Seven years ago Maddie Poppe competed in the Iowa State Fair Bill Riley Talent Search and didn't make it past the first round. Des Moines Register


It wasn’t too long ago that Maddie Poppe nervously stepped up to a microphone at the Iowa State Fair.

A 14-year-old representing her native Butler County, Poppe and her sister got behind a guitar and tried their luck at the Bill Riley Talent Search, a fair tradition.

It’d be a short-lived run. Judges cut the duo after the first round.

“We weren’t ready and I definitely wasn’t ready,” Poppe recalled in an interview with the Register. “I was so young and had just started out.”

Oh, how things have changed.

The 2018 “American Idol” winner and Clarksville native appeared Thursday at the Iowa State Fair opening ceremony to sign autographs, sing the National Anthem and cut a ceremonial ribbon alongside Gov. Kim Reynolds.

She performed, however briefly, for the first time in her home state since bringing home top prize in the ABC reality talent contest. Her voice filled the newly-renovated Grandstand plaza and spilled down Grand Avenue.

Or, as Eddie Hatfield, local radio personality and the morning’s emcee said on stage: “It’s always great to start the fair with goosebumps, isn’t it?”

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Poppe’s life changed drastically since “Idol” success rocket-launched her life from coffee shops and farmers' market corners to radio interviews in the morning and headlining shows in theaters at night.

Moments like Thursday morning are an “honor” for the 20-year-old, she said.

“It’s weird being in the same place as you were five years ago but your life being different,” Poppe said. “A different feeling, but it brings back a lot of memories.”

It’s wasn’t an easy ask, either, to have Poppe in Des Moines, holding a pair of unnaturally large scissors, kicking off 11 days of deep-fried entertainment.

She wrapped up a gig Wednesday night in Oklahoma, hopped on an overnight plane and appeared in Iowa Thursday morning ahead of a scheduled evening show at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City.  


Maddie Poppe talks about life on tour. The Des Moines Register

Her first experience on the road comes with her “Idol” counterparts — the top 7 contestants appear on the package — and she said they’re adjusting together to life on the road. The 47-city tour kicked off in July. 

“It’s been so much fun experiencing this for the first time all together but I like to be at home,” Poppe said, smiling. “I like the comfort of your own bed, your own shower. Those things are nice, too.”  

As for her anticipated Hollywood Records album? It’s coming, “hopefully next spring.”

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Poppe wraps the “Idol” tour in September and returns to Iowa for a pair of sold-out shows before hitting the studio in Los Angeles and Nashville for co-writing sessions.

She’s tight-lipped on who’ll be writing with her: “Nothing is set in stone yet but there (are) a lot of cool ideas floating around.”

But the indie-pop songwriter knows she wants it to be an album that appeals to her audience — both the passionate, young following she’s gained since “Idol” and their parents.  

More: Five free stage concerts you don't want to miss at this year's Iowa State Fair

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Poppe released her first post-”Idol” single, “Going Going Gone,” in May.

“I want it to be fun,” she said. “I want there to be a broad spectrum.

“I just wanna do it right.”

She may not have time Thursday for a fresh squeezed lemonade — “I’m obsessed with it,” she said of her fair must-have — but she’ll be back.

Fair organizers unveiled Thursday that Poppe plans to play fair in 2019 — a chance to show her home state just how far a talent show defeat can take someone.


Maddie Poppe talks about her favorite Iowa State Fair food item. Des Moines Register


Maddie Poppe talks about working on her upcoming album. The Des Moines Register



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