Live On The Bridge

S4 E2 | FULL EPISODE

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

Kansas City duo Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear perform songs off of their newest EP The Radio Winners, and share stories about growing up in Independence, MO to where they are today with Jon Hart.

AIRED: January 12, 2019 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

(light guitar music)

(whistling)

♪ We sit at tables like kings did. ♪

♪ We thought that we knew it all. ♪

♪ We sat beside an old firetruck ♪

♪ Wondering if this life could be more than enough ♪

♪ And everybody's got problems

♪ Don't you want mine

♪ Everybody's got a place to stay ♪

♪ Everybody's got problems

♪ Don't you need mine

♪ Everybody's got a place to stay ♪

♪ Oh do do do

♪ Everyone's searchin' the same thing ♪

♪ Lookin' for answers they need ♪

♪ But what good's an answer when life's a good mystery ♪

♪ You're not the first one to cry when they bleed ♪

♪ But everybody's got problems

♪ Don't you want mine

♪ Everybody's got a place to stay ♪

♪ Everybody's got problems

♪ Don't you need mine

♪ Everybody's got a place to stay ♪

♪ Oh do dah dah

♪ To stay

♪ Oh do dah dah

♪ Everybody knows there's some kind of family ♪

♪ Breaking at the seams

♪ Rest in me, rest in me

♪ Everybody knows there's some kind of family ♪

♪ Breaking at the seams

♪ It's rest in me, rest in me

(guitar music)

♪ When you asked me why do we burn through ♪

♪ Is there a meaning at all

♪ When we made black coffee all wondering fades away ♪

♪ Then we realize it's more than enough ♪

♪ Everybody's got problems

♪ Don't you want mine

♪ Everybody's got a place to stay ♪

♪ Everybody's got problems

♪ Don't you need mine

♪ Everybody's got a place to stay ♪

♪ Oh do dah dah

♪ To stay

♪ Oh do dah dah

♪ Everybody knows where there's some kind of family ♪

♪ Breakin' at the seams

♪ It's the rest in me, rest in me ♪

♪ Everybody knows there's some kind of family ♪

♪ Breakin' at the seams

♪ It's the rest in me, rest in me ♪

(guitar music)

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- You know this is an interview that I've wanted to do

for a long time, partly because when I see you,

whether you're performing or not performing,

you make me feel like I'm family.

And I think that the audience feels that way too.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, thanks for coming in today.

- Hello, hello. - Thank you.

- Thanks for having us. - Thanks for having us.

- The Radio Winners like...

One of the things when I was getting ready for the interview

that just stopped me dead in my tracks

and I'm assuming that you probably saw this,

but the Chicago Sun Times said that it's a contender

for Album of the Year.

- Yeah. - It scared me half to death!

(everyone laughing)

I don't know how to deal with that.

(everyone laughing)

- So the first record that was such a revelation

to everyone, Skeleton Crew, there were a few adornments,

but basically was tracked live,

the two of you facing each other, no click track

is about as honest and as naked as a recording can be.

This one, I think people were a little bit surprised

by the additional production value.

- Yeah, definitely, I know that our team,

we all sort of wanted to take things to another level

and it took a while to figure out what that would sound like

if it came from Americana Folk duo.

So it was a journey trying to figure out how to make

that sound just feel very natural to us.

But recording music is a very unnatural thing.

So any time we're behind microphones in a studio,

it's hard to make it feel comfortable for us.

But we finally just put our career and everything

into other people's hands and said,

let's all make something together.

- That's true and plus having excellent producers.

- You know, they sort of warmed up for you by working

with some emerging artists like Taylor Swift

and the Lumineers.

- I hear she's gonna make it big one day.

(laughing)

you know, we'll see what happens.

- And Adele, oh lord.

- So correct me if I'm wrong but a lot of your early gigs

were at a coffeeshop on Independence Square,

so you went back to Independence Square,

not to the coffeeshop but to Clintons

probably because it had a better tie to childhood maybe?

- It was closer.

(everyone laughing)

- Yeah, it's only five minutes from my house.

- Didn't have to drive far.

No, it was beautiful, I hadn't been there

since I was really, really young.

I heard later Harriet S. Truman worked there

or something like that which I thought was amazing.

We thought it would be a good visual sort of for who we are,

where we come from and staying true to us in that sense.

- You know Ruth, I wanted to talk you

a little bit about growing up.

- Really, really? (laughing)

- Yeah, you were this tree grew from, right?

- Tree? (laughing)

(everyone laughing)

- So, South Bend Indiana.

