Ontario native Madison Kozak always dreamed of making country music. Before becoming a songwriter, and later an artist, she remembers growing up singing along to songs she heard on the radio driving in the car with her dad.
“Where I come from, most parents and their kids spend every weekend driving to a hockey tournament. My dad and I would get in the car and drive to a fair or a festival – wherever we could get in to play country music. It’s just the way we bonded. This has always been our dream,” Madison shares with heirwaves from the Key West Songwriters’ Festival in Florida.
At just 14, Madison made the move from Canada to Nashville, Tennessee, with the dream of chasing a career in country music. In 2018, Madison’s compelling voice coupled with her ability to be vulnerable & honest in her songwriting earned her a publishing deal with Craig Wiseman’s Big Loud, joining a roster of seasoned writers like Rodney Clawson, and Brian Kelly and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line.
“I am really grateful that I have an awesome team at Big Loud that is helping me to find and grow my writing voice. In the past year, I’ve just been focusing on that so the next chapter is taking these songs that I’ve been piling up in my repertoire and putting them out there,” she shares, referencing her 4-song EP, Heartbreak School, that she released on May 31st.
Madison is hoping the themes she tackles in the songs on Heartbreak School really connect with people, because that is the driving force for why she makes music. “Ever since I was a little girl, I was an artist before I was a writer. I didn’t even know songwriting was a thing, it was secondary to me, so now being able to be an artist and a songwriter and combine my passions, it’s very exciting.”
Remembering those car rides with her dad as a little girl, Madison wants to inspire and empower others the way some of her heroes – Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks – inspired her. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to do that for the next generation, for another girl in a small town somewhere too,” Madison adds.
Heartbreak School includes Madison’s debut single “Graduation Day.” Released on her college graduation day from Belmont University, the song is written by Chris Stapleton and Telemitry and is a take on walking away from someone who doesn’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated.
“I heard ‘Graduation Day’ last spring after I found it in a class at Belmont University. I was in this class that partnered with BMI that had us act like publishers in training for the semester. We went out and visited publishers all over Music Row in Nashville and listened to all of these uncut songs,” she says. Madison recalls being in an office at Warner Chappell where a publisher first played “Graduation Day.”
“When the hook landed and the spin on ‘Graduation Day’ was ‘I’m over you, this isn’t gonna fly no more,’ that was such an anthem that I, as a female, wanted to hear as a person who has been through some really tough relationships in the past year,” Madison reveals, sharing that the overwhelming personal connection she felt to the song caused her to hold it in her back pocket for the next few months, before releasing it on her own college graduation day.
“After signing my publishing deal last spring, I’ve been in artist and writing mode and in talking about my first release coming up on my own graduation, I thought it couldn’t be a better way to cap off my time at Belmont than with this song. It was too perfect not to,” she shares.
The music community in Nashville is often talked of highly for the way the songwriters and artists genuinely support one another. Madison found solace in having the support of a community while being so far from home. “I come from a very big family as one of eight kids, so having a community has always meant so much to me,” she says.
“We all cheer on each other, whoever is having success or putting a song out or getting a cut on a record. We’re all excited for each other because, at the end of the day, we’re all writing with each other, so we want everyone to succeed,” Madison says.
Moving to Nashville at such a young age, Madison wanted to learn everything she could from Music City’s songwriters. “I would go out to songwriter’s rounds multiple times a week just trying to learn from my heroes,” she says of writers such as Tom Douglas, Lori McKenna, Natalie Hemby and Nicolle Galyon.
“I was so in love with what they do. But about a year and a half ago, halfway through my time at Belmont, something clicked,” Madison says, revealing that that was when she began to firm up her identity as a songwriter.
“It was around that time that I wrote ‘First Last Name’. I’m not going to write what I think people will like,” she adds, “I’m going to write what I know hits my heart and it was just a turning point that was when everything started to fall exactly where it’s supposed to be.”
Madison’s debut EP Heartbreak School featuring “Hey Highway” is available for streaming and download on all platforms now.