Maddy O’Neal is no stranger to the stage, but she is new to standing on it alone. Maddy performed for five years as one-half of electronic duo Krooked Drivers, an act that now continues solo. Maddy just completed her first year as a solo artist as well, touring under her own name for the first time, and Euphoria 2017 seemed the perfect opportunity to check in on what she’s been up to during that time.
Maddy played a sunset show on Saturday at the Dragonfly Stage, the perfect setting for her chill, driving beats, guiding attendees beautifully through the momentous day-to-night festival transition. We met for our interview post-show in the VIP area. All of the cushy furniture was claimed, but unfazed, she suggested we plop in the cool grass for our chat.
Maddy’s approachability is undoubtedly part of the formula propelling her to the top. Of course, her wide range of samples, groovy basslines, and subliminally positive messages are the backbone of her act. But it is clear to see how much she truly loves what she does, wearing her passion on her sleeve every time she hits the stage. She kills it with a smile, extending her confidence and positivity out to the audience, a stark contrast to the many sullen-faced producers rotating through festival spots today.
Maddy is acutely aware of her role as one of the few females owning the stage at major festivals like Euphoria. When female artists on average make up only 14% of festival spots, it’s hard not to notice. As a writer and woman myself, all I want to do is be able to tell the story of a badass female artist that doesn’t necessitate drawing attention to the fact that she is, in fact, a female. But where the industry stands now, it impacts nearly every day in the life of a female working in music.
There’s been a recent wave of organizations and initiatives to bring this discrepancy to light. Organizations like Nap Girls seek to empower and connect women in electronic music by sharing opportunities, advice, and professional growth opportunities with one another. Why does this matter? Because music is one of the world’s greatest mechanisms for sharing our stories, experiences, and viewpoints with one another, as well as initiating positive change in the world. When women — or any other demographic — are left out of the conversation, so is the opportunity for us to be part of impacting and influencing the world, for today’s society and future generations.
Maddy is also acutely aware of the position this undeniable fact puts her in as a role model, whether she wants to be one or not. In Maddy’s case, she wholly embraces her stature as a role model and wears the responsibility proudly.
“This has been the wildest year of my life, finding myself again on a personal level and as an artist,” Maddy said. “I’ve been lucky to have the support I have to do my own thing. I’ve realized I’m in the position of being a female leader and hopefully also being an inspiration. I wasn’t aware of how important that is until recently.”
Maddy credits her family for her initial interest in music, and the Denver community as a whole for being a huge source of support through this new phase of her career.
“I grew up in a rock n’ roll household. I couldn’t stick with one instrument, so my brother gave me Ableton my sophomore year of college. I started messing around with it, sampling, fell in love with it, and completely stopped going out (laughs).”
Since stepping out as a solo act, Maddy has toured around the country, most notably as an opener for Pretty Lights and then Late Night Radio.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but Late Night Radio was one of the first people I met in the scene,” Maddy said. “Early on, we played a show together for literally four people. We bonded over being new and not knowing anything about the industry, and he’s been an older brother to me every since.”
When it comes to sitting down and creating, Maddy finds a routine serves her best, though it’s not always a possibility as a nationally touring artist.
“Not having a routine messes with me but it’s hard to have one with this lifestyle,” Maddy said. “I’ve been learning to work with it and not force it. I’ll work some then go out and talk with friends, express myself in other aspects of my life, and come back to it. I aim to work twice per day but every time I force it , I know I’m not doing my best.
“Lately I’ve been to trying to listen to stuff I wouldn’t normally listen to so I can see how far I can take it and push myself. I check out a lot of Spotify playlists to find new and different artists and types of music.”
What’s next for Maddy as she continues to grow and evolve as an artist this upcoming year?
“I just finished my EP and will be releasing singles in the next couple of months starting in May,” Maddy said. “I’ll be touring along the east coast with Sunsquabi, then hitting a bunch of festivals like Lightning in a Bottle. I’m also excited for Red Rocks with Big Gigantic, which will be huge.”
Check out some of our favorite Maddy O’Neal songs below and be sure to follow her upcoming performances on Facebook.
Also, get a glimpse of her whimsical Euphoria performance in our recap video: