Maddy O'Neal and Marvel Years Sit Down with Grassroots
Posted on January 17 2022
This past fall, we caught up with musical artists Maddy O'Neal and Marvel Years to hear about their festival season, tour, and Grassroots collaborations. In our exclusive interview, we ask the two producers about their start in the music scene, new music, festival experiences and their limited-edition Grassroots merch. Read the interview below or check out our videos on YouTube!
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Maddy, I was reading your bio which mentions you’re from Denver, Colorado, your “family roots” are “in rock’n’roll”, and you dig old school hip hop. Let’s unpack all of that for a second!
I am originally from St. Louis but have been in Colorado since 2008 when I came out here to go to school at CU Boulder. I was immediately consumed with the music scene out here and it was definitely a big part of what made me make the leap into producing. I was immersed in what I definitely refer to as some of the golden years here in CO when PL, Big G, Griz, STS9 were all coming up and I’m sure you can hear the influences in my music.
My dad and brother were both in bands and playing music constantly around me growing up. My brother in indie Folk Rock bands in St. Louis and my Dad a big dead head playing music with friends and members of his old band all the time as a child. We had a “Music Den” growing up with all the instruments and stereo etc. Some of my fondest memories growing up with the family jams in that room. I am also very grateful that my brother would introduce me to all sorts of music growing up so I feel like I had a really awesome set of influences.
Nas, Nate Dogg (RIP. Sweet spot for him since one of the earliest) Outkast
Cory, you’re a guitar player who has paved a path for yourself in the EDM community.
I started playing guitar when I was around 11 years old and I played in a couple middle school/ high school bands with friends. I didn’t start producing until I took an electronic music course in high school which is where I learned how to use Fruity Loops and Logic Pro. After that I was just messing around making my own music and putting it on YouTube, which then was followed by people reaching out trying to book me for shows and eventually getting my first National tour booked. This all happened in my first year of college and after my tour I left to pursue music full time.
I’ve always been a fan of electronic/hip hop based music but it wasn’t until I saw RJD2 play live while I was in high school that I knew this was the music I wanted to make. I incorporate the guitar mainly because it’s been something I’ve played my entire life and it’ usually what I start out on when I write my music. Plus it makes live shows way more fun when I can play my guitar over my music.
My top three most played right now are Earthgang, 20syl and Hans Zimmer haha. Hans in my go-to airport/airplane playlist
You’ve both been producing and performing for over a decade.
Maddy: Since I was a little kid I always wanted to be a singer actually. Constantly dressing up as the spice girls and Britttany spears having my friends walk in on me belting songs in the basement of my house. I think that dream sort of pivoted into producing the older I got because I recognized what my strong suits were as a writer and my attention / tastes evolved as well.
Cory: In high school I started making mashups of acpaella’s over different hip hop beats I would make, but then I saw RJD2 perform live when I was in the 10th grade in high school and after that it opened my eyes up into the world of producing and I immediately knew it was something I was interested in. I never planned on playing my music live but it eventually just ended up being the norm, which I am very grateful for.
Maddy: Producing. I dove in head first. I wanted to create and write and the Djing aspect came later on when I had to figure out how to perform my own songs.
Cory: Producing for sure. Eventually I had to teach myself how to arrange and play my music live when show offers started rolling in. There were many long nights spent playing private sets to myself in my bedroom before I built up the confidence to play in front of an audience.
Maddy: Kind of depends. The Balance is the really the key. Too much tiem only doing one or the other can lead to a burn out feeling. If you have time to create and refresh ideas and then go show them off and then go back and write and channel those experiences into next experiences it’s really the perfect combo.
Cory: They are completely different animals so I would say it depends on the mood you are in at the time. There are some days where there is no topping just sitting on your couch in front of the fireplace, cup of coffee in hand and just making music. But there are also times (and I felt this strongest during the lockdowns) where you NEED to have that human interaction and experience how the music you’re making resonates with other people besides yourself.
Maddy: The learning curve when you start out is major. It takes a long time to learn how to navigate whatever DAW you are using. You have to learn how to do the things you want to do before you can do them and that takes a lot of patience and research and practice. I learned most everything on youtube and trial and error so that was a lot lol. But once you get past that a whole other world opens up and it becomes a never ending evolution of creativity.
