Maddie Jay Uses Self-Doubt as Strength With New Release, “Excuses”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

After Maddie Jay had achieved her dreams of becoming a touring bassist, she found herself thinking, “What else?” It was then that she began creating her own music. But even with her spirit dampened by the pandemic, she managed to craft a self-deprecating, bedroom pop record with her latest release, “Excuses,” and turned lockdown laziness into gold.

“Excuses” was created amid major writer’s block as Jay worked on her upcoming EP CMYK. After storing the beat on her hard drive for months, unsatisfied with all of her attempts to write over it, she began to feel like she wasn’t doing enough. 

“A lot of my friends are also artists and doing really well, releasing records this year even though it’s quarantine,” Jay tells American Songwriter.  “I was commiserating with my sister about all of this and was like, ‘Man, I can’t even do this song, I can’t even write over it.’ And I ended up writing about that feeling, about being a lazy person unable to finish anything. I was always making excuses for why I couldn’t finish it.”

With an educational background in jazz bass performance from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Jay found herself moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a “hired gun” and touring musician. When she finally quit to focus on her own career, the fend-for-yourself mentality she’d built up from being on the road came in handy, and she quickly identified with the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture of bedroom pop. Written and produced solely by Jay in her bedroom studio, “Excuses” is a testament to this, and is equally present in the accompanying visual.

While quarantined in her hometown of British Columbia, Canada, Jay needed a visual for “Excuses,” but luckily, was more than comfortable with using what she had in her immediate surroundings. “I didn’t have my normal resources that I would have here in L.A., but because I come from this background of completely DIY, I felt pretty comfortable just coming up with something,” Jay shares. “It’s definitely just part of the process for me. The whole package— all the visuals— are coming from the same creative place.

“We [Jay and her sister] found this old Sony Handycam that I had when I was 11 or 12 at my parents’ house, and we thought that was really funny. So, we just drove around my hometown and were being nostalgic and just kind of having a laugh about it,” Jay remembers. “It’s not too serious. It’s a pretty low-key music video. I think because the song was written out of a little tongue and cheek— like I’m kind of making fun of myself the whole time—  it worked with that.”

Keeping in theme with the larger project, “Excuses” is part of Jay’s upcoming EP CMYK, an idea born out of her desire to create a connection between abstract and physical things. For her, that meant experimenting with cassette tapes and analog gear rather than creating solely on her laptop. Along with the evolution of her recording process, Jay used the same approach for her songwriting. 

“When I was starting out as a songwriter, I was working with a very primary color palette, like ‘I am sad, or I love this person.’ I think this is another development to my songwriting and a way to explore my emotional palette in a fun way.”  

Watch the official video for “Excuses” below.

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