Coming Of Age: The Journey of Madeline Crisman

It was one of the first warm days of early April. To many in Texas, the weather is volatile, and hardly symbolic of any significant change or development. However, on this particular day, there was an undeniable sense of growth. Madeline Crisman Dowd sat on concrete that had been cooled by a forgiving patch of shade, with her back pressed against a brick wall. Her cheerful demeanor was juxtaposed with the lit cigarette in her hand, an ornamentation that had long since become the universal accessory of more troubled people. Like her music, she embodied whimsy, and lightheartedness, yet bore a vast and surprising amount of emotional depth.

Just as it is with Spring, the origins of Madeline Crisman are rife with change. “I feel like I’ve been writing for a really long time, but my first recordings were just voice memos on my phone. Eventually that became Garage Band, and after awhile I moved on to other programs.” she explained. In the beginning, Crisman relied heavily on the already sparse resources she had at her disposal in humble Alpharetta, Georgia. “I basically didn’t have anything when I started. I would write a song, and then I would have to bring it to one of my guitar teachers so they could help me flesh it out. They would, like, give me gear to use since I had almost nothing else” she says, laughing. She goes on to credit her discovery of Denton, and its DIY community as an affirmation of her process. “Moving to Denton changed a lot for me, because when I first started I felt this enormous pressure to know what I was doing. I found out later that you can just record what you’re doing in your room, and post it. Someone will appreciate it somewhere.”


One thing that has remained consistent for Crisman is how deeply personal her music is. Since she began writing, Crisman would keep journals, filled end to end with poems. “Sometimes after I finish a poem or something, I like to draw a picture to go with it, to add a visual representation to what I’m feeling. I usually take that and try to turn them into songs. I don’t always do it that way, though. Sometimes I’ll be messing around on the guitar and I’ll stumble upon a chord progression that I like. I’ll try to channel whatever it is I’m feeling in the moment into a whole song.” This results in a final project with a wide range of sounds, but a consistent and tangible sense of authenticity. Crisman’s music never abandons the listener, preferring instead to carry them, suspended in a lazy river of sorts, one that varies in speed, in temperature, and in depth. “I love writing upbeat, synth driven and poppy music, but I also like those stripped down and intimate songs that are just guitar and that’s it. So I just kind of decided to do both.”


Despite all of this, it is doubtful that this is the final incarnation of Madeline Crisman we will meet. Instead of brandishing the influences of her predecessors, Crisman opts instead to be inspired by her peers and her contemporaries. “I mean, obviously I listen to artists like Frankie Cosmos and Florist, but I can’t help but to be influenced by all of my friends, and by sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. I love going on and just getting lost in music people have recorded in their rooms. I love the lo-fi, intimate sound because that’s what I’m doing, and it’s good to hear what other people are doing with it. Maybe they hear my music, and the grow from it, just like I do with theirs.”

Listen to Madeline Crisman's debut album "Hey Bird" here: