Taking inspiration from stage and screen alike, MADDS BUCKLEY makes powerful alternative/folk rock with ambitions matched only by the scale of her influences. ”I spent a lot of middle school listening to Marianas Trench and musical theatre,” the Nashville-based, Chicagoland-raised singer/songwriter says. “I grew up singing Sara Barellies with my cousins; it’s always going to be a part of me.”
This knack for cinematic emotion and unapologetic sincerity runs through her entire catalog, the same blend of heart and enthusiasm that boosted her song “The Red Means I Love You,” inspired by the popular anime My Hero Academia, to viral TikTok fame in 2022, spurring more than 80 million Spotify streams.
“I was so used to my videos sticking to this little section of anime and manga fans,” she remembers. “Now I’m seeing a flood of people filming themselves lip syncing, singing, or dyeing their hair red, all to my song and I’m going, ‘Wait, what happened?!”
Now, on her forthcoming full-length album, My Love is Sick, the Berklee College of Music graduate is once again eschewing the trends, following her own musical arrow while expanding both her sonic and emotional palettes. The follow-up to her Sunset on Summerville album sees Buckley exploring the complicated struggles of loving someone while fighting yourself, and the skeletons in your closet.
“There’s an overarching theme in My Love is Sick of framing yourself as something wrong, unworthy, or twisted: the wanting victim, the weed amongst flowers, the sinner in the pews, or the unknowing villain of your own story.” Buckley shares. “Sometimes your past and the people you love leave you with a warped sense of self, and whether it’s accurate or not is up to you to find out.”
These themes are further explored through the lens of two characters, and their relationship together. The main character, Dog, is someone who carries a lot of hurt with her, but she can’t bring herself to fully accept a safe, loving relationship with her very selfless partner, Bird. Buckley explains, “While they have beautiful moments together as a couple, long term problems are left to build up until it breaks them, which is why the album is sprinkled with these self-referential moments.”
“While the vast majority of these songs are not about me directly, they still carry the pain, the fear, and the joy that’s come with accepting myself as I am 23 years in; a queer person learning to love.”
In the end, the confidence and emotional resonance contained on My Love is Sick is proof that even when she’s speaking from her own soul through deeply written characters, Madds Buckley is nothing if not authentically herself – tracing the intricacies of life through its entire range of emotions while understanding that the most direct path to healing is found through her art.
“Experiencing music as a listener is very different than writing it and living with it, but I got a lot of relief out of making this album,” she says. “I hope people see themselves in these songs in some way. If they see themselves grow from it, that’s a win in my book.”