MU junior vocal major releases second EP, reflects on evolution of musical career

Munsell has been writing music since she was in high school.
Madelyn Munsell, a senior vocal performance major and songwriter, poses for a portrait outside Mt. Celestial Baptist Church on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Mansell used the church as inspiration for her new album "adventures," which was released in December 2014.

Junior Madelyn Munsell released her second EP under her stage name madelyniris in December.

The EP, “Adventures,” contains five original songs, which Munsell said were inspired by real life experiences and memories.

“Music is supposed to be honest, and I use real life experiences to make music,” Munsell said. “‘Ghost’ kind of relates to the idea of losing people, and I feel like most people can relate to it, whether it’s a breakup or something else.”

Three of Munsell’s songs, “Ghost," “Street Signs and White Lies” and “Leave and Never Look Back” came to her in the middle of the night about three weeks before she released her most recent EP.

The song she holds closest to her is “Adventure," which is the last song on the album. Munsell said she considers this song to be “super honest and autobiographical.”

Munsell said that it’s about reconnecting with a past love, and knowing where you and your lover stand.

“In a sense, we grew up and discovered ourselves when we were together, so we had a big impact on each other's formative years,” Munsell said. “It's a simple, nostalgic love song. But as time passes, we've changed and we've grown up. We've met new people and challenged ourselves to try new things. When I think back, though, that love is one of my favorite adventures.”

Munsell was born into a musical family. Her mother works as a choir director and, when she was younger, her parents played in a band. Because of this dynamic, Munsell grew up in what she described as a very “DIY music scene.”

Jenna Stuart, one of Munsell’s high school friends, said she remembers when Munsell first started to produce her music.

“She made her first beat and sent it to me and she called it ‘Jammin','" Stuart said. “She used to just do covers and then she started to write her own songs.”

From there, Munsell’s skills only improved. She recorded and produced her first EP, “Laylah,” in 2013.

Munsell has few outside contributors to her music. She does all the work herself, with the exception of a few instrumental portions, which her brother and father contribute to.

“Since I’m living in the (Kappa Delta) sorority house this year, it’s a little bit difficult to be able to turn an amp up to record a part of my song, so my dad has done some guitar work for me, while my brother has done some bass work,” Munsell said. “But everything else I do on my own.”

Munsell writes all of her own songs and goes through what she considers a “very weird” writing process.

“I’m constantly writing music,” Munsell said. “All throughout the summer of 2014 I would write down little phrases that I thought were cool. They weren’t exactly lyrics yet, but I thought they might have some potential. Then in August, I went back and looked at all the ideas I had written down and decided if they were good enough to be made into songs.”

Munsell said she chose to come to MU because it offered both a big school and an “intimate music environment.”

While at MU, Munsell said she’s received an overwhelming amount of support when it comes to her music. While here, she said she has found support in her sorority sisters at Kappa Delta. Munsell’s parents, particularly her father, are also very invested in her music career.

“I remember when her and I were hanging out over Thanksgiving break, and her dad came into her room and gave her constructive criticism on one of her songs she was working on for her EP,” Stuart said.

Stuart said Munsell is a very welcoming type of person, which has contributed to her support from her hometown in Illinois.

“Everyone from our hometown thinks she’s super cool because she writes and produces all of her own music,” Stuart said. “People will sing in the choir or in small bands, but Maddy’s the real deal and she does it all by herself.”

Though many people encourage her, Munsell said she still straddles a tough line since she’s invested in both classical and pop music.

Munsell said that she is challenged with what she wants to do next once she graduates.

“I’m a vocal performance major with an emphasis in opera, so I’m faced with the decision if I want to record and produce, or pursue opera,” Munsell said. “My heart wants to go with production because it gives me more of a creative path. I either want to do that, or go get my master's. But the music industry needs help with strong voices, and I think I could help to provide that.”

Throughout all of her years making music, Munsell said she learned that she has to be a go-getter in order to achieve what she wants.

“You can’t sit back and wait,” Munsell said. “You have to take initiative. The more you learn to work independently, the more successful you’ll be. It’s OK to let people help, but ultimately you have to know how to do everything on your own.”

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