Rett Madison on Healing, Playing, and Cultivating an Audience (4/8 at MilkBoy)

“The most rewarding and cathartic part of the process for me, in addition to writing and recording, has been connecting with fans after the shows and hearing people who...

“The most rewarding and cathartic part of the process for me, in addition to writing and recording, has been connecting with fans after the shows and hearing people who have told me that it helped them process and move through their own grieving stories… which makes me feel so much less isolated.  It’s been really healing for me,” says Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Rett Madison.  We’re chatting via phone during a brief break Madison had in-between a number of recent tours.

Last October Rett Madison released her sophomore LP, One for Jackie, a tribute to her late mother, who passed by suicide in 2019 after struggling with depression, PTSD, and alcoholism for Madison’s entire life.  Billboard called the LP, “A sterling, unflinchingly honest album, one not afraid to highlight grief’s messy margins.”  The album is the follow-up to 2021 debut full-length Pin-Up Daddy, a collection of songs Madison wrote between the ages of 19 and 21.  “I would say the sophomore record is much more focused as far as the narrative, which is all about losing my mother and falling in love for the first time and grief,” she tells me, but also admits that the approach to the individual songs largely remains the same: “We want people to focus on the storytelling.”

One for Jackie’s final track, “Kiki,” – a ten-ton-truck of a ballad — features a very special (and impressive) guest in Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.  “I wrote it from the perspective of my late mother and what she would say to me after she passed,” Rett explains to me, but tells me she and producer Tyler Chester (Margaret Glaspy, Madison Cunningham, Carsie Blanton) felt the recording could use something additional, with Tyler suggesting Sam, a good friend of his.  “Sam’s voice has this omniscient narrative quality,” Rett tells me of his contributions to the track, before adding, “I’m so grateful that Sam was able to be on that track…  I’m such a beginning artist, so I feel so lucky to have Sam appear on that track.”  Although she feels inclined to tell me that it was actually a bit after Sam did the recording that the two ever actually met “IRL”: “He’s good friends with Tyler, but I didn’t meet him in person until after the album came out, when we were both at a tour documentary premiere in LA.”

The new songs have been receiving lots of positive feedback throughout Madison’s recent time on the road, which has included runs with some pretty major acts.  Last year she opened a number of dates for Grace Potter, late February/early March saw her supporting John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, and she just wrapped up a jaunt with our good buddies in BAILEN.  And she tells me she’s been really wowed by the performers and fans alike: “Grace’s audiences were so great… and she’s just this great, empowered woman in rock…  John’s audience was so attentive.  We were in venues of 600-1,000 seats and every crowd was just so attentive!”  At the time of our chat, Madison was yet to embark on her most recent trek with BAILEN, but she told me she was definitely a fan: “I love traveling with BAILEN.  They have the best harmonies!”

I ask Rett if there are any acts that she’d dream of getting to tour alongside and she tells me, “I would love to open for Brandi Carlile or Kacey Musgraves.”  However, she says that she enjoys playing every kind of show: “I just try to play every show with the same kind of energy and enthusiasm.”  Just this Monday she kicked off a headlining tour that will have her in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection on April 8th at MilkBoy, our favorite Center City live music barroom, which she tells me she’s incredibly excited about: “I really enjoy [those settings], getting to connect, having such an intimate experience with my fans, and getting to go to the merch booth after the show to meet the community that’s starting to build around those people that like my music…  I just feel really lucky cultivating an audience, whatever size it may be.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.