“I remember when I was little watching Martina McBride on CMT,” says hopeful country starlet, Madison McKenzie. “I was always fascinated with her and her music.”
You can hear McBride’s influence on Mckenzie’s singing on Love’s Journey, a three-song EP released earlier this year. The young singer bears a passing resemblance to McBride, too, and if McBride’s career is the one after which McKenzie plans to model her own, she’s got a bit of a head start: McBride didn’t get to Nashville until she was 23; McKenzie is only 17.
“I first got into music when I was 7. My parents — actually, my grandparents — got me my first guitar, and that’s when I started playing and pursuing music,” McKenzie says with the slightest hint of a Midwestern accent. “When I was 12, I started taking lessons and learning more about guitar. The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to write. That’s when I started writing. And I’ve always loved singing. My parents would sing to me when I was little, and we would all sing together. That’s what made me want to start singing.”
McKenzie began singing at church and at events around her home in Western Illinois, but it was her performance at an event in Nashville that would change her life.
“I was singing at the Nashville Wing Festival and one of the PCG people was there, and when they heard me sing, they found my parents and talked to us about that,” she says. “That’s when we decided to sign up.”
PCG Nashville is an artist development program that partners with some of the industry’s biggest names to help new talent reach their full potential.
“[PCG Nashville] helps young artists like myself learn more about their music career and what direction they want to take and that,” says McKenzie. “I go there once a month for a whole week to train and learn more.”
Since October, McKenzie and her family have made the 8-hour drive from Illinois to Music City every month.
“I love going down to Nashville,” she says. “My family does, too. We’ve made some friends down there, so everytime we go, we get to go see them and hang out with their families.”
Though it’s a long way, the skills she’s learned and the industry connections that McKenzie has made through PCG are definitely worth the trip. In March she released a three-song EP called Love’s Journey, and for her first full album she’ll be working with producer and engineer Bob Bullock who has engineered over 50 gold and platinum albums and worked with Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, and Tanya Tucker, among others.
“I love Bob. He’s one of my favorite people and he’s a good producer,” McKenzie says. “PCG hooked us up together. They thought that we’d be a good match, and so far it is. I’m having a lot of fun working with him.”
McKenzie and Bullock have demoed the tracks, and recording for the final cuts will begin in October.
“We did lay down the tracks, and now we’re in the process of putting the songs in order and [choosing which] songs I’m going to sing,” she says.
McKenzie had a hand in writing almost all of the songs — she even wrote one with her sister — and none of them required significant changes from Bullock.
“He really likes my songs and really likes the meaning of them and all the music I put together with them,” says McKenzie, “so he didn’t have to do much tweaking on the words or the songs themselves.
Until recording begins in October, McKenzie plans to continue writing, performing, and growing her fanbase. Earlier this year she performed in front of 55,000 people at a festival in Lakeland, Fla., and recently she got the opportunity to perform at a NASCAR event.
“It was really fun because I’d never been to anything like that,” she says. “It was really exciting meeting all the new, different people and being down there in the pit because I’ve never really gotten to do anything like that before.”
To hear more from Madison McKenzie, check out her website at www.madimmusic.com.