Sunday Sessions 3 - Maddy Belton
By: Emma Corcoran
For those of you who attended ST.ART Magazine's Creative Session back in November, you'll no doubt remember the girl who sat on a stool in the corner of the room strumming her guitar as she belted lyrics to both covers and originals. Her voice filled the intimate space with a reverberating sound that captivated the crowd and set the perfect mood for the event.
But for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of listening to her sing or watching her play and perform live, then you're in for a treat. Meet Maddy Belton, second year History and Art History student from Bishops, Stortford. With a sound that combines control, craft and rich colour, Maddy effortlessly picks through even the most complex melodies and hits every high note with such natural ease. Her voice is powerful, emotive and uniquely her own... and this is her story.
An interview with Maddy Belton:
ST.ART: When did you first begin singing and performing?
MB: Honestly? I have no idea. My grandparents always tell me I used to perform for them. I have a really early memory of dancing on a pier with my dad singing 'Once Upon A Dream' to an audience at a restaurant. Though it's pretty hazy, I'm told that it did happen. But I suppose my first 'performance' of sorts was being Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at age nine. Things just progressed from there, and I've spent the rest of my life in choirs and groups and just generally singing to anyone who wants to listen, sometimes even to those who don't.
ST.ART: Do you play any instruments?
MB: Well, that's an interesting one, because I've had lessons in just about every instrument under the sun, even the bassoon, though not many stuck. The problem is, I'm a really impatient person. I tend to get frustrated when my creativity runs ahead of my capability. So the official answer to that question is no, I never made it past grade two in anything but singing. I do, however, play the piano and guitar. I just have a more basic approach because I'm limited to what I can either teach myself or manage to grasp during the time I was taught. So yeah, I play instruments, plenty of them, just not that brilliantly.
ST.ART: Do you have any other talents?
MB: I write. A lot. I have a pretty prolific habit of writing poems, lyrics and short stories. Also journaling, because I have an uncanny ability to turn the smallest thing into a drama. Sometimes, I have to write it down to gain some perspective.
ST.ART: As a singer-songwriter, where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics?
MB: Everything, really, but mainly sayings or phrases. I went through a phase where I would write songs based around a lyric I'd heard in another song, because it meant something different to me. But it's often sometime said or something in my reality that I make into a lyric.
ST.ART: Which artists are you currently following?
MB: I'm currently loving the group Oh Wonder and their album Oh Wonder. I'm also a big fan of The Weekend's new album Beauty Behind the Madness. I tend to listen to whole albums rather than individual songs because I feel like you get a better understanding of the artist.
ST.ART: Who are your biggest music inspirations and how do they influence your sound and/or style of performance?
MB: I really love Boyce Avenue because of what they do with their covers, whether they strip them back or put a spin on them. I guess they encourage me to interpret music rather than replicate it. I would also have to include (at risk of sounding incredibly mainstream and predictable) Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, because they're both brilliant artists. Ed Sheeran opened me up to the idea of the very ordinary object, place or person becoming lyrical, while Taylor Swift made me write my first song, as a way of coping with something and of making my life into a musical I guess.
ST.ART: What was the first album that you bought and the last song that you listened to?
MB: I think the first album I bought was either The Princess Diaries soundtrack or Taylor Swift's Fearless (both are still great, by the way). And the last song I listened to was 'If It Makes You Happy' by Sheryl Crow (an oldie but golden).
ST.ART: What is your favourite song to sing at karaoke?
MB: Oh god, this is embarrassing. I always sing 'I'm Every Woman' by Chaka Khan, and I love every minute of it.
ST.ART: If you could perform on any stage anywhere in the world, where would it be?
MB: I think it would either be the O2 in London or Wembley, because I grew up around London and I associate those stages with my first concerts, I guess also with stardom and success. Is that a really boring answer? Sorry.
ST.ART: No, not at all! What about if you could perform a duet with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and which song would it be?
MB: I'd sing 'Iris' by The Goo-Goo Dolls, because it's my dad's favourite song (and I love it, too). It's so fun to sing, and I'd really like to hear it with a female harmony, in a more stripped back version.
ST.ART: What has been your biggest challenge as a musician and singer-songwriter?
MB: Definitely my musical ability. For a long time, I was embarrassed about it and felt the need to apologise and collaborate obsessively. I still like collaborating, but I've stopped letting what I can't do hold me back. I guess I started to believe in my own music a lot more - what's good about it instead of what's not.
ST.ART: Do you have any plans for the future?
MB: I'd like to get more involved with the St Andrews music scene, maybe sing with some people, get myself out there. But generally, I just want to keep doing what I'm doing and see where it leads me.