Last Friday still-indie-enough-to-be-super-humble-and-lovely queer icon in the making Maddie Ross (dubbed “The Best DIY Rock Star You’ve Never Heard Of,” by Billboard) released her debut LP, Never Have I Ever, a collection of tunes conceived as a sort of soundtrack to a ‘90s teen rom-com, but with a queer twist… Perhaps something like a TV edit of But I’m a Cheerleader. I got a chance to chat with Maddie earlier this week about the earliest feedback to her first full-length and she tells me it’s been ridiculously positive, “It’s been overwhelming really. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people about my music and especially gay people and trans people, sharing coming out stories. It’s just been the best week of my life [laughs].”
Maddie Ross is currently on tour, supporting Scottish songstress KT Tunstall, and will be playing downstairs at our very own World Café Live tonight. This is actually Ross’ second run of dates with Tunstall. The first time the two teamed up was last year, for Ross’ first ever proper tour. She tells me about how it all started and it admittedly sounds a bit like a ‘90s teen movie with a mega happy ending.
“It was so fucking crazy. I was just like in Home Depot and I had just retweeted something of hers and then the next day I got a message from her that was like, ‘I just listened to your music and would you like to come on tour with me?’ and it was all just so crazy… My dad came on the road with me and my girlfriend and did some of the driving and just helped out with everything in general. He took a few weeks off of work, which we were so thankful for… We’re from the Bay Area and we did a show out there and it felt like everyone I ever knew was there.”
Maddie’s girlfriend and musical partner, Wolfy, is a songwriter, musician, and producer in her own right. Maddie tells me about their relationship, which has been going for more than half a decade now and seems to have grown and evolved alongside their musical partnership.
“We’ve been dating for almost six years. I didn’t really come out until we were dating, but I never really liked boys and I was just always, like, the single friend [laughs]… We were making music together before we even started dating… We went to USC in the same small music program… It’s funny because she’s super direct and, when we first started working together, I was super sensitive, and would be like, ‘Oh my god, you don’t like my lyrics?!?!?!’ but that’s gotten a lot easier and she knows me better than anyone… My parents have owned a business together for 30 years, so I had a really good model for that kind of thing.”
As far as what can be expected of the live experience tonight, Maddie tells me that their live shows tend to be a rather casual affair.
“We do a lot of joking around onstage. We have a lot of fun banter, I mean, since we’re so comfortable with each other. And I just say whatever pops into my head between songs… We’ve got a small setup for financial reasons. We actually rearranged the songs and at first I thought I would be sad that people didn’t get to hear them as they were originally intended, but they’re actually getting to hear a cool, more intimate version of them, which I actually like.”
Although this mini tour is about to wrap up on Sunday in Boston, Maddie and Wolfy apparently have numerous musical projects in the works.
“I’m excited for summer. We release our records through Sentimental Records, which is just our label, but we also release other artists that she records and produces, so I’m just going to focus on Sentimental Records and support her like she’s supported me. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Rosie Tucker, but if you’re not, you should be. We’re working on something with her and she’s just totally amazing. But I’m also going into writing mode and going to start to work on a new record. For the first LP, I wrote and recorded it in about six weeks, in between the KT tours, but now I’m looking to have a little bit longer of a process for the next one.”
And while Maddie Ross may currently be best-known for her love of ‘90s teen icons (During our chat she cited Alanis, Gwen Stefani, and Rachael Leigh Cook’s character in She’s All That as her biggest inspirations.), when I ask if she has any influences that might surprise fans, she admits that, indeed, she does.
“Yes! [Laughs] I grew up on Eminem. I have a brother who’s five years older than me, who is just the coolest (He’s actually just about to get married.) He went through a hip-hop phase and he loved Eminem during the whole Slim Shady period. I know every single lyric on the first few Eminem albums [laughs]… And my girlfriend, who does all my music with me, and is just so accomplished, she adores One Direction and boy-bands. Right now she’s listening to… Well, she went to Wikipedia’s page to look up girl-groups and now she’s listening to every single girl-group in alphabetical order.”