EXCLUSIVE: Maddy O’Neal Talks Personal Growth, Getting Big, And … – Live for Live Music

Maddy O’Neal is a name that we’ve been hearing a lot in recent months. The former member of Krooked Drivers has been making a name for herself as a solo artist at huge events this year including Summer Camp, Sonic Bloom, Camp Bisco, Pretty Lights’ recently announced Washington festival at the Gorge Amphitheater, and at Colorado’s Red Rocks as support for Big Gigantic. Not too shabby for an artist who took the plunge and went solo a little over a year ago. The producer and DJ is clearly bound for big things, gaining notoriety nationwide for her effortless style that synthesizes tastes of rock, funk, blues, indie, hip-hop, and more into her fiercely creative, genre-bending and bass-driven electronic tracks. To kick off the summer, Maddy O’Neal has just embarked on a tour with fellow Coloradans SunSquabi, and the two acts are set up to show cities across the Northeast and Midwest just how Colorado gets down.

Ahead of her performance at American Beauty in New York City with SunSquabi and Late Night Radio this Saturday (tickets available here), O’Neal was kind enough to take a few moments and give us the low-down on what she’s getting into these days. You can check out her website here for upcoming tour dates and our interview with the pioneering producer below, along with her recently released track “Nunya” featuring Megan Hamilton who co-produced the track and is featured on vocals.

L4LM: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! I know you’re on tour right now, so where are you now and what are you getting into?

Maddy O’Neal: Thanks for hitting me up! I appreciate the interest! I just flew into Atlanta yesterday to meet up with the SunSquabi boys because they just finished playing Sweetwater Festival. We are currently in the van heading up east, on our way to Richmond, where the run kicks off this Wednesday at The Broadberry. Super excited because these are mostly all new markets for me!

L4LM: With this tour with SunSquabi you’re currently kicking off, they’re also favorites from Colorado. How did that come together and what’s it been like living in Denver and working with other Colorado-based artists?

Maddy O’Neal: I’ve known these guys for a while now; I met them in Boulder actually like six years ago or so when I was first starting out producing. We’ve become super close over the years and played a bunch of shows together. That’s one of the coolest parts about living in Colorado and the scene out there is that a lot of the musicians are friends and collaborate and support one another. It really creates this super unique bond that’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been. I did a run with them this winter that went really well, and I am super stoked they invited me back for this run. We’re a good team.

L4LM: You used to be with Krooked Drivers but recently went solo. How has that transition been treating you?

Maddy O’Neal: yes, I was with Krooked drivers for about six years, and a little over a year ago decided to go solo. Really was just looking for a change and wanted to challenge myself. A lot had happened in my life during that time period too, and I just kinda felt that urge for a new beginning. At first it was definitely scary—walking away from something I had put six years of my life building and essentially starting over—but it pushed me in a great way, in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. I always say the biggest thing I’ve learned is that in order to grow you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone. I faced a lot of fears I had by doing that. And, I am so unbelievably grateful for all the support I’ve had on this new solo journey as well.

L4LM: Kind of going off that, how do you feel like your sound been evolving and what’s been influencing those changes?

Maddy O’Neal: As with any artist, your sound and style continues to develop and evolve over time. For my first album, I really focused on letting things happen naturally, not forcing anything and really letting my inspiration kind of take hold organically—I had a lot of emotion to work with on that one. I’ve also been trying to listen to a ton of different styles of music that I wouldn’t normally necessarily listen to. The coolest part about the style of music I make is that it is so versatile and genre defying. I can really take it in any direction I want to, so I’ve been experimenting a lot with different styles and techniques within producing to carve out my own sound within it. I know that sounds vague [laughs] but  it’s much easier to hear than describe.

L4LM: Can you also talk a little bit about your experiences as a female artist and what it’s like not just holding your own but crushing in a mostly male-dominated scene?

Maddy O’Neal: It is definitely an interesting role to fill. I think the coolest part about it is that I get to be a role model in a sense and try to help empower women to get into the scene or just in general. I was raised by a very feminist mother, and I think it’s really cool that I can not only do what I love and share my music with people on that scale but that it also feels like it’s attached to something bigger—in empowering other females by being a force against the stereotype so to speak. Most times, I don’t even really think about the fact that I am such a rarity in the industry because I try to think of myself on the same level as everyone else regardless of gender.

L4LM: I feel like we’ve been seeing your name everywhere over the past few months, with big appearances at Summer Camp, Sonic Bloom, Camp Bisco, Red Rocks, and the recently announced Pretty Lights festival at the Gorge. How does it feel to sharing the bill with these huge acts and to see your own name slowly moving higher up these lineups?

Maddy O’Neal: This year has been unbelievable. Sometimes seeing my name on those bills doesn’t even feel real. I am so so grateful for all of the support I’ve had, it’s pretty unreal. I really just have to force myself to slow down sometimes and take it all in. It’s hard to turn my brain off sometimes though ’cause with all of these newer and bigger experiences, I just want to keep pushing myself. I gain so much inspiration from it, to improve and continue to push myself artistically on a live-performance level.

L4LM: Speaking of which, what acts are you most excited to catch this summer?

Maddy O’Neal: There are so many acts on these festivals I hope to be able to catch while I’m out there—one in particular I’ve heard amazing things about is Anderson .Paak, definitely on my list. It’s also really cool to see all of my friends play and how they’ve evolved their live performances. These festivals have just become such a family environment that keeps on growing, which is really really cool.

L4LM: Alright, I’ll try to keep things short and sweet, so I’ll end with this. You’ve got a show coming up this Friday at American Beauty in NYC with SunSquabi and Late Night Radio; what should people expect from your set?

Maddy O’Neal: I am super excited for that one! I haven’t been to NYC since I was like 13, so I’m feeling pretty giddy in general. But I just finished up a new EP that I’m pretty excited about, so definitely expect to hear a bunch of those new tunes worked into my set. I’m having a blast playing those out live mixed in with some oldies and a couple recent releases, like my collaboration with Megan Hamilton “Nunya” has been one of my favorites to play lately. It’s a sassy funky twist on Salt-N-Pepa’s “None Of Your Business.” It was such a fun track to do especially as the two of us being the rare female producers—it was kind of our girl power anthem.

L4LM: Thank you for your time, and looking forward to checking out your show on Friday!

Maddy O’Neal: Thank you guys so much for taking the time as well! See you guys this weekend!


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