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Creative spotlight: MadJohn! & Co.

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Creative, Culture, In The Mag! | 0 comments

 A conversation with Madden Lewis, the lead of the band MadJohn! & Co., about creative expression, safe spaces, and redemptive outlets

Madden Lewis, a first-year music student, doesn’t recall a time in their life when music wasn’t a constant. 

“I don’t know if I really remember a time before music. My mom would sing to me so much,” says Lewis. “When I was little, I would [happily] freak out anytime in the car because my brothers and my mom would all sing to me the whole car ride.”

Lewis began their musical journey when they sang in church choirs, but they recall solidifying their love for the art when they joined a concert band in school. 

“I feel like music has always been there,” they say.

Lewis, already going by the name of MadJohn!, first met drummer Bryn Lipinski at their usual gig spot. She poked fun at Lipinski for “stealing” their gig slot when Lipinski invited her up to play an original song. 

“It felt like magic. He knew exactly the feel of the song, and it felt like he had heard it and played sit a million times before,” Lewis recalls. “Shortly after that, I asked him to start playing with me.” Soon after, bassist Donovan Lane, who played in band with Lewis when they were younger, joined the band. 

The band did a recording session with Simon Semchenko, lead of the band, Paro!, which Donovan is a part of as well. 

“We kind of just fell into each other’s worlds, and that’s kind of how we came to be,” says Lewis. “They’re all much better like technical musicians than I am, and it really feels like an honour to be able to play with all those guys.”

Lewis describes releasing their first project as “a two-year chaotic process.” The band produced it at the iHuman Youth Society during a time when the non-profit organization endured many internal shifts that prevented the band from using the space to record. “Simon needed to record three songs for a school project because he’s a recording major. He asked us if we’d be down to come in,” says Lewis. “We recorded all 17 minutes of the EP in a few takes.” 

The EP is titled Let the Past Be Put to Rest and is composed of three songs which range from four to seven minutes long. Lewis says releasing the EP felt very vulnerable. “It felt terrifying, at the same time, to put out something that is so vulnerable and comes from such a deep place that I’m not totally used to sharing.” 

Lewis wrote these songs when they were battling substance abuse and says that the EP title symbolizes leaving that part of their life behind. “Releasing that felt like a closed book on that chapter of my life,” says Lewis. The artist has now been sober for over two and a half years. 

“Music is something that invites people into space of understanding behind what we’re able to say.”

Madden Lewis, lead member of MadJohn! & Co

Outside of the band, Lewis hosted mixed media shows called the Sublime Feminine that highlight femme-identifying artists in Edmonton, such as painters, poets, musicians, and dancers. Lewis’s goal with these shows was to provide a safe space for femme-identifying artists who are in a male-dominated industry. 

Lewis describes their creative process to be on a spectrum from organized and planned to sporadic and abstract. “If I’m writing, it usually just starts with trying to put something down, get it flowing, and trying really hard not to judge whatever comes out, follow it, and see what happens.”

To balance being a mother and a student, Lewis has stepped back from planning shows, but they don’t shy away from reminiscing about the first few times they performed. “I was pretty freshly sober when I played my first few gigs. I was crying a lot, and very overwhelmed with gratitude, and kind of in shock that I got that opportunity.” 

The 22-year-old draws their inspiration from their close friends, Grace Duiker, Lydia LeBlanc, and Sheala Welte, who have all encouraged growth in Lewis’s creative journey as a musician. 

Right now, MadJohn! & Co. is in a “creative output mode,” as Lewis put it. “We’re coming back now, we’re grounded, we’re creating, and we have a lot of new music that we’re starting to develop,” they say.

Lewis values creating both good and bad art, recognizing that “good” art is subjective. “Just create, try not to judge it, and be open to whatever it makes you feel, whether it be comfortable or uncomfortable,” they advise. “Commit to your expression.”

They sum up their passion for creating with these beautiful words: “Music is something that invites people into space of understanding behind what we’re able to say,” they add. “It’s the things that exist within us that you can’t necessarily express through words.

Photos by Sam Poier

Aajah Sauter

The Griff


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