Piper Madison Talks Musical Growth and Return to Louisville
Writer / Rick Redding
Piper Madison has had her heart set on becoming a pop star for most of her 19 years. It’s no pie-in-the-sky dream, as the singer has a couple of self-produced albums to her credit and a large social media following, and was also voted by LEO Weekly readers as the Best Band/Musician Performing Original Music.
While her career could be considered a full family enterprise, Madison thinks of herself as a do-it-yourself artist. The family includes her Louisville-based parents, Patrick and Rhonda Keesee, and younger sister Skylar.
She produces her own music and performs as a solo artist, having mastered the use of a device called a looper that allows her to add the sounds of instruments while performing live.
“I think of myself as a DIY indie artist,” she said. “I’m a musician but also an entrepreneur, and I’ve got a lot of other things I’m trying to incorporate.”
Madison’s start in show business began at an early age, and she was so promising as an actress and performer that the family decided to move to Los Angeles when she was just 9 years old. They came back to Louisville during the summers, but she and Skylar think of L.A. as the place they spent those formative years.
Both girls had success landing gigs for modeling and acting. Madison’s big break came at age 13 when she landed the part of Zelphaba in the Nickelodeon series “100 Things to Do Before High School.”
She released her debut album, “Who’s Running Your Mind,” in 2019 at the age of 16. Her single from that record, “Little Bit of Rain,” reached number 14 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs weekly list.
Her second album, “How Do I Love?,” was released last fall, coinciding with her family’s move back to Louisville – a direct result of the pandemic. She said her music was a great way to keep her creativity going in those L.A. years, especially between acting gigs.
“I actually started writing and picking up music in between auditions because the acting was kind of crazy, up and down and unpredictable, so in down times I picked up music,” she says.
She soon found that music was the creative outlet she wanted to pursue. With the release of “How Do I Love?,” she started getting airplay on local station WFPK, received the LEO Weekly Award, and had some gigs at local outlets including the Blind Squirrel. Her family invested in marketing like how to do seo on soundcloud, including billboards, to boost her numbers on sites like Spotify. An album release party in October was held at Black Rabbit in St. Matthews.
Madison seems to have a rare gift for business as well. Unlike other rising stars, she does her own social media, posting on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, while making sure her music is available on sites like Spotify and Amazon Music.
“I’m a musician but also an entrepreneur,” Madison says. “I find the best way to do something is to just start, and consider every failure as a learning experience that was necessary.”
The hard work is already paying off. Her music found more than 90,000 listeners on Spotify alone in the last year, prompting her to post the numbers on Instagram along with this inspirational post:
“When I made this post last year, I couldn’t have imagined it could possibly get any better. I don’t do this for the numbers – I do it for the positive impact and the true, authentic connections built. Even so, seeing this growth is comforting. It’s a reflection of all the work I’ve done, inside and out. I’m extremely grateful for the progress I’ve made this year, and all the people in my life who helped make that happen. If you have a dream, follow it. Live and breathe it; know when to relax and take a step back when needed, but work with passion and you will achieve whatever you seek to in this lifetime. This is proof that it’s possible. I’m just a girl from Louisville, KY, living out her dreams. If I can do it, so can you. 2022, here we come!”
As for playing her music in public, at 19 she’s limited in the places she can play. In Los Angeles, she says she had a band she played with, but improvised when the family moved to Louisville last fall. She calls it a fun challenge to play instruments with her looper device.
Her repertoire includes original songs from two albums and a mix of covers by artists she admires, including Amy Winehouse, Sia, Grace Potter and Sade. Her cover of Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman” was considered a bold choice to be part of WFPK’s web series “Peace, Love and Louisville,” a tribute to songs of the 1960s.
Madison’s life isn’t all about music. When she talks about returning to Louisville from L.A., she’s quick to point out her focus on spending time outdoors, along with her attention to mindfulness.
“It’s really peaceful here,” she says. “In L.A. it’s completely different. It’s bustling and super busy. There’s a kind of calm I really like.”
She’s making the most of being home. For Christmas, her parents allowed her to take over some space previously used as an attic to create a photo studio. Then she immediately posted several creative photographs.
While Madison says her main goal is to eventually become a touring act and play on the road, she’s still 19 and hasn’t yet gotten a college degree. There’s an offer to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, but she says her future is more likely to include undergraduate studies at Centre College in Danville, quite a bit closer to home and her family.
When describing her second album last fall, she said something about it that still rings true, even as she’s working on her next music project: “This is kind of a continuation of my mental, emotional and spiritual journey that I started with that first album.”
It will be interesting to see where Madison’s journey takes her.