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Madison Cunningham’s Come-Up

The young singer prepares to open an OKC show for The Punch Brothers



Photo by Claire Marie Vogel

 


Before the Punch Brothers take the stage at Tower Theatre Saturday night, 21-year-old Madison Cunningham will open for the band. The Orange County native has been swept up into a musical maelstrom since MacArthur Fellow and mandolin genius Chris Thile asked her to be his duet partner on the NPR program “Live from Here."

When you ask Cunningham how it feels to be selected by one of the world’s greatest musicians, you can almost hear the residual disbelief from the moment her manager said something clipped from a feel-good movie script.

“I’m humbled,” she finally manages to say. “And to be on the road with the Punch Brothers … every single one of these guys is at the top of their field.”

Cunningham cited an urban legend that she started songwriting when she was 4 years old. “I deny that, of course,” she says. “That’s just how proud parents talk. I was probably 10.”

Growing up as the oldest of five sisters meant Cunningham was a diaper-changer, babysitter, errand-runner and whatever else her family needed her to be. The family was close, though, and all of them loved music. The girls sang together at the Calvary Chapel church where their father was the worship leader. Cunningham calls it a “joyful upbringing.”

Making a transition from church music to touring artist seemed the route for Cunningham, but her parents were cautious at first.

“They’ve always been supportive of the music, but they were worried about what a life as a struggling artist could mean for their daughter,” she says. “Legitimate worries, of course.”

The release of her EP “Love, Lose, Remember” in 2017, followed by the request to sing with Thile, helped convince her family that things “were aligning” in her favor. “They were able to see it was all falling into place at that point,” Cunningham says.

And fall into place it has. She has been mentored by Sara Watkins, who, like Thile, is an alum of the band Nickel Creek, and a gifted songwriter and fiddler in her own right. Rolling Stone Country named Cunningham one of “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.” She signed a deal with label Verve Forecast, and her new album, which she just finished recording in El Paso with the well-respected Tyler Chester as producer, is due in 2019, with the release of a single “hopefully early in the year.”

Calling her a country artist is too limiting, however, as Cunningham doesn’t fit well into simple categories. Her songwriting is straightforward and honest, and the compositions are designed to highlight the lyrics, not muddy them up. Once upon a time, a critic said she sounded like a young Joni Mitchell, and while it’s true there is a quality to her vocal tone that is reminiscent of Mitchell, that’s an awful burden to place on a then 20-year-old singer-songwriter.

“I know it’s supposed to be a very uplifting compliment, but I can’t live up to that,” Cunningham says.

Her artistic method, including her songwriting, is crafted from her church upbringing, so she is a big proponent of doing something daily, much like the journaling she did as an adolescent and teen. In the kinder, gentler evangelical churches such as Calvary Chapel, journaling, like prayer, is a daily, spiritual practice – and practice became the method for Cunningham.

“I do something every day, whether it’s write or play; that’s been my mode for the past two years,” she says. “I believe you have to add hard work and commitment to natural talent.”

It would be nearly impossible to find a better role model for that idea than Chris Thile and the other musicians in Punch Brothers. OKC will be her 33rd show with the guys, and she’ll have 10 more after a short break. She’s learning and growing, even as she still sounds a bit mystified that this set of happy circumstances has found her.

The Tower Theatre show is Saturday, Sept. 15. Doors open at 7 p.m. and Cunningham opens the show at 8 p.m..

 

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Calendar

September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

More information

This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
Website »

More information

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
View map »


Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
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