Photos by Kiki Vassilakis
It’s not quite been a month since Madison VanDenburg’s stint on American Idol came to an end so she isn’t sure what her new life will be. It is clear that it won’t be anything like what it was before she became a fan-favorite on a show watched by over 10 million people.
“The whole thing is crazy and it takes a lot of adjusting finding time to write music, promoting shows and school, really,” she laughs. “It might sound silly but writing these two original songs has really taken over my life,” she says.
The 17-year-old Cohoes resident is preparing to release a new single ahead of her co-headlining gig at the Times Union Center with The Voice alumna Moriah Formica. Formica will also debut a new single ahead of the performance.
While the prospect of playing her hometown arena might be intimidating, VanDenburg will be doing it with someone who she’s known since second grade.
Her transition into her post-reality show life and career has been made easier thanks to her friendship with Formica who competed on the 13th season of The Voice.
“It’s a lot easier to deal with things when you know someone is going through the same thing, that understands it themselves. When I was younger Moriah was one of my first inspirations, now I’m playing shows with her.”
Formica is enthused to see her friend get her due and to be able to have a comrade in the weird world of post-reality television.
“Maddy and my younger brother Gabe have been best friends since second grade. We grew up together. It’s wild to have grown up with someone and now to have both been on reality TV. We talk all the time and look at each other and ‘We can’t believe it. Who would have thought back when?’”
VanDenburg may not be on national television every week but she’s staying busy in preparation for what now looks like a very bright musical career. “I’ve really been writing a lot of music and planning the gig at the TU Center. I haven’t had a ton of time to reflect on the show. But I know one thing it did was make me really motivated. I was only really doing small bar gigs during my teenage years so it’s really cool to come home and play somewhere I’ve always wanted to play.”
Her audition on a bus in Buffalo doesn’t feel all that long ago. She recalls thinking she botched the opening of her song. “Great”, she thought. “I ruined it!” Only 16 at the time, she still had years of experience to fall back on as she had been taking piano and guitar lessons since she was 5 years old.
Music lessons are something she recommends for all aspiring performers “I’m really grateful my parents pushed me for lessons when I was really young. I started taking voice lessons at 13 and I’m still taking them.”
Formica has a similar story as she also began playing guitar around the age of 5, she shares a producer and vocal coach with VanDenburg.
Formica was taken by her dad’s taste in hair metal and classic rock at a very young age. She recalls locking herself in her room with her guitar until she could learn Aerosmith songs. At age 10 she realized her voice might be a little better than average while performing karaoke with friends to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
She started vocal lessons shortly thereafter.
Since then Formica has kept her taste in metal and has a fondness for groups like Arch Enemy, In This Moment and Halestorm—all metal bands fronted by women with astounding vocal range. “I feel like once you’re metal you can’t be anything else. There is no going back. I couldn’t even try to be anything else. I couldn’t try to be because it wouldn’t be honest.”
VanDenburg says she has respect for a lot of local musicians and would particularly like to work with local country favorites Skeeter Creek in the future.
As for the Times Union concert, attendees should expect full versions of all the songs she performed on American Idol and two new songs.
Formica says she’s excited by the prospect of being able to turn people of her generation on to rock and live performance. “It’s just going to be a really energy-packed show. I always try to be genuine. I just really want that kind of connection with the audience.”