Cory: Just learning all of the little quick shortcuts/secrets within the daw you are using makes a monumental difference. When you are able to translate the music in your head into a physical song and do it in a timely manner, it makes the whole creation process more fluent which helps you write better music in the long run. I would also say my personal struggle when starting out was juggling my school work with writing music and touring, which ultimately led to me pursuing music full time.
What are some of the highlights of each of your careers so far, in terms of events, performances, collaborations, and accomplishments?
Maddy: Red Rocks takes the cake forever. It is such a magical venue and having the privilege to play there 3 times in the last 5 years is incredible. Still doesn’t even feel real sometimes.
Cory: Red rocks and Hampton Coliseum are my top 2 live performances of my career. There’s just something about such a large group of people all on the same wavelength and equally excited about the music that’s being played that just takes the show to a whole other level.
I understand you guys have a new collab dropping this Friday! What’s the song?
Maddy: This is the second collaboration between Cory and I following “Viral Love” we released back in 2018. We’ve been friends since doing one of our first tours ever together back in 2013 and full circle again on road together now. We actually started “Don’t Stop” mid pandemic whenever we were chatting about music things back and forth but recently put the finishing touches on it . The track feels very fitting cause we been on this journey together since the very beginning of our careers. Lydia , the vocalist was the final piece of the song we were missing adding her Nina Simone style vibe to the track . It’s a really rad blend of both Cory and I signature sounds bouncing off each other the entire song.
Maddy: This one was virtual primarily because we started it over the pandemic. Passing the song back and forth about 4 times then finding a vocalist and working that in.
Cory: Knowing each other for such a long time and learning each other’s workflow over the years definitely helps when making music together. We both have a great understanding about how the other works that we are able to collab more efficiently.
The song started out as an almost chiller mid tempo idea and I think when I started working on it I was ready to play live shows again, so I made it into a more dance oriented track. I think with both Maddy and I you will be able to hear each of our unique sounds and I think they blend nicely together. This track is like our celebration of live music coming back to life and never giving up, hence the name “Don’t Stop”.
Maddy: I started the initial idea way back when and it was a skeleton of basically drums, piano, some horn and textural sounds and sent to him, he added guitar and some bass and re-arranged, then we kinda worked out the drop / synth sections together shooting ideas back and forth. The “Maddy Sprinkle” is really just referring to me walking away from a song knowing I put my signature in it. That can come in many different forms.
Cory: We just came out of summer festival season and you guys are still super busy, touring across the country together!
Maddy: My favorite festival this summer was probably Summer Camp. Its been one of my favorites over the years and I just had such an amazing slot this year + got to give the crowd the full experience with the incredible production they had etc. Love that place.
Cory: I would have to agree with Summer Camp. It was my first real “back to normal” festival after the lockdowns and my set time was 100% so the crowd really showed up and threw down. It was one of my favorite performances ever.
Maddy: It feels great to just be back playing music in front of actual humans again. The energy is different because people have been locked in their houses for a year ya know. Connecting with people and getting to put a smile on faces again feels really great.
Maddy : Nothing super crazy but one standard item is Ginger SHOTS! Gotta keep up that immune system out there.
Cory: I recently took it off but my thing for years was a bottle of local hot sauce from the city I was playing in. I might have to add that one back on ;)
Let’s talk merch! Maddy, we first dropped our collaboration snapback back in back in 2019, LE150, which has since sold out!
Grassroots has been family since day 1 of my career. The entire staff and company and the community that came along with it has been a big supporter of my music all the way back to the beginning nad I am so grateful for that relationship. The way you guys fuse community with clothing and branding and a lifestyle is just unparalleled and I was honored to be able to design something with ya. That hat was absolutely one of my favs and I cant wait for more collaborations.
Maddy: Working on next round right now, hopefully ready for Cervs :-) The second round Bomber jackets are pretty swaggy would love to do a full jumpsuit.
Cory, you have two Grassroots collabs which date back to 20XX when we made a gray Fitted and red Strapback hat. I have the Strapback right here!
Cory: Haha you name the place and I got you.
Cory: To be honest that was the first merch I had ever made and the whole process from start to finish was wonderful. The creative ideas you guys bring to the table along with the freedom you give to the artists is unmatched. I think it’s time we make another collab ;)
Maddy: We have a bunch of new merch coming soon, focusing on more winter oriented merch right now.