Madison Kozak is on the verge of greatness and the mindset shift she displays in her current singles proves that.
With her newest release, she begs the question, “What Does Sorry Mean”? The 25-year-old singer places a heavy value on the apologetic term that can often be thrown around without action to back it up. With her forthright lyrics and clearcut vocals, she highlights this obstacle that so many face in the midst of a disagreement with their partner who seems to be just looking for a way out of the tough conversation at hand.
Co-written alongside Andy Skib and Thomas Finchum, the new song started out with one intention and evolved into something bigger. Through its accompanying simple, yet powerful music video, Kozak’s heart is exposed on another level. In the video, she sits on a couch singing the heartfelt lyrics while a blurry couple is arguing behind her, and she can’t help but wonder if they are taking into account the weight of the word, “sorry.”
“What does sorry mean to you / why does it sound like a sad excuse / to the same old same bad habits / say you’ve changed but then it happens again / either you’re a liar or I’m confused / what does sorry even mean to you,” she sings in the chorus.
“What Does Sorry Mean” completes Kozak‘s tailored collection of four tracks that were penned throughout the last two and a half years and center around her concept of putting “minor chords to major feelings.” The rest of the previously released songs include, “One Girl To Another,” “If We Were A Country Song,” and “Loud House,” which she recently debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in a “surreal” experience.
Even from 14 hours away, in their Canadian home, Kozak continues to feel her family’s support as she lives out her dream in Nashville. She moved to music city at 14 years old in pursuit of her passions and having her loved ones rooting for her every step of the way is the primary motivation that keeps her writing musical masterpieces.
Kozak caught up with Country Now to discuss her brand-new single, “What Does Sorry Mean”, her journey from Canada to Nashville, finding comfort in being her most vulnerable self, and much more.
Read on to find out more about Madison Kozak in this exclusive Q&A below.
Your newest song is titled, “What Does Sorry Mean.” Can you talk to me about the writing process and the meaning that the storyline holds for you?
I think this is probably one of the most mature topics I’ve ever tackled as a songwriter. I wrote this over zoom with my friends, Thomas Finchum and Andy Skib in the heat of the pandemic and honestly, it was at a time when there were some big conversations going on in country music that I had never seen happen in the public and the media before. We were just doing what co-writers do every morning when you get in the session. It’s just talking about what’s going on in the world and this was a reflection of the times and of just some actions that were going on. We were like, “man, how does it feel to be in a relationship or to witness where the words don’t line up with the actions? And when it’s just done over and over again, how an apology can lose its weight and how that feels to be on the receiving end of that.” So “What Does Sorry Mean” tackles those emotions of hitting a wall in a relationship and confronting some of the harder conversations in a relationship.
Although this song was written a few years ago, it still feels very prevalent in the present day.
That’s kind of one of my favorite things about some songs that I’ve written is like, when it starts out relating to one idea or one thought or one experience I’ve had and then days after, weeks after, years after I write it, I can still find ways to apply it to so many other times in my life. I didn’t even realize that I’ve lived this in multiple ways.
You released a music video along with this single, so can you explain where the idea for the concept came from?
I sat down and talked with my director, Justin Clough, about this one a lot. After listening to the song, he was like, “it feels like just such a raw conversation between two people.” I was like, “well, what would it look like to just display that on camera? Just me saying it as if it’s the words are falling out of my mouth, talking to this guy or whoever it is, insert how you relate to it.” So, that’s where we ended up. It’s just a real conversation and getting to play out the argument going on in the background was kind of the icing on the cake.
So you’ve built a collection of four songs, all of which you co-wrote. What made you decide to release these four songs out of your entire catalog?
During the pandemic, I went back home to Ontario, Canada for a little while. Some people took to social media and poured into that or went back to their hometowns. I think we all kind of did our own thing, but for me, it was pouring into the music and pouring into what I wanted to say next. So a lot of these songs came together from different conversations I was having. “If We Were A Country Song” is like the conversation around the music that raised me and my musical influences. “One Girl To Another” was like a hypothetical conversation I was having with the girl that came before me, “Loud House” was a conversation with my past, with my childhood and “What Does Sorry Mean” is a tough conversation in a relationship. So it was very reflective of the reflecting that I was doing during that time.
