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Interview: French arts support schemes help launch pop career

‘Most British of French artists’ Maddy Street hopes to sign with a record label soon, after awards boosted profile

Maddy has started to work with a manger and a booking agent Pic: Emma Birski

Young Franco-British artist Maddy Street looks set for a blossoming career in French pop after winning two prestigious awards this year.

Maddy, 25, who identifies as non-binary and asked us to use the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ in this article, has been called ‘the most British of French artists’ by media including Le Parisien, and is the child of British parents living in Normandy.

This year, they won two awards for up-and-coming artists: the Prix Pernod Ricard France Live Music 2023 and the Normandy region’s Go+, which give a year of support, including advice from established professionals.

The Pernod Ricard prize also gives slots at 10 festivals, and Maddy has been performing throughout the summer, gaining new fans.

Maddy sings mostly in English in a pop-rock-rap style. They studied English literature at Sorbonne Nouvelle university, so songwriting allows them to “tie together” a love of lang-uage and music. They also make their own music videos.

“The text always comes first for me,” Maddy said.

“It stems from my love for literature and also from parents who are both bookworms.

"Growing up, we would constantly have music playing in some shape or form, and my dad played the guitar, inspiring me to learn.”

Maddy started writing music in high school. “It was an escape because I didn’t enjoy the first years due to bullying over my bisexuality. I learned covers and ended up writing my own stuff.”

Lycée was better as they made friends who were more “my crew”, and a last university year in Melbourne, which had a welcoming LGBT scene, also “really helped”.

However, Maddy said it can be “a nightmare” to navigate the gendered French language. For example, not everyone knows the gender-neutral
pronoun iel’.

“After shows, I get lots of people thanking me for the representation I give, as there aren’t many French singers using iel, and I have a ton of supportive friends.”

However, even the best-intentioned people sometimes still struggle with gender ambiguity, Maddy said. “I would like the freedom to be fluid and not worry about masculine and feminine labels.”

In terms of a look onstage, Maddy is still “trying to figure out if I have to choose one".

The songs on Maddy's EP British Boy? are inspired by reflections about their identity, such as Merlin, the name Maddy’s parents would have chosen for a boy, or Wish I Was You, about wanting to be both the men or the women they saw on television.

A break-up with a girlfriend who had to go back to Aus­tralia due to Covid inspired Hey Friend and Tiny House.

Maddy's musical inspirations include British rapper Little Simz and Ed Sheeran, as well as classic pop, rock and soul such as the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Aretha Franklin, or The Blues Brothers film.

Maddy said: “I support the French football team but prefer English music.

"I’ve never lived in the UK so, for me, France is my home, but English music and films are my culture too.

“I wonder if I should write more in French, to be more francophone-accessible, but for now I’ve just tried to switch more between the two. People like that and enjoy my British punky attitude, mixed with the French rap and pop elements.”

Maddy said France’s strict work regulations, such as the intermittent du spectacle status, allow young artists here to get paid regularly, including if appearing as an opening act, whereas “the best you can expect in the UK is your food and a pint.”

This year, they also benefited from the Scènes de musiques actuelles (SMAC) system, where the state supports local pop concerts, in this case in primary schools and collèges in Saint-Lô, Manche. The children were a “wonderful audience”.

Maddy said it was “crazy” to win the Pernod Ricard award as they were competing against thousands. “I knew some of the bands and thought ‘there’s no way I’m winning this’, but it goes to show you shouldn’t doubt yourself too much.

“I hope from the visibility I’ve gained this year I will get to work with a music label. I’m also starting to work with a manager and a booking agent, which makes a world of difference. I’m very happy and feel very lucky to get to this point.”

Check out Maddy’s Facebook or Instagram for details of upcoming appearances.

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