Island Girl: Madi Jane West
Killer whale pop from the Pacific Northwest
By William Harries Graham, 4:20PM, Tue. Oct. 22
Madi Jane West could be a map of my life so far, major placements on my personal timeline. We met when we were 5 at a clay arts class at the Dougherty Arts Center. I spent huge amounts of time giggling with her when we were growing up, along with her best friend, local young photographer Des Magness.
I had my first busted lip tripping on the front steps stairs to her house in Hyde Park after riding the bus for the first time. I was there when she broke her arm falling out of her tree house. We spent hours in her swimming pool over the years, plus I took my one and only trip to South Padre Island with her.
Now, West lives on Orcas Island, WA., and has emerged – to no one’s surprise – as a confident 15-year-old singer-songwriter. Her music blends country, pop, and folk. This Saturday, she debuts at my Proper Nang Night as a special guest, though I first saw West perform at the Broken Spoke when she was part of Mary Hattersley’s Blazing Bows.
“Mary was such an inspiring teacher,” recalls West of the Greezy Wheels mainstay. “I will never forget the amazing musical influence she was for me. I started taking lessons with her what I was 4.”
Since then, she’s taught herself guitar, banjo, and the latest trend, ukulele. While her new home isn’t the “Live Music Capital of the World,” West is happy to report on a surprisingly strong music scene in her new locale.
“It seems like everyone plays an instrument and sings,” she enthuses. “A lot of musicians from Seattle have moved to Orcas, and there are lots of opportunities to play live. Last year I was featured as a local artist showcase.”
Nature’s been an inspiration for West since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Many of her days are slated for hiking or kayaking, and spending time in nature.
“It’s a calm, laid back kind of place that gets really cozy on rainy days, which is always a good time to write. I think I’ve written all my best songs in Orcas in my room late at night.
“I love the moment that I finish a song and get to play the whole thing through. Singing and songwriting is my entire life and I couldn’t imagine what I would do without it! Songwriting for me, is a way to express my feelings and a way to deal with my emotions.
“I aspire to write songs that people can relate to, and songs that will help them through hard times and put a smile on their faces.”
While West misses Austin, she says that she loves living on an island.
“Everywhere you look there’s some new, beautiful thing that you thought only existed in books. I love seeing the purple and orange starfish, and the occasional snow in the winter. There are crystal clear mountain lakes to swim in during summer, which is one of my favorite things to do.”
Who knows when West will be back in Austin, so catch her Saturday as part of the Proper Nang Night, 6-9pm at Maria’s Taco Xpresss, 2529 S. Lamar Blvd. My side band, the Living Room Project, with Charlie Sexton’s son Marlon, also debuts.