Bringing Authenticity Back
After winning Season 16 of American Idol, fans might assume that Maddie Poppe was more than ready to take on the music industry. She’d been working with the cast and crew for months while filming, making relationships that would last long after the finale. But, what Poppe came to discover was that the industry wasn’t very similar to her experience on the show. “The music industry isn’t as nurturing as those people,” she says. “We weren’t just contestants to them – we were a family.” As the very first winner of Idol’s ABC reboot, Poppe was urged to let Season 17 winner Laine Hardy know what he would be in for (“If someone would have sat me down and given me bullet points on the next few months, I think I might’ve said I couldn’t do it and gone home”). Poppe took it day by day and learned how to handle herself in the entertainment business on her own, promoting the release of Whirlwind. The independence and confidence she’d gained on Idol is clearly translated through her songwriting and refusal to be anyone other than herself.
Growing up in Iowa as the daughter of a musician, Poppe began singing and playing the guitar at a young age. Her big inspiration was – and still is – Kelly Clarkson, who won the very first season of Idol. Poppe vividly remembers voting every week and contemplating what the reality-show experience must be like, never once thinking that she would have the chance to find out for herself.
It wasn’t until after American Idol that all of the massive changes in her life hit her. Before being thrown into writers’ rooms with people who were essentially strangers, Poppe was accustomed to writing music alone in her room whenever an idea came to her. Now, working with a record label, writing sessions are scheduled for her and at least a song a day should be written. “You get to know people so quickly when you’re writing a song with them,” Poppe describes. “By the end of the session, it feels like you’ve known each other for years.”
Although Poppe currently travels often, usually to L.A., all of her belongings remain at her parents’ house in Iowa. While on the road, Poppe not only thinks of friends and family, but her entire home state. “I always want to do as much as I can for Iowa because they’ve supported me so much – before, during and after the show,” she says. Earlier this year, Poppe was able to give back by working with Gilda’s Club Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa, a non-profit ensuring that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. The performance she put on for the organization remains close to her heart as she believes that everyone should give back to their community as much as they possibly can.
Moving forward, Poppe aims to be transparent and real with her fans. She wants to remain true to herself and her beliefs, never settling or making decisions based on what others want. “I guess I should have a better dream, like winning a Grammy or something, but I think happiness is more important,” she affirms. “You could win a thousand Grammys, but if you’re crying yourself to sleep every night, that’s not happiness.”
Writer: Tara McDonough
Photographer & Videographer: Catherine Asanov (@catherineasanov)
Stylist: Neal St Onge
Stylist Assistant: Cecilia Ortega
Hair & Makeup: Diane Dusting
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Demitasse (@cafe_demitasse - cafedemitasse.com) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)