Queer Houston singer Madeline the Person is the definition of a phenomenon. Just last year, the 20-year-old went viral on TikTok, where she now has over 800,000 followers. Since then, she’s gone on to open for several tours, release multiple songs, and drop her latest single, “Mean.”
The recent high-school graduate originally wanted to be a doctor like her mother. Then she decided to study songwriting at Berklee College of Music, but she pivoted from those plans when her music career began to take off. “I pulled out when I got my record deal with Warner right after graduating high school. That’s when I realized the singing thing could be realistic and I didn’t want to do anything else.”
She has been interested in music for as long as she can remember. “I grew up in a very musical family, so I was surrounded by it since I was born. My dad was obsessed with sound equipment, my mom played classical piano, and my brother played guitar.” Madeline and her brother wanted to be just like their mom, so they started piano lessons when they were 4. “I was obsessed with the Disney Channel and the singers that came from it, like Demi and Miley. I was really shy about singing when I was younger, but I started lessons when I was 7 and started coming out of my shell.”
She knew music was her “thing” because she simply could not stop making it. “As a kid, I would sing every second—on the toilet, in the car, in public, during dinner. Like, I was annoying! I couldn’t stop. It just naturally took shape as I grew up, and I realized that I can make really lovely pieces of art to connect with people.”
Madeline was in choir and musical theater growing up, and she started writing songs when she was 10. “Just me and my guitar in my bedroom, trying to get my feelings out in the only way that felt right.” She started posting videos of herself singing covers on Instagram soon after, just for her friends and family to see. “When I saw that people other than my family and friends were interested in my videos, I started posting more and more.”
Fast-forward to the thick of the pandemic. “I was super-bored and had just met my manager, Leslie. She suggested I put some of my videos on TikTok, so I did. It was one of the best decisions of my entire life. It changed my world completely.” Soon after that, she began talking to record labels and ultimately making the decision to work with Warner Records.
“I have never really had much experience performing my original songs live, and everything started coming together during the pandemic, so it was only pretty recently that I started performing for people,” she explains. “Opening for The Aces was such a surreal experience. I hope to perform for the rest of my life!”
Madeline says her “kid self” would freak out about her music now. “I think about this a lot, just because I know that younger me would just be over the moon. I have moments where I check in with myself and remind myself that ‘We’re really doing it!’”
It means absolutely everything to Madeline that people connect with her way of expressing herself through music. “The reason I share my music is because I want people to have a safe space for their really hard emotions. The fact that people share their stories and are encouraged to be more themselves with my music is all that I have ever dreamed of.”
She just released the first single from her upcoming third EP. “The song is called “MEAN!” and it has been so, so exciting watching it take on a life of its own on TikTok. I’m so excited to release a couple more singles, and then finally my third-chapter EP! I have a few festivals that I’m performing at this summer, which is so exciting—I’ve never played or even been to a festival before! All super-exciting things.”
Madeline, who identifies as bisexual, says that “a huge chunk” of her friends are in the LGBTQ community. “I’ve found a home with the community ever since I came out in middle school. My first big performance as Madeline the Person was at a Pride festival. That was so special to me.”
Madeline is inspired by her music because it reminds her that she has been embraced by so many strangers simply because she’s sharing some difficult emotions. “It’s so beautiful and so human to put your feelings in a song and share with people that way. It gives me hope for the future that more people can really grow into themselves and speak up about their personal stories. Everyone just wants to feel safe to be themselves, so I have hope that if I keep sharing who I am, it will inspire more people to be exactly who they are.”
And as for her musical career dreams, she zeroes in on just a few: “I would love to write with Finneas someday, headline Coachella, and sing with Joni Mitchell. Those are definitely on my vision board!”
Keep up with Madeline the Person on TikTok @madelinetheperson.
This article appears in the June 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.