Making it in the music industry is hard. In South Africa, even harder. The scene is small, good (paying) venues are scarce, and it takes time and hard work to get on to a festival line-up. Living for the music isn’t free.
Enter Maddy Behrens, a folk/pop musician reminiscent of Gabrielle Aplin and Lisa Mitchell. The young musician traded her busking corners of KwaZulu-Natal for the hustle and bustle of the big city to pursue a career in music full time. And she’s not losing any momentum. We caught up with her on the cusp of her second Oppikoppi performance.
The Newcastle-born singer/songwriter grew up with a musical family. Her mother, brother and even friends of the family were all a massive influence on the artist — from teaching her to play guitar, to introducing her to the world of music: everything from Pink Floyd to Taylor Swift and Celtic Folk music. Singing was a natural development from a young age. It wasn’t long after she learned a few skills on guitar that she took her music out to the world.
“I got home and, at 16, my dad took me to music clubs, mostly on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and this carried on through till Matric. In 2013, my grade 11 year, I asked to busk outside the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontien, Johannesburg, I alternated playing every Saturday Morning until matric exams took priority. When I went back again, there was a whole new processes to go through to play in my old spot.”
Her busking soon paid off as more prominent gigs — club shows and festival alike — started to roll in.
“My favourite show so far was my first night in Cape Town when I toured (and lived in) my 1988 Land Cruiser for six weeks in January 2017. I just arrived, called up Devin Harmer to find out what’s happening, and he tells me he can slot me in for a 20min gig at Roxy’s Late Night. It was small, intimate and very homely. People sat right in front on the floor.”
Maddy has also released two singles to date and is currently working on more studio recordings. Sweep Me Off My Feet and Layla both received radio play and has videos out. Layla is a clever take on the breakup song genre.
“Layla is about my adopted sister, who also happens to be a dog. It’s about my first relationship, we got Layla while I was dating him, and she was so tiny and scared of so much, I thought I’d just let him know that this pup is bigger and stronger now.”
Her love for the local scene is strong. She mentions that there is a whole group of lesser known artists (especially in Johannesburg) that are still waiting to be discovered and hopes that more support will come around for them. Her enthusiasm and kind heart for her fellow artists is contagious.
The world looks bright for Maddy, grabbing every opportunity to perform and record, being a street corner or a festival stage, a home studio or a recording booth.
“I like both recording and performing live, both have their perks and their downfalls. I just want to sing, make music, tell stories and love what I do, if people like how I sound then that’s an added bonus!”
Less Wes Anderson, more Wes Craven.