Voice contestant bringing country-folk-rock style to Natchez performance

Published 1:33 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

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Standing alone on stage under the hot lights with judges Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton scrutinizing her expectantly, Madison Hughes felt a peculiar calmness as she prepared to play the first notes of her song on the NBC TV show, The Voice.

“I’d been practicing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for three months and rehearsing it intensively for 30 days straight. I’ve played the song since I was in high school, so it’s not like I wasn’t already familiar with it. The only thing was just a little self-doubt in trusting my own voice because I’m not some over-the-top Beyonce singer.”

Hughes’ country-tinged, yet robust delivery of the Bob Dylan classic belied any apprehension she may have felt, and it propelled her into the next round of the competition. The exuberant cheers of the audience and the grins of the judges confirmed that Hughes had indeed nailed her 90 seconds on the big stage.

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“I wanted to do the Dylan song to show off the tone I can bring, and I wanted to be recognized as someone more in the folk-rock category, and not so much in the super-country girl genre. But honestly, musically I’m still in my self-discovery phase — I love a lot of elements of rock, country, fusion, R&B. I want to be able to express all facets of my personality through the music I choose to play live.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Madison Hughes has ridden the momentum generated by her 2022 appearance on The Voice to a burgeoning career as a singer-songwriter. Originally from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Hughes relocated to Nashville in 2022 to hone her craft and make industry connections.

“I didn’t really grow up with a lot of George Strait style traditional country music,” said Hughes. I only moved to Nashville when people started responding to the country inflections I can express in my singing. But I didn’t really start changing my career towards a more country orientation until The Voice gave me that validation — almost a green light — to honor my voice’s natural pathway.”

Hughes’s voice is the bar where country, folk, Americana and rock get together to have a drink. Her singing moves languidly and effortlessly through her lower register, until she hits contrapuntal high notes with startling impact. Her vocals are as smooth as suede and as comfortable as a pair of supple leather boots.

Within the past two weeks, Hughes has released a new video, “Our Love,” a song written by Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall. “My dad played it for me a couple of months ago and I just loved it. The emotions stream out of me when I play it. It’s a song that suits my voice well.”

A graduate of Florida State University, Hughes majored in Digital Media Production. “That’s why I film my own videos. I can save money and I have total creative control over the product. For me, it’s the fun part of rolling out a new song.”

Asked what the future looks like for her, Hughes replied, “I’m now working on an EP and an album. I’m writing songs on my own and collaborating with other songwriters. All the good writers are in Nashville, and I have two different producer teams helping me produce these songs. I’ve got a new single, “Chasing Cities” that’s going to drop on May 19th. In the meantime, I’m so excited to come play in Natchez!”

Hughes will appear at Smoot’s Grocery on Thursday, May 4, from 7 to 10 p.m.

This article was submitted by Tom Scarborough.