Local Musician Madeline Doornaert
Releases Debut Album
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by Travis Latam
Madeline Doornaert describes her current sound with one word: Nostalgic.
“My style is unique in that it blends classic pop, folk and the work of contemporary singer-songwriters,” Madeline explains. “My sound reflects a real love for that retro pop and soul.”
At 22, Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. The power of her voice eclipses most singers twice her age and her lyrics astonish with their dizzying poetic beauty.
“Music is a constant for me,” Madeline recalls. “When I was young, I remember sitting at the piano at my parent’s house, trying to come up with the lyrics. Music has always been a big part of my life. I can’t remember a specific start date. I don’t remember hearing something and saying, ‘Wow! I want to do that!’ It’s just always been there for me.”
Madeline’s first performance was in the seventh grade, as part of a pop-folk duo she formed with her friend, Addie Burrows, called GeorgiaRose.
“Our first performance was at a place called the Blind Dog,” Madeline states. “Unfortunately, the venue no longer exists! We were pretty nervous! It was a half-hour set of our original songs and arrangements. It was amazing to get out there and perform at such a young age.”
Before long, Madeline was performing at venues across Windsor and Essex County.
“We started doing festivals all over town,” Madeline explains. “Art in the Park. The Strawberry Festival. Around the same time, we started recording our own original music. We got ahold of this audio interface and recorded our songs on GarageBand.”
Madeline has performed at countless local events. However, when it comes to her favourite show, she points to the time she embarked on a local tour with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
“It was amazing!” Madeline exclaims. “I performed three songs with the Windsor Symphony String Orchestra. It just brought the songs that I was singing to a whole different level. The only way I can describe it is as cinematic.”
When it comes to her musical influences, Madeline has diverse palette. She points to a number of 70s singer-songwriters, such as Carole King, Janis Ian, Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Taylor and George Harrison. And when it comes to her contemporary tastes, she is a fan of Madison Cunningham and John Mayer.
And now, after years of developing her musical repertoire, Madeline has released her debut album: Muddy Water.
“When creating the album, I look to identify connections that could withstand the test of distance and time,” Madeline recalls. “I started writing it a while back. But, when the pandemic hit, the message of long and enduring friendship became all the more important in these times of loneliness and isolation. Those messages really resonated with me.”
The album was named after the title track, “Muddy Water.” The song, Madeline explains, best represents the themes she was looking to convey.
“The song is all about those lifelong connections and those lasting friendships that survive despite hardship and adversity,” Madeline states. “I used nature imagery to depict that. So, if you’re standing in muddy water—and that muddy water represents the hardship that you encounter in life—having someone there with you can sometimes make it less hard.”
As with her GeorgiaRose endeavors, Madeline did not embark on this venture alone. Her longtime partner, Dane Roberts, underscores her wise and insightful songs with smooth leads, energetic acoustic guitars and analog percussion.
“Dane records everything for me,” Madeline explains. “He’s my producer. And he not only produced all the music on my album, but he also played almost all the instruments on it too.”
Muddy Water covers a lot of autobiographical ground – childhood memories in “Sunscreen,” abuse unmasked in “Harvey High School,” frustration at being gaslighted in “Running Back” and self-advocacy in “Lost It In The Laundry.”
And beyond expressing her own firsthand experience, the album includes powerful storytelling, particularly in “Baby Calf,” a bright and uptempo song that narrates the harsh reality of life for calves born in the dairy industry.
“I was inspired to write a ‘Baby Calf’ when Charlotte’s Freedom Farm posted a picture of a baby calf called Norman,” Madeline states. “It’s a local sanctuary that saves animals from the local animal agriculture industry. And I thought Norman was so beautiful. His eyes were so soulful. I was happy that he was saved from the dairy industry. But I was inspired to write a song for all the calves that weren’t saved.”
Madeline cites Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” as a direct inspiration.
“I admired how she shared a really serious message,” Madeline explains. “But conveyed it in a way that people could connect with. She was able to draw them in with her incredible songwriting and I wanted to emulate that.”
Another song on the album that Madeline is particularly proud of is “Sing Up, Sing Softly.”
“The song is about that introverted kind of love,” Madeline states. “It’s all about not needing those words of affirmation or those actions of affirmation to know that somebody is there for you and that somebody loves you.”
Muddy Water was produced with grant funding from the City of Windsor’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage Fund, and presented in partnership with Soul City Music Co-op.
“The grant was really helpful in getting the album off the ground,” Madeline explains. “I was able to pay some of the musicians that were brought in to help record instrumentals. I was able to pay Dane for his production. And I was also able to hire local musician Mike Hargreaves to help with mixing and mastering.”
While the pandemic has impacted Madeline’s plans to promote the album and
celebrate it with in-person performances, she intends to forge ahead with companion pieces.
“I plan to eventually create some visualizer videos for a few tracks on the album, like ‘Lost It in the Laundry,’ ‘Sing Up, Sing Softly’ and ‘This Kind of Love’’” Madeline states. “I will also be working to create a series of live play-through videos for some of the tracks as well.”
Muddy Water is available now on all streaming platforms and at Madeline’s website: madelinedoornaert.com.