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How Rising Music Star Madeline Mondrala Aims To Disrupt Simply By Prioritizing Her Own Joy

Material and/or social success does not equal happiness. This is something my dad has tried to get across to me on multiple occasions. We live in a society obsessed with tangible examples of material gain. We value social media stats over our own well-being. It’s easy to become preoccupied with achieving a certain level of […]

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Material and/or social success does not equal happiness. This is something my dad has tried to get across to me on multiple occasions. We live in a society obsessed with tangible examples of material gain. We value social media stats over our own well-being. It’s easy to become preoccupied with achieving a certain level of “success”, but I don’t think there is any amount of followers, money, or acclaim that can allow a person to bypass doing the internal work that leads to lasting inner peace and joy. There are so many examples throughout history of celebrities “having it all”, yet feeling empty and alone among their accolades. I want to learn from those examples and work from within to figure out what makes me feel fulfilled. It always makes me laugh when I think about the fact that no matter how many likes you have on a photo, there’s always gonna be an insta-famous dog out there with more.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing That Brunette aka Madeline Mondrala.

Madeline Mondrala is a Brooklyn based Experimental Pop songwriter and performer. Having written her first song at age eight, she promptly began performing her creations for her classmates on the schoolyard at recess. Originally from Los Angeles, Mondrala attended the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in New York. Her first EP “Cloud” (2013) was acclaimed by taste-making blogs such as The Line of Best Fit for “blending classically nuanced pop styles to hypnotic perfection”. In 2014 she was awarded the Thayer Fellowship grant for demonstrating “outstanding achievement and high professional potential in the arts.” Soon after, Madeline was sought out by BMG Publishing and signed as a writer/artist. During this time, she worked with producers such as Dem Jointz (Brandy, Rihanna), Larzz Principato (Dua Lipa, Halsey), and Ryan Marrone (Nicki Minaj) to name a few. Her sophomore EP “Madelin” (2017) garnered attention for its feminist anthem “Good List”, appearing in a myriad of music publications including Ladygunn and Popdust. Soon after, Madeline set off to pursue her music independently. Her subsequent music video for her single “High School Boys” premiered in Billboard and was embraced by the queer/drag artist community in Brooklyn. Madeline’s 7-track album “Then Her Head Fell Off” was released in 2019 completely independently. Despite discouragement towards this set of songs from her former management, it was met with praise in the indie scene.

Gabriel Akins of Substream Magazine aptly wrote “Madeline does whatever she wants to and nails all of it.”

Having spent the last two years writing and recording new music, Madeline is ready to take full ownership of her artistry and embark on a path of deliberate authenticity under her new moniker “That Brunette”.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Song writing was always my natural inclination. I’m a triple Gemini, so words are kind of my thing. I wrote my first song when I was eight years old. I remember writing it down in a notebook with a colorful dolphin on the cover and singing it for my classmates at recess. I became addicted to the inimitable feeling of having written a brand new song and sharing it with others. I’m still addicted to that feeling now. Performing something I had created to a captive audience of elementary schoolers was enough for me to vow to devote my whole life to music, no matter what.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m not concerned with conforming to the expectations the music industry has of female artists. I’m a bi/demi-sexual twenty-eight-year-old woman with body hair, and a past who is making music about self-discovery. I don’t fit neatly into a package of genre. I’m not writing for the approval of an algorithm or record executive. Songwriting is part of my identity, and part of my self-care. I share my music with others because it makes me happy to do so. I think being a woman who prioritizes her own joy is inherently disruptive.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I believe a mentor can be someone you’ve never met. With that said, Bjork has taught me so much about staying free as an artist. When I was younger, I would go into the woods and sing along to her music at full volume. Feeling the power she had coming through my own body gave me permission to experiment vocally and musically. She is not afraid of evolution and embraces change whole-heartedly. She has taught me through her radical honesty, that vulnerability is strength.

Another musical mentor I hold dear to me is Erykah Badu. I consider her to be a lyrical genius. Memorizing every word of “Mama’s Gun” in college undoubtedly helped me to develop my own lyricism. She has a way of being playful and profound at the same time. She’s shown me that music can and should have a sense of humor. I also admire her complete disregard for mainstream approval. She’s taught me authenticity and personal growth are far more valuable than fame and clout.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is very simple, yet sometimes very difficult to do. It is something my mother has tried to instill in me as I’ve struggled with jealousy and self-hatred throughout my youth. As a spiritual person, I believe we live many lives and are on this earth to learn lessons. When I start to compare myself to another’s journey or perceived success, I find it comforting to remember that they are learning a different lesson than I am, and therefore are on a different path. It is more important to move in the right direction towards your own personal enlightenment than it is to get there quickly.

Material and/or social success does not equal happiness. This is something my dad has tried to get across to me on multiple occasions. We live in a society obsessed with tangible examples of material gain. We value social media stats over our own well-being. It’s easy to become preoccupied with achieving a certain level of “success”, but I don’t think there is any amount of followers, money, or acclaim that can allow a person to bypass doing the internal work that leads to lasting inner peace and joy. There are so many examples throughout history of celebrities “having it all”, yet feeling empty and alone among their accolades. I want to learn from those examples and work from within to figure out what makes me feel fulfilled. It always makes me laugh when I think about the fact that no matter how many likes you have on a photo, there’s always gonna be an insta-famous dog out there with more.

Get a cat. Seven years ago my friend Zach knew I wanted a cat, but I was worried about the responsibility of caring for a pet. Under the guise of going to buy some wine, he led me to an animal shelter instead where I ended up meeting my sweet little boy Oscar. I adopted him two days later and have been in love ever since. Caring for an animal takes you outside of yourself. As someone who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, I know that having Oscar has often helped me to focus on something other than my self-doubt. There’s really no downside to having an adorable furry pal.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I plan to keep making and sharing art in these unprecedented crazy times we’re living in. I think choosing joy and sharing our gifts with one-another requires bravery. When I see my friends creating, it inspires me to do the same. I want to provide that inspiration for others as well. I’m happiest when I’m collaborating with my incredibly talented peers to create music and visual art that represents our collective experience. I will always strive to help build a supportive artistic community.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

One of my favorite books is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. It’s a beautifully written story of a young girl’s experience growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. In it is this quote:

“There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.”

This has always resonated with me. I think it can be very difficult to see our own beauty and worth when we are surrounded by a loud world filled with people. These words help me to remember that every person has their own story, their own struggle, their own victory. By remembering this truth about others, it is much easier to remember it about myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I don’t think for a moment that I would be the person to inspire this change, but I care deeply about the plight of trans people, and especially trans people of color. Trans people are disproportionately murdered and assaulted on a daily basis. The intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia creates a climate that deprives trans people of color of employment, housing, healthcare, and other necessities, which puts them at a greater risk of being the victims of violence. Their very existence in public is an act of protest. There are many organizations that work to spread awareness about this issue and directly support trans people. If you are able, consider donating to one of the following:

Marsha P. Johnson Institute

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

Gay and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society

New York Transgender Advocacy Group

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promised joy.”

-Robert Burns

I read “Of Mice and Men” in high school and I never forgot this quote. It means that no matter how much we as humans try to plan our future, the only thing that is certain in life is unexpected change. It may seem a bit sad, but it always comforted me to know that I’m not alone in things not going the way I thought they would. Unpredictability It is the nature of life itself.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok. My handle on all three is @is_thatbrunette

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you so much!

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