- [Ruth] Yes.

- And you started out, you love blues, Motown, 60s soul

and all of that, but your brother introduced you

to singer, songwriters and I'm assuming

that it was the lyrical content that moved you

to start to embrace some of the folkier side.

- I think it was a combination of it all.

I think you grow up kind of what your parents

like to listen to and whatever

and then when I was in high school,

I started hearing people, listening to people playing

the guitar and he turned me on to Peter, Paul and Mary

and Crosby, Stills and Nash, awesome!

Hey, where did this come from?

So I started really listening to it more

and thoroughly embraced it.

- 18 years old, you fled South Bend, went to--

- Well you know all about me. (laughing)

- Arizona, New Mexico and that's when you

really started picking up the guitar.

- Yes I did, I started pickin' it up when I was 19

in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I remember this guy...

'Cause I used to, I love to sing but I couldn't play

and I would have different musicians

play a song and I'll sing to it, on the guitar.

And so I thought, I need to learn to play it myself.

So I started tryin' to learn and this one guy said,

"You'll never learn to play".

That's all I needed, I needed a challenge.

(laughing)

so I did learn to play it, but I left home

and started playing music and got to grow up.

- Along the way you picked up a husband,

you recorded a couple of albums.

- (laughing) I picked up a husband.

- [Madison] Yeah, just grabbed him

- [Interviewer] Just grabbed a husband at the gittin place.

The car barely slowed down.

- At the supermarket, I just grabbed him outta there.

- There's a vending machine, D3 husband.

(everyone laughing)

- Well you know I'm trying to shorten it a little bit.

- My life changed still, but as a matter of fact,

my husband and I, we connected while I was singing

in a coffee house in Norman, Oklahoma.

I was livin' there for a while and we married

and we had three children and at one point

we moved to Illinois, Chicago and I always felt

something was missing when we moved from Oklahoma

to Chicago til I started playin' in some coffee houses

in Chicago and that's what was missing.

I needed to play music.

- So, your eclectic tastes were reflected in what you played

around the house, the kids going to the coffeeshop,

we can start to see the seeds of a little bit of something.

But Madisen, you actually kept music at bay

for a little while, you were looking at all sorts

of other creative pursuits including writing fiction.

- Yeah, a big thing I wanted to do since the age of seven

was my uncle is an actor which is her brother,

Isiah Whitlock Jr., he's from a show The Wire

and a bunch of other random movies, Spike Lee films

and I wanted to do that 'cause at a young age,

I saw my uncle on screen, we'd go see him

in the actual theater.

That engaged with the writing, like you said fiction,

I just would write different sorts of stories.

Music was always her thing.

I never wanted to really do that and I started

randomly plucking on a guitar throughout high school.

But I was like, I'm not doin' this.

- So occasionally sitting in, giving your mom a break

at the coffee shop, performing a few songs,

next thing you know you're playing a little bit together.

Next thing you know, you're playing a lot together,

next thing you know, people are asking

for the original songs, this grew very organically.

- Yes it did. - Correct, correct

It was never, there's hardly a moment that I can remember

were it was a big idea moment,

it was really sort of kept growing and growing.

We didn't want to play directly in Kansas City for a while,

we wanted to just play all of the surrounding cities,

the little coffeeshops and then finally we were like,

let's go play at Record Bar and let's go see

if we can hold an audience or anything.

And then it just grew from there.

- So when you started to collaborate,

Ruth you'd played with other people in the past.

- [Ruth] Yes I have.

- How did Madisen stack up, how did you feel about it?

- I felt awesome, I felt great because,

I think it's because it's in the DNA or somethin'.

I liked the way he wrote, I liked the way he thought.

I liked how he presented his music

and it was a natural fit when we did play together.

Even on the guitar, if he's followin' me with guitar leads

or whatever, it was always what I wanted

and I could ever hardly get others to do that.

But when he started doing it, I thought,

yeah, there he is, he's got the lead down.

He's got what I'm thinking, yeah.

- So when you decided to do it seriously,

he became the taskmaster, he'd bring the coffee

and then it was to the dining room table.

- Yeah. - Yeah.

- And if there's an inanimate object that's a character

in this story, it's that dining room table.

- I did bring the coffees, yeah.

- He did, he did bring coffees.

- Everyday after work, two coffees, sit em down,

let's write music and play, yeah.

- Let's play, yeah, let's try it.

- [Interviewer] Well let's play some now if we could.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear here on The Bridge.