You just debuted your song “Loud House” at the Grand Ole Opry. What was that experience like for you?
I’ve known about the Grand Ole Opry, since I was nine years old. My first intro to country music, my dad was like, “here’s a Loretta Lynn song and here’s the Grand Ole Opry.” It came one after the other, learning about the history of country music. So to me, for the longest time, it’s just been like the pinnacle of success in country music. Getting the invite to come back a second time and share some of the new music I’ve been working on this year was just a huge honor.
How did this night compare to your Opry Debut?
It was a different experience the second time around. For my debut, I was just like a ball of nerves, and it was such a refreshing thing to go back and feel like a little bit more confident and just soak in the moment. I didn’t have as much family there this time and I thought, how cool to be able to take it in as just like, this is my job, this is what I do. How crazy is that?
Was it difficult for you to break out of your “Loud House” in Canada and move to Nashville at such a young age?
Yeah, I think like mentally, it was, but physically on paper, my whole family was so supportive of this dream from day one. I remember going to fairs and festivals every other weekend, like this was my version of dance competitions or kids playing hockey. We would pack up the guitars and the banjos and my dad would play in the band and I would be on the mic, center stage. My mom would be in the back getting my hair and makeup done, my brother would be out front selling CD’s and it was like a family affair. So when there was a path that opened up for me to go to Nashville and be able to live here and work here and get my foot in the door, my parents were so keen on that and said, “okay, we’re gonna do this with you.” They were all behind me in this move, but the home sickness definitely settled in after a few months of my parents kind of taking turns staying with me and not having that support system of just coming home to a full house every day after school. It was so quiet, like who do I hang out with? What do I do? It was a big life change.
What was it about country music that made you want to immerse yourself in the genre so wholeheartedly?
I think lyrically as a whole, it’s the genre that I could relate to the most. I grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario, big family, it was simple living. When I was 11, we moved to a town that had two stoplights and a Tim Hortons, like that’s it. That’s just what we listened to and the way we lived. The storytelling to me was so compelling and reflective of what I knew that I think I latched on, but also it was just nostalgic because that’s what my dad listened to and what he played. I was such a daddy’s girl growing up that I was like, whatever he thinks is cool, I think is cool. He would come home after work and pick up a guitar and play country music around the dinner table and that’s how I fell in love with it. Then I took things a step further when I like stepped on stage as a little nine-year-old kid and felt the connection with an audience. It’s also hilarious when I think about it because I was singing songs like, “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” at nine years old. It made no sense, but somehow, I was like, “oh, I can relate to this.”
How have you built the confidence to be able to express your feelings in such a raw way through your music?
Minor chords, major feelings, that’s my schtick right now. Music to me over the last couple years has changed from just, “what do I wanna say on stage” to, “I need to get through some things and music was a safe place for me to do that.” I started going to therapy for the first time during the pandemic and I think you can kind of hear that translated into some of this music where I just feel like the walls came down. Probably some of the other artist’s music that I was listening to at the time just encouraged me to go to these places. That’s where I was getting filled up as a musician, as a creator, was just to go dive into other works of art that felt vulnerable and where I could feel seen and understood. So I think without even trying, I went to deeper places this time around with this round of music because that’s where I was at in my life.
Being a Nashville resident since you were 14, do you feel like you’ve achieved or even exceeded the expectations you had for yourself from that age?
I think I wrestle with that a lot. I’m 25 and I’ve grown up in this town, grown up in this industry, and I think on my hardest days, I have to remind myself that I got into music for the journey, not for the destination. I got into music because I love sitting down in a room with people and talking about what inspires me and getting on stage and sharing that, connecting with people, building a bridge between life experiences and sharing those moments with people, not for the achievements, not to reach certain milestones. So it is very rewarding to be able to stand on the Opry stage and have those full circle moments of like, “oh my gosh, this is what I dreamed about. This is what 10-year-old Madison wanted, and now I’m here.” It’s a conscious effort to be able to stand on top of those mountains and not just keep looking up at what’s next, but be able to look back and be like, “wow, what a journey it’s been to get here.” There’s a long way to go and things I wanna do and accomplish, but I’m acknowledging the ride and finding success in that and peace in that.
Fans can keep up with Madison Kozak on Instagram.