Maddi Jean Waterhouse may be the “last born” Waterhouse sister, but she is certainly not the least. Having always been fascinated by music’s ability to channel emotion, the young artist tried her hand at storytelling this year through her very first EP, last born. The result is an honest, bittersweet coming-of-age story. Schön! caught up with Maddi to talk about her song writing process, first relationships and what she’ll be working on next.
Let’s start from the beginning. At the age of just 21 you have already broken into the creative industry – first by making a splash with modelling campaigns and now by releasing your very first EP. Was music always part of the plan?
Music was always part of the dream. At first, I kept it to myself as I felt like everyone expected me to do something academic, like be a nurse (which I think my parents still hope for!). But, during my last couple years of school, I eventually put some of my covers online, which got some positive attention. I felt a spark ignite, which I haven’t been able to let go of since.
I’ve spent the past weekend with your EP last born on repeat. Your refreshingly open lyrics combined with your electro-pop melodies allow for a compelling listen. Is it challenging to be so honest in your work, or does it come naturally to you?
I think I would find it hard to sing about something I couldn’t relate to or connect to. When I’m thinking about a situation and feeling a strong emotion from it, happy or sad, or even something really dull, as long as there’s a story to tell, I think, ‘that would be a cool song’, and write the idea down.
Do you find writing music to be a cathartic process? As in, does it help you understand what you are going through and how you are feeling? Or does it do something else entirely?
Writing down my thoughts is the first thing I do whenever I feel lost or confused and I am trying to navigate a situation or understand myself better. I literally take my journal everywhere with me. So, when it comes to making a song about it, and I start singing about the experience, I can reflect on it in a unique way. To me, it feels like a release.
young in love is a track that pretty much everyone can relate to when looking back on our first relationships. What did your first relationship teach you about love?
It may sound obvious, but the biggest lesson I have learned is that a relationship is supposed to lift you and be a positive addition to your life, not drain and consume you. I’m grateful for the chaos because it helped shape me into being the person I am today. I think you have to experience the toxic ones to appreciate when something good comes along. If that person is meant to be in your life, it won’t feel draining, and it taught me it is so important to honour that.
And, more importantly, what did it teach you about yourself?
That you can’t let go of yourself for anyone else, to the point of losing who you are. It’s a slippery slope, and I think when you’re young, a very easy one to fall into. It’s cliché, but just to be my own person!
You seem to have a unique ability for storytelling. With each and every track on this EP we can visualise the experiences you describe from the lyrics alone. What role does the art of storytelling play in your creative process when envisioning a new song?
That makes me so happy to hear! Storytelling, for me, is essential. When I listen to music I love, the central theme that connects them all is that I feel like I’m there with them, I can see what’s going on, I can feel what they feel. I love that. I love to envision what the video would be like when I listen to the first demo of a new track, and think about how the story could be taken even further.
The music video for “greedy” takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions from upset to empowerment. What inspired the aesthetic for this video?
There’s such a power in leaving and escaping a situation that you’re not happy in, which I wanted to convey in the video — starting in a tight claustrophobic room and ending with the city as my backdrop highlights being in control of your choices, which I didn’t do for the longest time. I’m kind of honouring the version of me during the times when I wanted to do that but didn’t have the voice or the bravery.
Your Instagram is a place where you express your effortlessly chic style. Is fashion an important part of how you express yourself?
Definitely! It always has been. When I was twelve, I was about to start at a school where we didn’t have to wear a uniform, and I was so excited. I would plan my outfits the night before. I once overheard an older girl say to her friend, “that girl always wears the cutest outfits,” and I honestly felt fulfilled. It’s not about ‘who’ you’re wearing, it is about how you wear it, and that’s always been the most important part for me when it comes to fashion.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations and why?
As we were discussing storytelling as an important aspect to my music, the artists who’ve always inspired me massively are Lana [Del Rey] and Taylor [Swift]. They really are the queens of it in my mind because they instantly make me feel like I’m there, like I’m part of their movie. Lana’s Born To Die and Paradise were the albums of my angsty pre-tween years; her stories all seemed so grown-up and I wanted so badly to be able to relate to them.
Creating music offers an unparalleled avenue for self-expression, but equally comes with its pressures due to the fast-paced nature of the industry. What is the best advice you have received from your older sisters about working in the arts?
Keep creating, to not worry about how it’s going to be received, and just do it. They also taught me to not wait for anything to come to me.
Whilst as a remarkably creative family you draw inspiration from one another, it is exciting to see you carving out your own space within the world of music. If there is one key message you are sending about yourself as an artist through last born, what would that be?
Looking back at last born, it’s kind of an unexpected coming of age EP. The four songs were written over two years. I was just out of school, experiencing ‘adult’ things for the first time, and feeling a bit nervous about this newfound full independence. last born is my first “hello, this is me” in the music world, and I guess I want the theme of growing up with me to continue naturally, as my subject matter will change, my sound will evolve, and as I experience new things.
The future is looking bright. What are your hopes for summer? Can you tell us anything about what you will be working on next?
This summer is a summer of lots of changes! I’ve just graduated, and I’m moving across London. Plus, I’ve cut my hair, so I am a new woman. But, most importantly, I will be doing lots of studio sessions, and that means there will be some new singles on the horizon. I am excited to start releasing music more regularly now that I’ve got the initial EP out the way. Keep your eyes and ears peeled!
last born by Maddi Jean is currently available on all major platforms.
photography + video. Johnny Jordan
fashion. Kirsty Stewart @ The Only Agency
talent. Maddi Jean Waterhouse
hair. Luke Pluckrose @ The Only Agency
make up. Jacinta Spencer @ The Only Agency
words. Cordelia Speed