(drums and guitar music)

♪ Ho, oh, ain't no changing you, ain't no changing you ♪

♪ Same souls, different arrangements ♪

♪ You never sang the truth

♪ Hot, cold cobwebs and a pint of ninety brew ♪

♪ Ain't rich and you're ashamed of it ♪

♪ Broken points of view

♪ Now we're burning in the rain chasin' a memory ♪

♪ You're just flirting with the flame, can't let it die ♪

♪ We're both yearning to escape ♪

♪ That's what you said to me

♪ Turning courage into shame, so tell me why ♪

♪ I've been through Hell and back alive ♪

(guitar music)

♪ Whoa, ho tell your Mama and

♪ Ask her what to do

♪ Find a way to break the drama man ♪

♪ Ain't no time to lose

♪ Ice cold black lungs in a room I watch the news ♪

♪ Lead the way until you're suffering ♪

♪ Put yourself to use

♪ Now we're burning in the rain chasin' a memory ♪

♪ Your just flirting with the flame, can't let it die ♪

♪ We're both yearning to escape ♪

♪ That's what you said to me

♪ Turning courage into shame, so tell me why ♪

♪ I've been through Hell and back alive ♪

(guitar music)

♪ Do do do do do do do do do

♪ Now we're burning in the rain chasin' a memory ♪

♪ You're just flirting with the flame, can't let it die ♪

♪ We're both yearning to escape ♪

♪ That's what you said to me

♪ Turning courage into shame, so tell me why ♪

♪ That we're burning in the rain ♪

♪ Oh yeah

♪ You're just flirting with the flame, can't let it die ♪

♪ We're both yearning to escape ♪

♪ Turning courage into shame, so tell me why ♪

♪ I've been through Hell and back alive ♪

(gentle guitar music)

♪ Nah nah nah nah nah

♪ Nah nah nah nah

♪ Nah nah nah nah nah

♪ Nah nah nah nah

- You know, you mentioned that show

over at the Record Bar and it had to feel like,

I know there had to be intermediate steps in there,

but just the speed that you guys took off

just from the Record Bar, the way you put it Ruth,

is "I went from a kitchen to David Letterman".

- That's right. (laughing)

Exactly, I just woke up and oh, you're on

the David Letterman show, how in the world did I get there,

where did this come from?

- She walked out the door and there he was.

- I really love the fact that you rocked

that KC tee shirt too.

- Yeah, yeah, definitely, it just felt very...

Everybody back home, our world, this world here

was just supporting us and championing us

and we could feel it right before we were

about to go out there, we could really feel

a bunch of people tuning in and telling us.

As much as we love you guys, it scared the crap out of us.

Not doing Letterman, but the people

that were actually just behind us

and so it felt great to be able to wave back home.

- That was a period too when Letterman's ratings

were through the roof 'cause everybody knew

that he was gonna be leaving the show pretty quickly.

Just a few days before he ended up.

- Yeah, it was amazing, it was an amazing time.

I always kind of joke about the young kids these days

are gonna be like, hey, you know, I was on Letterman

and they're gonna be like, "Who?" because he's gone now.

(laughing)

He could have just 10 more years in him, I was like,

I was on Letterman, oh cool.

- You also had a real treat, you got to open for BB King.

- Wow, that was awesome!

That was our first really blow us outta the boat

moment when my manager said,

"Hey, you guys wanna open for BB King?".

I thought, really?

At the Midland, I thought, really?

- Just the two of us on stage and it was so early,

I think it was before the papers were even signed

as far as being on the label that we were on.

It was really one of the earliest things we'd ever done,

I don't even think we played all...

All the songs we played on that stage, I don't think

even people in charge had heard em or anything.

We sort of just went out there and just like hey,

let's just do what we do in the coffeeshop

and it was great.

- So did you get a chance to say hi?

- We wanted to, we wanted to really bad but his handlers,

they were like--

- [Interviewer] Very protective.

- His health was declining too.

- At the time his health was in decline, really in decline.

- It was his second to last show.

- Second last show, right, yeah.

- Alright, you have had a lot of celebrity run-ins.

A Public Enemy's Chuck D came up to you

at South by Southwest.

- Mm hmm. - That was incredible.

- There are a couple that I thought

were even more maybe meaningful for you Ruth.

You all performed on Jules Holland and James Taylor

was another guest and I know you've been a big fan of him

and he stood just a few feet away while you performed.

What was that like?

- Oh that was pretty awesome, I mean James Taylor?

That was awesome and Madisen, you and James Taylor

got to have a little dialog.

- Oh yeah, well I wanted to ask him a question

that I thought nobody was asking him.

