A Q&A with Madeleine Mayi

Madeleine Mayi is looking over her shoulder at the camera, under red light. The background is black. Hand-drawn red text reads: A Q&A with Madeleine Mayi.
Photo by Sophie Gragg

Meet Madeleine Mayi. She is an LA-based singer-songwriter (Santa Barbara raised) making bold and poignant indie rock. Mayi's debut album was released on Valentine's Day, and is fittingly titled 2/14.

The title, and thus the release date, is significant for Mayi. In both 2018 and 2019, Mayi lost a loved one the week of Valentine's Day. The holiday became a reminder for Mayi, and writing the songs that would become 2/14 became a part of her healing process. The record also stands on its own as a conceptual story; 2/14 is in and of itself an exploration of the cycle of grief, each track marking a significant point in that process. "ITRL," for example, details denial, while "smoke" is rooted in frustration and anger. "friendly fires" describes how friendships can be affected, while hope is found in "love me" and "here."

I got the chance to speak with Madeleine Mayi about 2/14, how she approaches songwriting, her musical beginnings, and more. Read on below.


So when did you begin writing and playing music? When did you decide that you wanted to record and release music?

I actually didn’t start writing music until not too long ago. I think it’s been about 4 years now of taking it seriously. I’ve been singing since I was a kid, so that was my entry-point to all of this. I went to music school and took a gap year in the middle and worked around LA, which is when I started to really consider myself a professional musician - that was about 3 years ago now. Recording music used to be scary but has turned into one of my favorite parts about the whole process. I also have an amazing producer (love you Cole) which makes everything more enjoyable.

What artists have impacted or inspired your own musical journey and writing?

One of my biggest inspirations that I don’t talk about too often is Etta James. From a super young age, I became enamored by her voice and her devil-may-care attitude. She seemed so mysterious to me, which I loved… I have so many inspirations, but I really think she is so underrated. She’s amazing.

I know that 2/14 details the cycle of grief. Was this record a part of your healing process? Or do you feel like you had to heal before writing?

It was definitely a part of my healing process - especially because I wrote many of the songs at the different points of what I was feeling. It’s actually been interesting to have it out; I have kind of been going through a mini version of the cycle all over again… It’s so interesting how grief evolves. It’s something that doesn’t really leave, it just changes.

Did you know that the cycle of grief would be the concept before you began writing, or did that concept come together later on?

It came to me halfway through writing actually. I had a few songs written, and then the idea struck me after Valentine’s Day of 2019. And there’s a few songs that didn’t make it on the project that may belong somewhere else. We will see.

What does your typical process of writing a song look like?

I start with the harmony (aka chord progression), and then typically the lyrics and melody come together. This means I have hundreds of 10 minute voice memos in my phone. Occasionally words will come first if I have a vivid idea for a particular message - but often it’s more stream of conscious.

I’m personally drawn to concept albums, whether the concept is fictitious or very real – do you feel the same? If so, are there any favorites you can point to?

I don’t know if DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar is technically considered a concept album, but the way he connects the smaller narratives with the overall themes is so inspiring to me. Whenever an artist puts thought into both the overall story and how the songs live as individual pieces, I am much more inclined to love it. And I think Kendrick does that so well.

Is there anything you would say to listeners, that may have experienced similar loss?

I think something I’ve learned over the process of making this record is that grief and its cycles will re-appear constantly. And the best thing you can do is to let yourself feel what you need to, and to honor that person that is gone in a small way when you feel those things return. And you need people around you that don’t get tired of you being sad, or make you feel guilty for it. That’s just a bad friend.

Going forward, do you know what other themes or ideas that you want to explore with your music?

Definitely! Almost daily I have an idea for a new project because I love stories, it’s just waiting for the one that sticks. Themes I have been exploring lately are disappointment, expectations, connection with physical places, failed friendships, and growing pains. We will see what happens with that.


Listen to 2/14 below.