northwest. Washington State was incredible and I hope to spend much more time in that area as my career progresses. 

Your newest release “Neat”, which dropped on August 7th, sounds pretty autobiographical. Is there a specific story behind it?

You would be correct. Most of my songs (if not all) stem from honest personal experience. This newest release is actually a brand new adaptation of a song I wrote with my first EP for The Whiskey Hollow. It ties up a lot of what I was going through at the time (2014), I was breaking down in a lot of ways and not realizing how much room that created for growth. My writing style back then used to be much more ambiguous than now so I like to let this one speak for itself so each listener can find some of their own meaning.

How did you get connected with producer Dave Schiffman?

My drummer and co-writer Tom Stankiewictz is a MASSIVE Thrice fan. So when we were looking for someone to mix the new record he reached out to Dave. To my surprise he was super excited to work on the project. 

When you’re not performing and working on songs, how do you spend your free time?

I spend the majority of my time working on my meditation practice and diving deeper into the Buddhist dharma. I’m hoping to become a facilitator so I can help others with their own journey. I also dig hiking, kayaking and spending time with my partner. 

This is a pretty tumultuous time to say the least. Do you think quarantine has helped or hindered your music?

It’s all really about my perspective at any given moment. If I am having a solid day, it’s just a new challenge and lesson to work with. On more difficult days, it makes it feel a little hard to get motivated since touring is my favorite part of the job. Either way, it’s provided a lot of room for insight and extra time for me to work on my Patreon page

Once life returns to some semblance of normal, what venue do you look forward to playing the most?

I am REALLY looking forward to doing a living room / backyard tour. I love building personal and meaningful relationships with my fans, so that seems like it will be an awesome opportunity to dive a lot deeper in an intimate show setting.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

This question gave me instant anxiety! I’ve always been so nervous and driven when it comes to the future. There is so much potential for fear and clinging to what we want and things being better. With that said, my desire and intention for my life over the next five years involves a whole lot of cultivation. I hope to grow more of a sense of contentment, confidence, and community. I’d love to be touring and writing for the majority of the year, enjoying a wonderful little home with my partner and finding new and creative ways to be of service.

What might fans expect from Madeline Finn to close out the year?

SO MUCH NEW MUSIC! I’ve got a new album Trial By Fire coming out on August 28. Then I’ll be getting back into the studio almost immediately.

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