So I know he was in that movie Two-Lane Blacktop

a long time ago and I love that movie so I just said,

was that really you driving all those cars

in Two-Lane Blacktop?

And he said, "oh yeah, most of em, yeah".

And I thought that was amazing and we were like,

we're from Kansas City, home of the Great Barbecue

and he said, "Yeah, not as good as South Carolina".

(laughing)

- You walked right into that one, didn't ya?

- I've seen fire and rain and I'm out.

- He's a nice guy, nice man.

- Another one of your heroes, Janice Ian.

- You really wanna know about that? (laughing)

- Oh I've got one more that's even worse, so you know.

- No, Janice Ian, I remember back in the day in the 70s

she had an album called Between the Lines

and I used to listen to it over and over and over again.

Plus I learned a lot of the songs and she was,

I don't know, I was really affected by her music.

Well, since I got in this business, I got to meet her.

Not only did I get to meet her,

we went out to dinner together.

And she wrote an autobiography that I read

and so we connected really huge and we're friends

to this day and hoping to do a collaboration together.

- Wow!

- Her and I together, it's just kind of weird

how, and I'll probably cry through the whole thing,

but it's just kinda weird how somebody

that you really admired and then all of a sudden

you become friends and you do a collaboration.

- I remember when we were all driving in the van,

we were going from whatever city and she had really wanted

to meet Janice Ian the day before and I just woke up

in the van and everybody was like, "Shh, be quiet".

And I said, what?

And they were like, "Your Mom's on the phone

"with Janice Ian".

I said, Janice Ian, what, pull over.

(everybody laughing)

- No, it's cool, she's a major, major down to earth person.

- Okay Ruth, tell us about you and Robert Plant.

- (Ruth laughing)

- Another collaboration.

- No, no.

- I would not be surprised.

- No, I don't know, I just...

What were we at, what were we at?

- We were at Bonnaroo.

- Bonnaroo, and he was just walking and I said,

hey I'm Ruth with Madisen Ward and Mama Bear

and he introduced himself and we had a little small chat,

nothing major but he's a nice man.

You know, it's so weird, you meet these people

when ya think, limousines and all of this stuff

and they're not like that at all,

they're just as down to earth as the next person.

- I really wanted to go chat with him too,

I was like, I need to go do it right now, this is my moment

and I went, walked over and was like, hello

and then him and his whole crew were like,

"Robert's going on stage right now, he can't".

I was like, oh my, I just melted, I almost died.

So if anything, he probably doesn't like me

but I think he likes her a lot.

- Everybody says he's super nice.

- He is, he is a nice guy.

- And I have to say, I started the interview with this,

you all are so incredibly nice.

Like I said, I felt like I was part of your family

the first time we ever met and that's just a rare gift too.

And the new EP, The Radio Winners is spectacular.

They're gonna be performing again on September 25th

with The Record Company over at the Madrid.

We'd love to hear another song if we could.

- Thank you.

(gentle guitar music)

♪ Rough edges

♪ Breath breathless

♪ Try to forget

♪ That we're changing

♪ Feel so low

♪ It's almost here, we're meeting at the station ♪

♪ Time will tell where we belong ♪

♪ Hold it now, just hold it now ♪

♪ We all wait for morning

♪ But it never comes now it be night ♪

♪ We need something more

♪ Than a city full of lights to feel alive ♪

♪ I know it looks so dark

♪ But with you here on my arm

♪ It's a walk in the park

(guitar music)

♪ We believe

♪ Everything we need

♪ Is right here underneath the sky ♪

♪ We've been here, for so damn long ♪

♪ Right or wrong, just gettin' by ♪

♪ We all wait for mornin'

♪ But it never comes now it be night ♪

♪ We need something more

♪ Than a city full of lights to feel alive ♪

♪ I know it looks so dark

♪ But with you here on my arm

♪ It's a walk in the park

(guitar music) (whistling)

♪ We all wait for morning

♪ But it never comes now it be night ♪

♪ We need something more than

♪ A city full of lights to feel alive ♪

♪ I know it looks so dark

♪ I know it took so long

♪ But with you here on my arm

♪ It's a walk in the park

(gentle guitar music)

♪ Be love, be love

♪ Be love, be love, yeah

♪ Be love, be love

- Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, that's Walk in the Park

from the new EP The Radio Winners.

It's a great one again, the Chicago Sun Times says

it's a contender for Album of the Year, no pressure,

(laughing) no pressure, no pressure.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear live today on The Bridge.

- [Announcer] Music programming for The Bridge

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(applause)

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