Tampa-born, Richmond-based Madison Turner makes punk music that sounds to me like a combination of the soul and sentiment of anti-folk queen Kimya Dawson with an innovative brand of big-beating-heart pop punk reminiscent of older acts like Jawbreaker or Samiam. Her songs are touching, tough, and new, and it’s hard to miss the the nostalgia and honesty at work. I just found out about Turner a mere month ago, and I’m already a dedicated fan. So, imagine my excitement when she agreed to answer a few of my questions about leaving home, transphobia and sexism in the South, and how she makes her music. There was a lot of excitement – for those with no imagination.
Where are you from? Where are you now?
I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, and I lived there for most of my life. When leaving, I even got the cliché tattoo of the outline of the state with a little heart where Tampa is. There’s a lot of talk about needing to get out of Florida, and there surely are plenty of negatives that I could list, but for the most part I enjoyed my time there. After leaving Florida, I spent about a year in Oregon, I spent about a year traveling and couchsurfing across the United States, and I finally settled down in Richmond, Virginia, where I currently reside and really love.
Tell me about the music you make.
It’s honest, it’s real, it’s personal, it’s self-deprecating, but there’s plenty of ego there too. I never write a song just for the sake of writing a song; it’s always coming from a very real emotion or idea or place for me. Musically, I always try and do something a little bit different, adding a weird break in the music here or an awkward yell there. I don’t want to write a song that I feel like I’ve heard before; I always try and write something at least a little bit new. Most of my inspiration comes from punk, hardcore, ska, folk, and rock-alternative, so it tends to sound like something from that realm.
Does living in the South impact your music? How?
I feel like I was hugely impacted by growing up in Tampa. Whether that’s specifically because it’s in the South or it’s just a hub where things happened and I had the ability to grow and change with it, I’m not sure. Growing up, Transitions Art Gallery was a DIY venue that I spent lots of time at and where I saw many bands for the first time that widened my scope of what was possible in terms of music: bands like Ghost Mice, AJJ, Matt & Kim, The Flaming Tsunamis, The Show is The Rainbow. This, along with plenty of other music venues where stuff was always happening, really showed me how much was out there and the unlimited possibilities of what could be done.
As for whether or not living in the South directly impacts my music, I couldn’t really say. I do feel like my music is impacted by my emotional state, and that has just about as good a chance to meander regardless of where I am. I’ve run into plenty of transphobia and sexism in the South that have stoked the fire for many songs of the songs I’ve written, but those aren’t problems that are specifically unique to the South.
What are your hopes for your music?
I was recently asked whether music for me is a hobby or a career—my answer is that it’s neither. I wouldn’t call it a hobby; music is my main focus, it’s what I want and have always wanted to be doing. I wouldn’t say that I want it as a career either, though, because that sounds so financially motivated. I want to be able to survive, and I’ve certainly had times where I have been completely broke and would still book a show where I knew I wouldn’t get paid… but I don’t write songs or perform for numbers. I’m not stressing about t-shirt sales or obsessing over profit margins—if I wanted that, I’d focus on moving up the ladder in retail. I’d love to be comfortable, and I’d love for people to listen, and I’ve certainly logged into bandcamp to check up on how many people are downloading my music, but what it comes down to for me is that I’m proud of the music that I release and the shows that I play, that my music is accessible to people regardless of their financial situation, and that I can keep writing, performing, and recording until my body gives out on me.
Where will you go and what will you do next?
I’m hoping to record a new full-length album by the end of this year and likely release it early next year. I’ve got almost enough material that I’m completely comfortable with for this release. My next steps are to finish up writing, decide how it is I want it to sound, figure out where I want to have it recorded and who by, and see who else would like to play instruments on it and make me sound good. I’ve also got some tentative plans to do a Southern tour early next year, but the details are still very sparse.
Any favorite Southern women or non-binary or trans Southerners making music that we should know about?
Wow, how much time do we have? I’m not going to delineate whether these wonderful women and/or non-binary individuals are trans or cis or non-binary because I want everyone to be in charge of disclosing their own identities and I don’t want to overstep anywhere. I really love South Florida’s Gouge Away and Tallahassee’s Night Witch, fronted by Christina and Rosie, respectively. These are two heavy, unapologetic bands from Florida that speak (and scream) the truth. I highly suggest MeanGirls from Austin, Texas, which is a really rad emo/punk band fronted by Raine Mara. Gainesville’s insignificant other, the solo project from Simona Morales, once made me cry while watching them perform because of how heartfelt and deeply cutting the lyrics and performance was.