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‘New era’: Singer-songwriter Madison Cunningham makes NM debut at Taos Vortex

California native Madison Cunningham will make her New Mexico debut at Taos Vortex. (Courtesy of Claire Marie Vogel)

Singer-songwriter Madison Cunningham is getting a late start to her day.

As she should.

In preparation for today’s release of her album “Who Are You Now,” the 22-year-old musician has been playing shows and doing interviews.

“It’s crazy to think about,” she says. “It’s such a long build in writing the songs in the first place. Then you want for the final thing to be out to the world. It’s almost time.”

Cunningham will be one of the more than 40 performers at this weekend’s Taos Vortex at Kit Carson Park, presented by Meow Wolf. Other performers include Lykke Li, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Calexico and Iron & Wine.

She will perform on Sunday, Aug. 18.

“I’m so excited to get out to Taos Vortex and perform,” she says. “It will be my first time out there, and I’ll have some new music.”

The guitarist spent the past year in a state of flux. For years, the Orange County native made her way as an independent artist, then was signed to Verve Records. She also recently moved to Los Angeles.

She named the album “Who Are You Now” to represent the transition both personally and professionally.

“It felt like all at once I was living in a new city and a new era of my life,” Cunningham says. “Writing this record really forced me to take an honest look at where I came from, what my dreams and fear were, and who I was becoming as a result.”

Cunningham first picked up a guitar at age 7, and by age 12 was performing with her five siblings in church.

At 15, Cunningham realized songwriting was a passion she wanted to pursue, citing Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan as key inspirations.

“It’d always been a hobby before, but around then, I realized I wanted to make it a religious practice,” she says. “I thought if I could capture some of their same spirit ever in my life, I’d have to work hard and every day.”

Cunningham holed up to record the album at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, just outside El Paso. The album is produced by Tyler Chester.

“I was only out there for nine days,” she says of the recording process. “The musicians were out there for seven. I was in between tours, and our mission was to get it all done at that time.”

Cunningham also found inspiration in her surroundings at Sonic Ranch and when visiting El Paso.

“I’m from California, but this place was breathtakingly beautiful,” she says. “The sunsets were radiant, and the sky is cloudless. I often walked the long road leading to Sonic Ranch so I could be in solitude. It was a modern version of the Wild West.”

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