It’s no wonder why the supremely talented Maddie Poppe was declared the winner of Season 16 of American Idol: her radiant voice, straightforward storytelling, and heart-on-sleeve presence was sure to captivate audiences around the country. Before achieving stardom, the Iowa native got her start at a young age singing classic hits with her dad’s band. Within a year of picking up the guitar, she began performing locally and making a name for herself. By the time she started high school, she was fully immersed in songwriting and drew inspiration from such artists as Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. Her first album, titled Songs from the Basement, was written and recorded with her father in 2016 – one year before dominating the American Idol stage. In her new instantly charming album Whirlwind, the multi-instrumentalist chronicles her amazing journey through unforgettable melodies and cultivated songcraft. She pours her emotions into lyrical ideas that are then neatly wrapped in elements of Americana, indie-rock, and pop. With a fearless passion and a skilled team of producers at her side, it is safe to say we’ve only seen the beginning of Maddie Poppe.
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In her debut release for Hollywood Records, Poppe joins forces with producer/songwriters like Johan Carlsson (Ariana Grande, Charlie Puth, Demi Lovato) and Drew Pearson (Kesha, Pentatonix, Michelle Branch), building off her Americana roots and adorning her songs with elements of indie-rock and pop. “Making the album felt like one big experiment, where I kept learning so much and getting so many new ideas,” says Poppe, a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, piano, and ukulele. “Instead of just limiting myself to any one genre, I wanted to try out whatever styles and sounds felt right for the song.”
In bringing Whirlwind to life, Poppe refined her artistry by co-writing for the first time. “At first I was so scared to lay all my emotions out on the table like that,” she recalls. “But now that I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t have that fear anymore. These days I’d much rather write with other people because I love that feeling of everyone sharing their ideas and
creating something you’d never come up with on your own.” And as she’s evolved as a songwriter, Poppe’s made a point of telling her story with soul-baring vulnerability. “Two years ago, I never would’ve imagined I’d be where I am today,” she says. “I never would’ve thought I’d get out of small-town Iowa and play shows all over the country, or meet somebody so perfect for me—I never thought I could make my dreams come true like that. Making this album, I was really honest about everything that’s happened in my life during that time. I didn’t hold anything back, and I hope that people can feel how real the songs are, and connect with each of them in their own individual way.”
One of Whirlwind’s most striking departures, “Made You Miss” imbues a new boldness into Poppe’s music, unfolding in serpentine rhythms, smoldering horns, and urgent guitar riffs. As Poppe explains, the track’s infectious energy partly stems from the playful spontaneity that fueled the recording session. “The guitar part to that song was actually recorded on an iPhone,” she points out. “It seems crazy considering we were in this studio with all this amazing equipment—but it sounded so good, so we kept it.” Meanwhile, Poppe stirs up a fiery passion in her vocal performance, belting with supreme self-assurance as she revels in the thrill of moving on from the one who’s done you wrong.