Interview | FFS 5 Q&A with Mad Crush

Photo: Chris Florio

You could say Mad Crush know a thing or two about music. Only years of experience can explain the wry wit and complimentary musicianship of the songs on the band’s forthcoming, self-titled debut album. One part June Carter sassing Johnny Cash along with two dashes of Itzhak Perlman on a midnight hayride, Mad Crush’s songs contain theatrical, back-and-forth performances between their singing protagonists Joanna Sattin and John Elderkin. Complete with humor and heartbreak, their songs are in fact bright little dramas about fussing, fighting, and occasionally making up—universal truths sprinkled with brand-new magic dust.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I grew up in North Carolina in the 1970s and 1980s, sharing a record player and an AM radio with my younger brother. We ate up the pop hits of the day – disco, anthems about cowboys and CB Radios, and the occasional crooner like Engelbert Humperdinck. When I was 12, the hippy teenagers next door invited me over to hear their music, including a rare pressing of The Beatles on Vee Jay Records—early songs rejected by their American label before their Ed Sullivan Show appearance. I heard instantly that these songs were more alive and wild and bursting with joy than the music I’d been listening to, and life wasn’t the same afterward.

As an artist, how do you define success?

I used to want just one hit record… just one! I still wouldn’t mind that, but of course after many years of writing, I’ve learned to love and appreciate what I can control—writing a strong song, one that I know works in a rich way, and that other musicians get excited about playing on. That seems like the best kind of success. And, when people get in touch to say they’ve been listening to my records, some of them 20+ years old. That feels like an extra bonus of success.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

I’ve never been logical or organized about presenting my music to the world. When I finish a song or album, I get antsy to start a new project. I have worked hard to address this, but promoting finished work isn’t my strong suit.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

The band lives in a very music-friendly area—the Triangle area of North Carolina (which includes Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill). We’re surrounded by inventive, thoughtful musicians and avid listeners. My goal is to make Mad Crush an important member of that scene. When people talk about Triangle music, I hope we’ll be part of the conversation.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)

Photo: Chris Florio