Denver-based producer Maddy O’Neal has spent the better part of the last decade honing in on her sound, carving out her own unique niche in a male-dominated bass music scene. Her dedication to the craft – whether it be in the studio or playing 90+ shows annually – has always been impressive, but its never been more apparent on her latest full-length album, Ricochet, out everywhere today. Weaving together a unique blend of genres and influences, the album is nothing short of a breath of fresh air in today’s over-saturated and formulaic dance music climate. With that said, we were lucky enough to sit down with Maddy herself to talk about the new album, touring, and her thoughts on the evolving Denver music scene. Be sure to stream Ricochet below and catch O’Neal when she comes to play in a city near you.
Maddy O’Neal – Ricochet (Album) | Stream
Run the Trap: On bringing Ricochet to life you mentioned you “had to break through the noise that was serving as resistance to growth.” Can you talk a bit about this resistance and how you were able to overcome this obstacle?
Maddy O’Neal: My ultimate goal is to create timeless music. To create feel good bass music so to speak. The kind of records that really provoke some kind of nostalgia and emotion that can translate 15 years from now. There’s always pressure from so many different angles especially with social media feeding you trends and just constantly showing you what everyone else is doing. It can be hard sometimes to turn all of that off and ask yourself what kind of music would you be making if you didn’t feel the need to fit in or get booked or appeal to a certain audience. That is the noise I was referring to when I was talking about my personal growth and breakthroughs artistically. My favorite artists are the ones that create their own lanes and that’s the effect I am wanting to have with my music. This record is as true to that vision as it gets and I’m super proud of it 🙂
Ricochet also explores many dualities such as Light/Dark and Masculine/Feminine. How have these forces played out in your life and how do you personally see them playing out on the LP?
Music is all about creating those moments of tension, the push and pull effect. This can be created in so many different ways in music stylistically such as using space and big moments of pause, dark elements versus the super pretty top layers, etc. I really rode that theme with this record. I wanted it to feel dusty and grimey but also light and sparkly at the same time. Balance has been a huge theme in my life following the madness of the last couple years and I definitely think those themes spilled over into the music and balanced the musical choices I made on this record. I covered a lot of bases on the record but somehow made it all feel cohesive at the same time and that was a big accomplishment for me.
On this album you created your own samples from scratch, played keyboard, drum pads, and synthesizers. What did incorporating your own instrumentation add to this project and what was the creative process like?
I actually spent a month experimenting and gathering sounds, tones, synth patches, samples and ideas for myself before I even started writing the record. I honed in on synth tones and chord progressions I liked, vocalists I wanted to work with, and a folder of drum tones I liked and created a palette for myself before I even started arranging and fully writing. This was a huge help when I sat down for that step because I felt like I had a direction instead of just sitting down to a blank slate. Some days I would start with a drum beat and others with some crazy sample collage I had put together already knowing that I wanted a vocalist to come in and write the topline over it. I wrote about 40 songs, though, before I really narrowed it down to what ended up being Ricochet.
Playing 90+ shows annually for the last 5 years is quite the tour schedule. What lessons have you learned from touring over the years that you’re taking with you into this next chapter of performances?
I am constantly trying to evolve and expand my live performance. Making edits, remixes, VIP versions of songs is always crucial for keeping my live sets fresh for me and for my fans. We are already working on a pretty badass squad of artists to remix Ricochet as we speak. As far as some lifestyle lessons I’ve learned from my extensive touring history, is that balance and self care are the only way to avoid burnout. You have to take care of yourself on and off the road to prepare for all the travel and fast paced lifestyle out there. Yoga is one thing that has kept me sane and making a routine for yourself amidst the madness.
You recently had your debut Lollapalooza performance which was recognized by Forbes. What are some upcoming festivals or shows you’re looking forward to the most next?
Coming up this weekend actually is Lost Lands, which has been described to me as “The Super Bowl of Bass Music” LOL. So, I’m excited to play there and see what it’s all about. After that, I have Freaky Deaky and Hulaween. Hulaween has been a favorite of mine and I haven’t been back since 2018, so I’m extra pumped to make my return there. Other than those, I am gone pretty much every weekend for the rest of the year either on the road with Opiuo, SoDown, Manic Focus, STS9 or my own headline dates. I’m ready to be back out there in full force debuting all this new music!
What are your thoughts on how you’ve seen the Denver scene evolve over the years? What makes Denver unique compared to other cities?
It is so wild to see how Denver has evolved over the time I’ve lived here. I’ve been in Colorado for 14 years, so I have seen so many different phases and moments in history, it’s really cool to be a part of. I love this city and it keeps on growing and growing being a leader in the progressive electronic music scene. I hear people referring to it as the “Bass Capital” recently and I can definitely see why after seeing the influx of the bass culture here especially over the last three years. Denver is a place of community and where people come because they enjoy all the lifestyles that Colorado has to offer, whether that be music, skiing/snowboarding, hiking, weed culture, art community, etc. All of those things really bring together a special group of people and that’s why I think Denver continues to flourish and be at the center of electronic music. Plus, we have some pretty badass venues and there’s music nonstop.