Singer-songwriter Maddie Wilson. Photo by Claire Boyle; used with permission.
How long does it take to become an overnight success?
Beats me. All I know is that it almost never happens overnight. You might want to ask Chris Stapleton, who became the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year in 2015 at age 37 – a decade and a half after he moved to Nashville to pursue his musical career. Now his shows are among the hottest tickets in country music, and his distinctive style has admirers galore.
Of course, a lot depends on how you define “success,” and maybe even how you define “overnight.” Before the world discovered the music on his debut solo album, “Traveller,” Stapleton had written songs that were recorded by a number of well-known artists. He was widely respected in Nashville long before the general public ever heard of him. But most of us are conditioned to define music-business success the way we have seen it measured for everyone from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello: according to record sales, chart positions, audience size and industry awards. We use similar metrics in other parts of the entertainment industry too.
I had a close-up look at a different sort of overnight success just last week. On Thursday evening, I attended the release concert for Utah singer-songwriter Maddie Wilson’s latest album, “Keep Up With Me,” which was to be released the next day. When the show ended (around 10 p.m. Mountain time), the album was already at #75 on the iTunes country album charts; by the next morning, it reached #28. This was, literally, overnight success – especially for an independent musician who releases her music through a family-controlled company, Music For Good LLC.
With a lot of support from my Palisades Hudson colleagues, I have been serving as Maddie’s business manager since last summer. But I started following her progress much earlier – four years ago, to be exact, and right in this very blog. I became aware of Maddie and some of her musical collaborators when I wrote a column about the musical covers they were releasing on their YouTube channels in order to build a fan base. Maddie and my now-good-friend Artie Hemphill covered “Highway Don’t Care,” a song originally performed by Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw. I commented at the time that Maddie’s vocals, recorded at age 15, “at least hold their own against Swift’s,” and I compared their version of the song favorably to the one released by two of country music’s biggest stars.
I did not meet Maddie in person until December 2015. In the meantime I had become well acquainted with Artie and his band, especially producer Andrew Pulley (who used to go by the stage name Drew Williams). Palisades Hudson helped support Artie’s 2014 album, “Country Soul,” and through our involvement in that project we came to know and support the fine work of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. That connection, in turn, led me to arrange a pair of corporate events in Nashville last summer. I asked Artie, Maddie and another talented young woman, Madilyn Paige (you might recognize her from Season 6 of NBC’s “The Voice”) to perform for us. As we prepared for that gathering, I had the chance to get to know Maddie and her parents. So when I decided to formally assemble a Palisades Hudson entertainment and sports team, it seemed natural for Maddie and her family-run business to become our launch client.
Maddie wants her music and videos to be entertaining and fun – and commercially successful too – but she also wants her music to inspire and nurture our spirits. She cares deeply about the message she delivers and the example she sets. Last autumn she announced her engagement with a song and video about her parents’ enduring relationship, “Love Like Theirs.” Using the hashtag #LastingLove, the video has been viewed 1.5 million times; the song is currently gaining radio airplay and climbing the Music Row Country Breakout chart (where it was #85 last week). Last week Maddie released another music video, “Freckles,” about self-acceptance and overcoming insecurities; it was viewed 200,000 times in its first 72 hours online. Both tracks are on her new album, along with more lighthearted songs like “Vitamin Sea” (because everyone needs a beach vacation, right?) and the title track, “Keep Up With Me,” which teases her new husband about the nine dates he required before getting around to the business of a first kiss.
Already this year we have reached agreements with companies as far afield as London, Madrid and Manila that discovered Maddie’s music online and want to bring it to new outlets and audiences. Maddie’s ultimate goal – one she shares with many of us, no matter where our talents lie – is to make her living and to make a difference by doing what she loves. That’s real success. While it might seem to arrive overnight, that is almost never how the real story goes.