Songs of hope and forgiveness
On May 12, singer, songwriter and producer Madison McFerrin released her debut album, I Hope You Can Forgive Me. This was after a string of successful EP’s, the most recent being You and I, released in 2019. With this new 10-song project, McFerrin finds herself on the cusp of becoming a household name. During a transformational pandemic, not only did she spend this time honing her songwriting skills, but she learned how to produce as well.
Born in San Francisco in 1992, McFerrin moved to Minneapolis at the age of three, where she spent her elementary school years, and later moved to Philadelphia during middle school. Coming from a musical family, and being the daughter of Bobby McFerrin, it’s not surprising to hear her say that she knew that singing would be her career path at an early age.
After high school, she enrolled at the world renowned Berklee College of Music. Her time at Berklee would allow her to focus entirely on music for the first time. In addition, during those four years she was able to perform professionally for the first time as a member of the group Cosmodrome, and later as part of the duo Binary Sol. In 2016, she officially started performing as a solo artist.
Her first two EP’s, Finding Foundations: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, were both all acapella projects. They served as an opportunity for her to try and make compelling acapella music that she could perform solo. Her last EP, You and I, allowed her to collaborate with her brother Taylor, who served as producer. This is the project where we began to see her sing more about some of her feelings and emotions, and other broad concepts,
During the pandemic, and after Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd, McFerrin’s song, “GUILTY,” achieved significant popularity through social media. The one-minute song was an expression of joy and relief that someone was finally being held accountable for killing an unarmed Black person.
“I think that part of the artist’s responsibility is to be a mirror to society. So the things that affect us in the world, it makes sense that it would come out in the music and the art that is made,” McFerrin said.
The pandemic also allowed McFerrin to further focus on her craft—specifically her songwriting. This time allowed her to write the material that would become her debut album. “I just wanted to write something that was really honest, and would make the type of statement that I wanted to make for my debut album,” she said, while reflecting on the writing process for I Hope You Can Forgive Me.
The pandemic played a significant role in the creation of the album. Like for many, this time was a period of self reflection and self discovery for her. During the pandemic, McFerrin learned that her great-great-great-grandmother had escaped from slavery, and it is the inspiration for the focus track, “Run.” The song also has the project’s only feature, and it is with her father Bobby McFerrin. The message of the song is about the strength that was granted to her great-great-great-grandmother that allowed her to run away.
“It’s one of the more upbeat songs on the album, because I wanted you to feel her running. I’m also really proud of the fact that I get to have a song with my dad. This is the first time we’ve collaborated in that way. I think it’s a really beautiful piece of music,” McFerrin reflected.
When asked about the influences that helped her gain the confidence to experiment with her live performances, she pointed to her family.
“I think I developed the confidence of being a live performer from seeing my dad and my brother, who are both also solo performers. They are able to go out and just perform by themselves. I wanted to be able to do that for myself as well,” she said.
Although she is currently based in Los Angeles, San Francisco still plays a critical role in McFerrin’s heart.
“My community has been mostly based in San Francisco. I am influenced by my community and the people who helped raise me, and I think that that is innately a part of my artistry, even if it’s not specifically a San Francisco sound,” said McFerrin.
Fans of Madison McFerrin or those looking to see her perform live will have the chance to see her in person on June 2 in San Francisco at The Independent. When asked what fans could expect when seeing her perform live, she simply replied, “For someone who’s never attended one of my live shows—I think they can expect magic. That’s what I try to create. A joyful, meditative and magical environment.”