In "You Might Not Like Her," Maddie releases our favorite EP of the year so far, an introspective glimpse into the beauty of coming of age and embracing who you are.
With a very full heart, I can only describe Maddie Zahm’s new EP "You Might Not Like Her" as praise for the human experience.
With such a strong foundation in Christian contemporary music, the EP reimagines the genre with a different message, one that feels authentic to Maddie. In the five songs, she tells the story of the disconnect between what felt honest and what was being taught to her growing up, and her escape from that mindset.
Sitting down with such a powerful artist, I was nervous. For me, Maddie is the kind of songwriter I was afraid to meet because of the viciously high expectations I held for her, which she met and exceeded. Not only is Maddie kind and warm and funny, but speaks as eloquently as one would expect from her lyrics. But this is just me gushing.
We opened our conversation with the video for "You Might Not Like Her," which she had just released. In both the short film and the song, Maddie works through all the things her younger self would be struggling with if she met her today, depicted with lyrics like, “My younger self would laugh, would never believe that it's against everything that we stood for."
The music video is crafted as a time capsule. Through young actress and Maddie-look-alike, Wynter, Maddie reflects on all the ways to make amends with her past while revisiting places that are connected to her childhood. This visual conveyance was an important part of the story for her own healing and for the healing of all her listeners. If Maddie was able to invoke all those emotions, then she could envision this conversation happening, which then might clear a path for others to do so as well. And this discussion becomes so important when we look at all the themes this one song breaks down, working as an umbrella for the entire EP.
“I worked backwards. So the song that's at the conclusion is actually the first song that I wrote, and then I wrote a lot of the songs that deconstructed the stuff that I was going through, so it became this kind of cathartic coming around. I can't believe what I had written that weekend," Maddie said.
"Fat Funny Friend" came out and was held so dearly and tightly by every person who had struggled when looking at themselves in the mirror.
“There was just this beautiful community of plus size women, and just body positive women. That was me. And I think that in some ways that community really is a big part of the reason that I felt comfortable coming out because I was like, if this community of people that I didn't even know existed were able to love me and vice versa...that gave me permission to also want to connect with the queer community,” Maddie said.
Maddie recently came out, and grappling with her sexuality and her religion has also been a thread that works through this project, especially with the songs that capture the strongest Christian contemporary sounds: "Pocket Bible” and “If It's Not God.”
The sound we find in worship music, whether faithful or not, is caressing and gorgeous. Flowing violins and melodies, steady wave-like builds, and raw vocals are known in this area. However, with these sounds, inevitably, comes the mindset as well.
Maddie described to me that her childhood and teenage years were both spent in these environments, but every time she was there she was left with a sense of disconnect. Prayer and love were being preached with exclusivity and she sought to refigure that. Indeed, she wanted to redefine a genre that had grown in her soul with a message she wanted to replace.
“It has been therapeutic, because I take in a lot of the artistry that I appreciate in that music, and gave it a message I finally believe in, one that allows me to feel loved," Maddie said.
And the most perfect combination is born from the marriage of these two ideas. In “If It's Not God,” Maddie describes the voice in her head telling her something was wrong: “Something inside me was always steering left, what Father picks a few just to leave the rest."
She asks the powerful and haunting question: If A God of all is the God we know, why are some imperfections better than others? Why do some people feel more loved and welcomed?
She describes that moment of relief when her heart gave in, when she realized the truth in that wrongness she felt.
As I spoke with Maddie, we talked about all these aspects of her life. About the fear she felt, about how often she felt she needed to apologize in such high frequency, and how difficult it made it for her to love herself.
“There is a level of looking back at the way that you treated yourself and being frustrated at the way that you treated yourself… If I wasn't making fun of myself, I was apologizing all the time. This self love journey is hard. Not perfect. But I certainly am saying things with my chest a little more," Maddie reflected.
Especially for young women and the queer community, Maddie is a role model of faith and belief in the beauty of being human, of accepting all the experiences, and of understanding yourself. She insisted this project be done with integrity because of how important this was to her. She wanted every single message to shine through, and it does: every moment of body acceptance, coming out, qualifying religion and sexuality, in loving someone where it hurts, and being exposed to things that were ingrained in us to solve.
She captures life in this small space, in just 15 minutes and 17 seconds. And that wasn’t God, it was indeed, Maddie Zahm.
Make sure to listen to Maddie Zahm's new EP You Might Not Like Her" out now! Follow MUD on Instagram for the latest content in the music world.