Gettin’ her hands dirty
Music Industry major puts in the work in Chico scene
It took three years for Madeleine Mathews to turn herself into a Chico music staple.
She made that happen by writing for and performing in three bands—Southfork, The Feisties and her current solo project, MAWD—and collaborating with others, working behind the scenes of shows for Chico State’s SOTA (School of the Arts) Productions class and 1078 Gallery, and taking part in the popular multiartist projects of Uncle Dad’s Art Collective.
“A lot of people come to me if they need help with finding other bands to play with because I know a lot of people, just from being around,” she said.
Mathews moved here to join Chico State’s music industry program, and immediately immersed herself in the music community.
“I wanted to make the most of my time coming here, because when I was in community college in Placerville, I was wanting so bad to go to a bigger community,” she said. “As soon as I got here, I was like, ‘OK, I gotta make friends and start doing this.’”
Mathews started by entering a songwriting competition put on by SOTA, which she won.
“That was kind of my big break, I guess,” she said. “That’s how I started getting to know people.”
From there, Mathews dove into the Chico music scene, working as SOTA’s head event planner and general manager on events like the recent 1078 Gallery visit by artist-rights activist Blake Morgan. Along the way, Mathews spent time refining her music, which has culminated with a solo project under the name MAWD (from her Swiss grandmother’s pronunciation of “Madeleine”). She began playing around Chico at venues such as The Maltese and The Naked Lounge.
During an internship with the Chico/ L.A.-based music label Sound x3, she was approached by the company about releasing her debut MAWD EP. That’s happening next month. The just-released first single is “Summer in Dream” (available on Spotify and Apple Music), a strong pop tune that merges chugging Americana rhythms, reverb-heavy harmonies and Mathews’ strong, forward vocals, calling to mind groups like Portland folk-pop trio Joseph.
The connections Mathews made in the university community have recently taken her beyond Chico as well. MAWD and labelmate (and fellow SOTA songwriting contest winner) KLEZ, aka John Klezmer, are in Sweden touring the country for the first half of April. After finding some cheap plane tickets, Mathews said she reached out to some Swedish exchange student friends she’d met through the music industry program when she first arrived in Chico.
“They were actually my first real friends, I would say,” Mathews said. “I was basically their Chico mom because they didn’t have cars.”
Those friends helped line up the tour, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund bringing backup musicians along, MAWD and KLEZ headed to Scandinavia.
Though Mathews will be relocating to L.A. in the summer, she’s become a model for how young musicians who immerse themselves in what Chico has to offer can make a name for themselves.
“Just see who, it sounds lame to say, the major players of the local scene are, and reach out to them,” Mathews said. “I just started attending shows, not only my shows but my friends’ shows or friends’ friends’ shows. I was going to shows for three days a week for a while, and just through that you meet people, and ask them if there’s any way you can help.”