Maddy O’Neal is one of those musicians who truly believes music is the gift that keeps on giving – and her latest EP is a prime example of her generous nature. A follow-up to 2022s’ Ricochet, and perfectly timed for our adventure to Oregon’s first ever Cascade Equinox, Mind Over Matter is a breathtaking release featuring a variety of grooves from atmospheric instrumentals and hip-hop infused beats, to layers of bouncy, trap production. From start to finish the producer moves us through a sonic range of sound – future bass tracks like ‘Wide Awake’, ‘Free Yourself’ and ‘Woofer’ were designed to shake the dance floor, while the uplifting energy found within ‘’Bliss’ is meant to transcend listeners to a higher state of mind.
Maddy’s performance at Cascade was one of the strongest highlights of the festival for us – read on as we talk about her first Burning Man experience, favorite fan interactions of the year, and the inspiration behind Mind Over Matter.
CYM: First of all, I wanted to talk about your Burning Man performances – it was your first time going! How many sets did you squeeze in, and how was the experience overall?
Maddy O’Neal: I actually played five sets out there, I was only there for four days because I had a sandwich in between two festivals so I didn’t really know which camps to play or go to – I started digging before I went out there to figure out which camps I wanted to play. Found out that Camp Questionmark was the big bass one, and Ego Trip was more of the house vibe I wanted to play – and I actually ended up landing some slots at all the ones I wanted to play! It was really fun for me and it was challenging because I prepared five different playlists, five totally different sets, and kind of catered to the vibe of each camp because I know that’s just kind of how it is.
Camp Questionmark were like, they even told me – ‘We’re the bass camp, you know that right?’ And I’m like ‘Yeah (laughs), I play bass music’. And they were like ‘No, but like – BASS. Are you ready for this shit?’ And I’m like ‘Yeah (laughs), I understood the assignment!’ So I went a little heavier than I normally do which was fun because I’m finding ways to be more like a DJ than a producer too and catering to certain environments. I kind of put together the playlists and read the crowd moreso than I normally do when I’m playing all of my own music. So it was a freeing experience.
I had a homie, you know our mutual friend Tucker Gumber, who really made it possible for me. Brought us an RV, made all of our food and vacuum sealed and froze it, and then like, brought me my bike, and he made it so I couldn’t say no. He’s been talking me into it for 5 years straight. He’s like all your shit’s right here – you just have to show up. So we had the coolest crew and honestly, it re-inspired me more than I’d felt in a really really long time. Just being immersed in a community like that, everyone that I met was an interesting human being that was some sort of creative, from all over the world – it was wild. It was fun. I felt like I was cracked open a little bit.
CYM: You’ve always been a pretty road-heavy artist – the second half of your Mind Over Matter tour will be kicking off once Cascade and Ursa Major wraps up. Do you know how many shows you’ve done this year?
Maddy O’Neal: I think I might hit 90 shows this year, which is a lot if you think about it. It’s like a third of my year. I’m a road dawg.
CYM: What has been your favorite festival experience this year?
Maddy O’Neal: Coachella was pretty cool. I always wondered what it’d be like, and it had always been on my bucket list. It was really cool to see that there was a stage where they really catered to the underground artists, the DoLab, so I loved getting that experience but not in the way I expected. It was very different than I thought it was, much more chill, and wasn’t like influencers everywhere.
CYM: I’ve heard that – I feel like Coachella gets a bad rap.
Maddy O’Neal: So does Burning Man. People are like ‘Uhh’, ‘Ehh’. So it was cool to just put those things to rest. But Bonnaroo was definitely my favorite of the year so far. It had been on my list of places to play for a really long time, but I played at like 5:30 – and people just showed up. I had no idea what to expect. It was also my first time doing a fan meet up and there were like 200 people that showed up to that. I was just really surprised by the amount of support that I had. I had low expectations – I knew I’d be playing early and it was going to be hot – and then I was just blown away.
CYM: Let’s talk about the Caverns.
Maddy O’Neal: I’ve never been, so that’s another one I get to cross off the list this year. Especially with the Pretty Lights crew, it’s going to be really cool.
CYM: I also want to talk about your new EP that just dropped, obviously in perfect timing for this weekend! How are you feeling about it?
Maddy O’Neal: I mean, you’ve known me for a long time so you’ve seen the whole evolution – and something just clicked in writing my last record (Ricochet). I explored a lot of things that I needed to for myself, just giving myself the time to figure out where I wanted to be, and I feel like the further I get I’m carving out my lane a little bit further. I think this EP represents that – I was kind of thinking about all the shows that I’m playing and visualizing myself in the places that I wanted to be in, and it just came together that way. I was thinking about mixing at the big festivals I was going to play, and I wanted to make an EP that was geared towards a live environment rather than with my last EP, which had a lot more listening tracks that I played live, but I wanted to showcase that on the stages I am now grateful to be able to play on.
CYM: The EP does feel like coming home. It’s a perfect combination of your hyped up bass energy but still very feminine, fun and pretty, with the heavy drops – it also gets into a little trance between all the grimy bass! I love that whatever you release, it’s always slightly different – you aren’t afraid to lean into genres that you like and want to explore and play with more. As a fan, it makes listening to your music that much more fun.
Maddy O’Neal: I think that was part of the freedom, that I found a way to kind of explore different genres while still feeling like it sounds like me. It can be a really fine line to grind.
CYM: Tell me your favorite fan interaction this year – you said you did your first meet up?
Maddy O’Neal: Someone organized it for me, someone from the Madd Squad facebook group and I had zero expectations, maybe there will be 5, but there were 200 people all hyped. The conversations you have with people who are intentionally there to see you are priceless.
CYM: You’ve just announced a MadHaus set for Gem & Jam 2024. Tell us about that!
Maddy O’Neal: I’ve been loving doing the house sets, I’ve fallen in love with house music over the last couple of years and I always wanted to figure out a way to do both and not have to be a strictly house dj or a bass dj, so I found a cool way to brand that, and I think people appreciate hearing what my taste is in house music, because I know I appreciate that, just learning from other DJs’ sets. So I’m glad that I’m finally doing that at festivals and after-parties, including all over Burning Man. It feels like it’s a part of me now.