Flaunting a larger-than-life sound and implacable drive to push the envelope, electronic producer Madison Mars is proving that talent trounces politics. Having emerged out of the blue to become a staple in the live sets of dance music's finest, Madison is like a can of soda – too much action in a short amount of time, and it's bound to explode.
Today Madison unleashed his newest gem, the awe-inspiring future bass ballad "It Was Me" featuring American songbird Jaren, which EARMILK has the distinct pleasure of premiering. While he includes all the gooey melodic accoutrements of a typical Madison Mars tune, he evades slipping into monotony by shrewdly switching up the BPM from his characteristic 126-128 range to produce an infectious pop track with mainstage potential – a lethal combination.
EARMILK: "It Was Me" represents a departure from your typical house sound. What prompted the change in musical direction?
MADISON MARS: I spend nearly all my time between touring and family in my studio. Whenever I release a track or remix that sounds different from my signature sound, people ask me why did I change my sound or why I’m not doing house anymore. Thing is, as a producer I need all this. I need to change the sounds every now and then, so I can come back to my roots later and keep the inspiration flowing. I need to keep things fresh in the studio, and exploring other genres every now and then is a perfect way to do it. House is my thing, I love it, but I also love everything else that is out there. It’s like… I love pizza, but I can’t eat pizza 24/7.
E: I think there are lots of people who may disagree with that pizza comment, but let's keep moving! It seems there is a deeper meaning behind the vocals here. What was the inspiration behind them?
MM: The truth is, Jaren is the mastermind behind the lyrics. I have been following her work for many years and I love her voice. I made a first draft of the track last autumn and sent it out to Jaren to see if she was interested in writing vocals for it. I was lucky, she liked the track and couple weeks later I had the vocals to work with. In the process I changed the track from 126 bpm to 142/71 bpm, as I felt this vibe works the best for the track. I’m really happy with the outcome, and lyrics and vocals couldn’t be any better.
Stepping out of your comfort zone after achieving a huge amount of success with the same formula is a truly daunting task. It is easy to anger your fans – just ask The Chainsmokers, whose debut album Memories…Do Not Open was met with virulent criticism after its release earlier this month.
While "It Was Me" features Madison's signature warm melodic flair, it represents a stark contrast from his earlier releases, which are deeply rooted in house. One such release is the anthemic festival favorite "Theme O," which effectively put him on the map after being discovered by electronic A-lister Don Diablo and signed to his flagship record label HEXAGON.
E: You came out of nowhere with "Theme O," perhaps your biggest song to date. How did you get it on Don Diablo's radar, and what was the process like signing it to Hexagon?
MM: Theme O took me about a month from start to finish, I really wanted to create something special and introduce a new sound to the world. After many revisions I was looking for a label and, being a huge fan of Don’s work over the years, I knew he recently started his own. There wasn’t any official way to submit demos to his label yet, so I sent the track to his personal email and got an answer 3 weeks later. Yes 3 weeks! Producers, be patient when sending out demos. He said he likes the track and wants to sign it. 4 weeks later the track was out and my name was out there.
When asked if the two house honchos will ever team up for a dream collaboration, Madison was laconic but offered a glimmer of hope.
E: Will there ever be a collaboration between the two of you?
MM: We have discussed it and hopefully it will happen soon. Don is a busy man and he has his album in the works, so we gotta be patient about this.
Don Diablo is indeed a busy man, trekking around the world on an international headlining tour while cultivating the bright careers of once-unheralded artists like Madison Mars. Taking an early interest in Madison, Don decided to bring him aboard HEXAGON for his debut EP Ready Or Not, led by the high-flying house single of the same name.
E: "Ready Or Not" samples The Fugees' track of the same name, which many artists have attempted to rework. How do you go about differentiating yourself from those other artists when remixing a classic?
MM: It’s never easy to remix a classic. I don’t have a formula for successful remakes, but with this one I was really lucky. I think my sound is special and I only had 2 Madison Mars releases back then and it was just the right time and place for Ready Or Not. When I first made the track, it was meant to be a bootleg for my own live sets, something to treat people with. But when I sent it to Don, he liked it a lot and wanted to release it on his own label. After clearing the copyrights and actually re-recording the vocals, it was ready for the release and we decided to put it on my first EP with other tracks like Doppler, Venus and Down. EP did really well!
It sure did. Before eclipsing two-million collective streams on Soundcloud, The Ready Or Not EP topped Beatport's Future House Releases chart as it stampeded its way into DJ sets around the globe. Martin Garrix, Afrojack, Kaskade, David Guetta, Tiësto, Knife Party, The Bloody Beetroots, Sander van Doorn, R3hab, Showtek, Firebeatz, Cash Cash; the list is never-ending.
With a rapidly expanding support rolodex and a sound he was able to call his own, Madison Mars quickly became a highly sought-after remixer. He started pumping out monster reworks with intimidating speed, building momentum with each release as he was commissioned by Galantis, Jess Glynne, Tritonal, Melanie Martinez, Grouplove, Jonas Blue, and more for official remixes. It was his remix of Spinnin Records artist Sam Feldt's "Been a While," however, that catapulted his name into the stratosphere.
E: You've also released a slew of remixes. Which was your favorite to produce and why?
MM: Yeah, I have done 9 remixes so far, which is a lot I’d say! I love them all, but I think one of my favorite ones is the very first one. It was a special remix, cause you know, it was the very first MM remix. It was for Sam Feldt – Been a While. It has that true Madison Mars signature sound all over and I’m proud to see remix has been more popular than the original version. Based on the YouTube views my remix has twice as much views as the original one – over 7 million plays!
"Create your own stuff… You will be noticed."
A family man, Madison Mars does not fit the profile of "superstar DJ." He is an unpretentious workhorse who epitomizes the notion that good things come to those who grind. His modus operandi is simple: if you put in the time, you will rise above the pack. It's not rocket science.