COVER: Madilyn Bailey - Stitches Her Heart Together
Two and a half years ago, I was hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, which turned out to be one of the most amazing and heart breaking trips of my life. While on the trail I had no access to communication with the outside world, which turned out to be awful. When I finally was able to hop onto WiFi shortly after getting back to civilization, I quickly learned that my, perfectly healthy grandmother when I left, had taken a sharp turn while I was away. You must understand, I was her favorite. We spoke multiple times a week, and were very close. When I left for Peru she was in perfect, well, perfect for a 92 year old woman, shape. I was excited to talk to her as soon as I got back. So, with a heavy heart, I made the most expensive phone call of my life, and got to hear her voice one last time. My family later told me it was a miracle that she was able to talk at all. She had pneumonia and had been on a breathing tube for days. She just happened to be awake and off it at the right time. I am very grateful for my time with my grandmother, and miss her often.
This is why when I heard Madilyn Bailey’s story about losing her grandmother, I knew we needed to do something special together. Madilyn was on tour in Asia when she learned of her grandmother’s passing and was heart broken. Like me, they were very close, maybe each other’s #1 fans. Her grandmother liked to dress up, get her nails done, and raised peacocks. So, this editorial is for her.
People do not like to talk about pain and loss, but it is such a huge part of life. We, as a collective, need to be there for each other, listen, and celebrate life. I was blown away by how Madilyn worked through her pain, by writing her new song Red Ribbon, which not only speaks about her grief, but she also uses as an opportunity to share the stories of other women’s pain and hardship with her community, because we can grow and recover stronger together.
To learn more about the amazingly talented Madilyn Bailey and her grandmother, please read Jejune’s exclusive interview below.
Foreword by Kira Bucca, Editor in Chief of Jejune Magazine.
Where are you based?
I’m currently based in LA but I was born and raised in Wisconsin. That’s where it all started.
How did you get into singing?
I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. Neither of my parents really sang much, but music was always around me. My parents have a home video of me running around the house in nothing but scarves singing: “I want much more than this provincial life”, from the Beauty and the Beast movie. Even then, I knew I was gonna have big dreams to chase.
How many instruments do you play, and which ones? Which are your favorites?
Ah.. let’s see… I started with piano, then drums, guitar, and ukulele. It’s really nice for writing to have so many instruments to pick from, but I’ve always had a really special connection with the guitar. I grew up listening to my dad playing guitar, and, I think, I must have absorbed a lot, because when I picked up the guitar for the first time, I was playing and singing full songs within four days.
What inspired you to start your YouTube channel?
I come from a super small town in Wisconsin, population: 1,042, but I was determined to make my mark on the music industry. It was a true blessing that I was too naive to understand how much was stacked against me at this point, but YouTube changed everything for me. For a year or two I just spent a lot of time watching what people were doing and how they were doing it, and I decided maybe I didn’t have the connections, but I did have a camera and the courage to upload my first video. The reaction I received online was overwhelming, which led me to graduate high school early so I could dedicate all my time to growing my channel.
What is the biggest thing you have learned from having your YouTube channel?
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned about YouTube is how powerful it can be to build your own community. My channel has opened a lot of doors and started a lot of really cool conversations. But while I was building my audience online, I was doing all of my own artist development behind the scenes. I put myself in hundreds of writing sessions, I played dozens of shows all over the world, and I really put the time in to figuring out my original sound. Those are all the first steps a label would take with any new artists, but then they can shelve you if they want.
You’ve talked openly about your dyslexia. How has that influenced you as an artist?
I think my dyslexia has a lot to do with my instant connection to music. I didn’t really have to try with music. It just made sense to me. Because getting good grades took so much effort, when I found something that felt effortless, I ran with it.
What was it like growing up with so many foster siblings?
My mom counted it up recently and she came up with 56 foster children. I didn’t really know any different. I thought everyone one grew up like this. I think it made me very adaptable. I function really well in chaos, which comes in handy in this industry. I think I also got to see that not everyone gets a good start at life, and I sure wasn’t going to squander mine.
Can you tell us a little bit about your grandmother and your relationship with her?
My grandma was one of the most incredible human beings I think I’ll ever meet. I’m incredibly honored that I got to be her granddaughter, and grow up learning from her. She was extremely hard working, very sassy, and treated every person she met like she had known them for years. She was also my #1 fan. Every album I put out, or post card I would send her, she would hang up on her wall. My family called this “the shrine to Madilyn”. Speaking about her in past tense seems very strange.
When I asked you what you think of when you think about your grandmother, you shared that she loved peacocks and getting her nails done. Can you tell us why those two things were so definitive of her?
My grandma was a fancy eccentric lady. I don’t know that I ever saw her without colorful hair and nails. She filled my childhood with all sorts of magical things like an entire family of peacocks. I think at one point she had seven peacocks. One of them was a stray peacock… I have no idea how that happened. I actually have a vase full of peacock feathers from her farm in my house. I think she did a remarkable job of taking care of the world, taking care of herself, and spreading magic wherever she went.
We are very sorry to hear about her passing. Are you open to discussing what you went through?
A little over a year ago, my grandma was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer and within 20 days she passed away. I think it being so sudden is what made it the hardest. Life is not guaranteed, and I became starkly aware of that after she passed. I’m just really sad that the part of my life with her in it is over. I wasn’t ready for that. But it did make me reassess a lot of things in my life and that has led me down a completely different path. Life suddenly became way too much of a miracle not to put music out there that truly meant something to me, and do more of what I love.
We love your song Red Ribbon. Can you tell us a little about healing through this song?
This song really pulled me out of the darkest part of my grief. It reminded me that our hearts are not only capable of enduring great pain and heart break, but that’s exactly what they are meant to do. Our hearts are made to be broken, and remade many times over the course of our lives. To deeply love is to open ourselves up to deep pain, but that is the only way to fully live life.
It is very powerful that you share others’ stories of loss in the song. What inspired you to do this?
The first six months after my grandma’s passing, I had a really difficult time talking about how much the grief was truly affecting me. I didn’t want to bring people down or sadden the mood in the room, but as soon as I started opening up about my pain, my friends and family were able to open up to me about things they were also struggling with. Pain can be really hard to talk about or find the right opportunity to bring up, but that’s where healing begins. I have healed and grown more than I ever could have imagined since opening up, and I wanted to inspire others to open up about their stories as well.
How did you decide who to involve?
For the Red Ribbon music video, I wanted to invite some of the most inspiring women in my life to share their stories. Their stories have always been inspiring to me and I wanted to make a resource for anyone going through something similar. I also wanted to give my audience a safe place to share their stories.
Do you have any advice to give someone going through a loss?
Take it one day at a time. Celebrate small victories. Wrap around your family and let them wrap around you. Find someone you feel comfortable talking about your grief with. Remember what a gift life is, and tell your loved ones how much you care. Running also really helped me organize my thoughts and relieve a lot of stress. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself first. You’re going to get through it. You will be transformed by it in the most beautiful way if you let it.
What is your motto in life?
I embrace the unknown as an incredible adventure.