Maddie Poppe gets why Britney Spears shaved her head
American Idol finalist Maddie Poppe of Clarksville, Iowa, visits her hometown to film segments for the finale of the competition. Rodney White, email@example.com
Maddie Poppe is exhausted.
Just a few weeks ago, her entire life changed when she won “American Idol.” Overnight, she was effectively catapulted from the coffee shop circuit near her hometown in Clarksville, Iowa, to the vagabond lifestyle of a rock star in Los Angeles.
“Wow, it hasn’t been that long has it?” she said recently, taking a break from recording. “It’s all kind of a whirlwind. I’ve been meeting with the label. We’ve been recording and doing interviews. It’s been nonstop.”
What Poppe hasn’t been doing is sleeping. Or replying to emails. Or texts. Or Facebook messages. She promises she hasn’t forgotten her friends, family and fans, she said — she just hasn’t had any time.
“It so overwhelming, honestly, and you just get caught up and need a break and don’t want to talk to anybody,” she said. “I’m beginning to understand more and more why this is hard for people — to do the Hollywood thing.
“Basically, I understand why Britney Spears shaved her head.”
But don’t take Poppe’s exhaustion or unresponsiveness to mean she’s ungrateful or upset. She’s having the time of her life, and she’s the first to say that every day feels like a dream come true.
Since the show wrapped, she’s been recording her debut album for a major label — which she doesn’t expect to be out for at least a year — and preparing for the summer’s “American Idol” tour. (Yes, she and boyfriend/“Idol” runner-up Caleb are hoping to do a duet for both the tour and the album.)
Through it all, Poppe’s trying to ensure she doesn’t lose her voice — the same voice with which “Idol” fans fell in love.
This — her album and her career — is something she needs to get right, she said.
“It’s hard because I don’t want to end up as just that girl who won ‘American Idol,’ but how do you live up to Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson?” Poppe said. “People are really judgmental of the ‘American Idol’ thing — if you don’t end up as big as Carrie Underwood then you are not successful, in the mindset that people have.”
So, yeah, she feels a little like she’s been “thrown into the fire,” she said.
She doesn’t have that guaranteed airtime every Sunday night anymore. And while she does have the help of her label, she feels like it’s really up to her, and her alone, to make her way in the music business.
When Poppe recorded her first album, her producer was her dad and they made every musical decision together in the studio they'd built in her parents’ basement.
Now, she gets into different booths with professional equipment and a handful of producers and sings her songs in what feels like a hundred different ways. But the process has actually been a lot more relaxed than she anticipated, Poppe said.
“It’s been a lot easier having a professional help you,” she said. “It was just me and my dad for so long that taking direction from someone else is a lot different, but it’s good.”
Outside of keeping true to her sound, Poppe’s album doesn’t have a lot of direction right now. When she pens a song, she can’t guarantee its tenor or pacing or lyrics are going to fit into one specific genre. And she doesn’t write on any sort of routine, so when the mood strikes her, she takes voice memos on her phone.
“I write about things that have happened in my life, so the words come so much easier when you are not trying to force them,” she said.
In some ways, Poppe is struggling to determine which parts of her life she’ll allow her “American Idol” success to change and which parts she wants to maintain as though she was back in her parents’ basement.
Like that coffee shop circuit — that was her “starting block” and she’s not sure she’s going to be back in those anytime soon.
But her singer-songwriter nature — that’s not up for debate. And unlike the experts, she’s not convinced she can’t be successful that way — just look at Sara Bareilles and Brandi Carlile, she offered.
“They stick to who they are and they are still ‘mainstream’ in that they still have huge fan bases and have shown that you can be successful doing exactly what you want to do and being yourself,” Poppe said. “That’s what I want to do and that’s the kind of performer I want to be.”