Singer-songwriter Maddie Wilson. Photo used with permission.
Parents learn quickly that the kids are always watching. From a remarkably early age, they seem to hear every ill-chosen word we utter and to see every slip-up we make, even when we think they could not possibly see or hear, let alone understand.
I realized this when our eldest was about 2. As I merged onto a highway after visiting the grandparents one evening, the little elf in the kiddie seat behind me emitted a string of vocabulary you never want to hear from a toddler. Her mom had recently rear-ended a car that stopped abruptly during another highway merge, and Jess just assumed that these are things you are supposed to say when you feel that rush of acceleration. (Don’t blame my wife. If it had been me, the verbal consequences would likely have been far worse.)
I only learned much later that they see all the good stuff, too. They see the kindnesses you show to those less fortunate. They see the way you care for elders whose capabilities are declining. And most of all, they see the way their parents treat one another. If you set an example of lasting love for your children, chances are good they will grow up to seek and build a lasting love for themselves.
That is the message in a moving and highly personal song and music video that singer-songwriter Maddie Wilson released this morning. Maddie, who is a client of our firm’s entertainment and sports team, wrote “Love Like Theirs” last year in honor of her parents’ 27th wedding anniversary. Set in the form of a young woman’s prayer to the “Man Upstairs,” the song tells the story of Mike and Susan Wilson’s first date, their whirlwind courtship, mutual heartache over a tragic loss, and ultimate joy in the love they share and the family they raise together.
That’s a lot to fit into less than four minutes of music, but at 19 Maddie is already an accomplished songwriter, with several well-regarded tunes to her credit and a new EP – her third – due out in March. Most of Maddie’s originals are romantic ballads or perky upbeat numbers in the vein of Kelsea Ballerini or early Taylor Swift. But she has a strong spiritual side too, which emerges in the religious music she typically releases around Christmas and Easter, as well as in her insistence that all of her work be suitable for audiences of any age. She has built a significant following on social media, including more than 150,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, which is lately growing by more than 1,000 every week.
It strikes me as risky to bring such a personal story into public view, but “Love Like Theirs” received such a positive response at Maddie’s live concerts that she chose to release it as a single. Her parents, who are modest and unassuming people, gamely agreed to appear in the music video. Everything and everyone in the video is real – Maddie’s parents and other family members, her home, and the scenes shot in and around their community of Provo, Utah. In a personal message, or “outro,” that follows the music video, a clearly emotional Maddie shares some big personal news, as well as additional thoughts about the influence her parents’ example has had in her own life.
In the bigger picture, the news about love and marriage these days is somewhat hopeful. Fewer people are getting married, particularly those without college educations, and those that are getting married are tending to start later. But there is statistical support for the idea that lifetime divorce rates for Maddie’s generation may turn out to be lower than for the baby boomers, many of whom were influenced by a sharp spike in divorces among their own parents following the social changes of the 1960s.
I enjoy working closely with a performer like Maddie, who has so much depth and such a strong sense of herself at such an early age, but of course it also has its challenges. It is much more natural for her to share a song such as “Love Like Theirs,” which to me seems so intimate and private, with her current and future fans. Like other performers these days – but perhaps more diligently than many – Maddie engages in a full-time, two-way conversation with her followers. She reads pretty much every tweet, Instagram reaction, Facebook post and YouTube comment on her pages, and she personally answers many of them. (There are no ghostwriters for her responses.) I never expected to talk to the musicians I admired in my youth, but to Maddie and her cohort, making music and spreading her message is more of a joint effort.
So today she invited her viewers to share her video and tell stories of their own romance under the hashtag #LastingLove, or to tell stories of romances that they admire under the tag #LoveLikeTheirs. Feel free to join in if you are so inclined. In any case, I wholeheartedly recommend the video.
It will be interesting to see the response her latest release attracts. For once, I find myself watching the kids.