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Nashville singer Madeline McDonald overcomes bullying to follow her passion

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

By Steve Barnum, Studio M staff //

In Houston, Texas, there used to be a white office building with an old recording studio inside, where a 13-year-old girl often recorded Carrie Underwood covers and dreamed about making it big.

Dave Williams, Vault Recording Studio’s owner, saw something special in that girl’s voice.

“You do know this is what you’re supposed to be doing, right?” he asked the young artist.

Nine years and over 300 shows later, 22-year-old singer-songwriter Madeline McDonald is pushing to make her dream a reality.

McDonald has a show coming up at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville on Nov. 5. She’s also set to release her first single, “Bible Belt,” in early 2018, along with an EP that is being produced by Full Circle Music.

“The main line of (“Bible Belt”) is, ‘There are two sides to the Bible Belt,’ and it talks about how there are two types of people, but also those of us who are in the Bible Belt. … You know, we love God, we love Christ, but we also still have fun on weekends. Sometimes we make mistakes, but we always turn back to God,” McDonald said.

Singer-songwriter Madeline McDonald. (Photo courtesy David Heisler Photography)

At 15, McDonald started to write her own music. Over the years, she has been growing and learning from her past in order to develop her writing and performing skills.

Underwood has been and still remains a huge inspiration in the sound, style and type of songs McDonald writes in order to empower women while having fun with it at the same time.

Robbie Artress, a Nashville-based producer who has worked with McDonald, said, “She definitely has a wide range of songwriting talents, and I think her lyrics are always really good and uplifting. She always tells a great story with her music.”

Despite her talents, Madeline used to be bullied when she was younger.

She used to hate getting picked on. She would write songs about it, talk openly about it and it would only lead to further belittlement from her peers.

“(It was like) when you know you’re different and you know you’re not like all the other girls. You know, in school trying to be a cheerleader, trying to be popular in school, you kind of know that you’re on the outside looking in,” McDonald said.

For about three years, Madeline turned to modeling to try to end the bullying. McDonald says that she tried so hard to be something that she was not, she came to realize that when you’re trying to be someone that you’re not meant to be, it’s only going to hurt you in the end.

“Looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful for it, because the fact that I was so bullied for something that I had that was just so different … that means that you’re someone that stands out,” she said.

Now McDonald is focused on making music and aims to show young girls what they can achieve if they follow their own dreams.

“You have to follow your actual passions and what makes you happy,” McDonald said.

Steve Barnum is a senior in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University. Follow him on Twitter at @steve_barnum.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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