Madison Cunningham won’t be releasing her debut Verve Forecast album until sometime next year — early, she hopes. But in the meantime she’s leaking out five tracks she recorded back in January “to hold people over a little bit,” with stark accompanying performance videos — including “Last Boat to Freedom,” which premieres exclusively below.
“The songs we’re releasing are to promote a full-length,” the Americana-leaning singer-songwriter tells Billboard, noting that the tracks — which include the already released “Beauty Into Cliches” and “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” — won’t necessarily be on the final album. “One or two could potentially make it on, but for now I’m planning on them not being there,” she says. “I have enough songs to make a full-length, and these didn’t make sense to go on the record, so we figured we’d just release some singles now and roll the (album) out afterwards. The singles are a separate thing.”
“Last Boat to Freedom” is a slice of Cunningham’s life, growing up in Orange County and plotting her big-time music move. “I wanted to move to L.A. when I was 18, and then I didn’t move ’til I was 21,” Cunningham recalls. “It was kind of this big struggle. I couldn’t get out of Orange County, and I was just watching the industry from afar. I felt like I wanted to be there but couldn’t make it happen. So the song is talking about kind of wishing I was free from where I grew up and all that. It sounds like a very complaining statement but is sort of a song of longing, I suppose, at the time.”
The singles follow up Cunningham’s 2017 EP Love, Lose, Remember, and she says the full album — which she began recording during late August — will be a bit different. “The EP was all acoustic songs,” Cunningham says, “but very shortly after it was released I already wanted and wished I’d written them on electric guitar.” Cunningham started playing electric when she was about 15, dabbling on her father’s guitar. Using that, she predicts, will make the album “more sonically bold,” though the exact approach is still being determined.
“It’s kind of like when a baby is born,” she explains. “You never really know what you’re going to name your baby until you see it. You figure, ‘This name works best for its face.’ I do know the main thread of the whole thing is going to be electric guitar, but beyond that I can’t say yet.”
Cunningham is hoping to have details about the album to announce soon. Mostly, however, she’s just happy it’s coming, and that even if her move to Los Angeles was delayed she’s still in the heart of making music. “I thought about making a Plan B for myself — one of them was being a barista,” she says with a laugh. “But that didn’t have to happen. One person said to me once, ‘Don’t ever make a Plan B, ’cause then you won’t try your hardest at Plan A.’ I took that advice and never made a stable Plan B. It’s just been Plan A so far.”