With a background in musical theatre, MZ Wood aka Madeleine Wood knows exactly how important the entertainment factor is when putting on a show that sticks in your mind long after it’s over. Launching her debut self-titled EP this month, Wood certainly walks the talk – a full band, nine dancers, quirky costumes…this Melbourne pop princess goes all out.
“We’re going to do more of a show rather than just a gig,” she insists. “It’s because I started off in musical theatre and I really prefer for people to get immersed in the entertainment side of things. When I was growing up, I was always involved in school theatre and in high school plays. I was always in productions and all the shows. I think that’s where I got my drive to put everything together like this for this band. When I do a show, I like to make the costumes and to coordinate the guys and put the show together… It’s like a choreographed gig! I just want to be able to cut down the chatter between the songs and let people really hear the music, because that’s what it’s all about. Yesterday we had rehearsals with the dancers, the DJ and the band, and it’s going really great. I’m really happy about it because it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point. It’s been really hectic, so it’s been a relief as well.”
According to Wood, the EP actually could have come out much earlier, but the process of finding the right producers and team to bring the record to life took a little longer than she had hoped. With Lawrence Maddy at Sing Sing Studios and production team The Calculators offering to lend a hand, Wood says having the right people behind you makes all the difference.
“This project took so long because some of the tracks were recorded two years ago at a Sydney studio,” she recalls. “We were deciding which songs to put together for the EP and we started recording the songs but we just weren’t too happy with them at all. We went to a few producers to mix it and the tracks that we were getting back were shocking! It was really depressing! I was so upset because these people were also trying to convince me which direction to go and they’re telling me, ‘everything is about dance music right now, so it has to sound like doof-doof-doof’! I was just like, ‘nah’. My graphic designer recommended The Calculators, we called them the next day and had them booked in the following week – it was perfect! They’re worked with The Spazzies, Paris Welles, Daniel Merriweather, they’ve worked with some amazing artists. Lawrence Maddy at Sing Sing was also great.”
In the end, Wood says the EP is exactly what she had in mind from day one – electro/pop/rock with an edgier vibe, with the cheeky Restroom Walls proving to be a favourite among those who have had a taste of the record already.
“We’ve tried to keep in the acoustics of live drum and bass instead of just a dream machine, too,” Wood adds. “I think it’s mostly suited to the European market from the way it sounds, they love their electro/pop/rock! The comments we’ve had so far is that people love Restroom Walls – it’s very different to what they’re hearing on the radio, that’s one thing we keep getting. Actually Andry Grace from 104.3 Gold FM is a big fan and played it on the radio – that was a huge highlight for me,” she beams. “I sent him a link on Facebook to check me out and he came to my gig at The Espy the following week and he loved it! He said, ‘You have to come on my show, I don’t care what the producers say, but we’ll do an interview, we’ll play Restroom Walls!’ and that’s exactly what happened! He also let me play Just A Girl by No Doubt even though the producers were saying, ‘no, you can’t do that’, and I was thinking that playing Restroom Walls might give the producers a heart attack! Singing on his show was mad, wicked fun – he’s been one of the first people who really believed in me.”
Wood is garnering a following fairly quickly, especially considering that MZ Wood has officially only been in existence since last year. Prior to that, she was known for a much more hip-hop based orientation which also saw her support rapper Eve during an Australian tour.
“We’ve only been around since 2010 as MZ Wood, but before that I used to do hip-hop stuff,” she explains. “It used to be just Madeleine Wood since 2008. I was lucky enough to hook up with Eve the rapper as a support act during that period of time. She was amazing, she was so relaxed! The only thing that got to me after a while was that the industry was trying to push me into the ‘Aussie hip-hop’ category, which was definitely not what I was about, I knew that they were only associating me with it because of the accent. In the end I took about 11 months off and just experimented and wrote and re-wrote songs until I got the sound just right. Now we’ve got a support gig coming up for The Potbelleez in October which is really exciting and then we’ve got a whole bunch of private parties after that. I’m running all the management side of things on my own right now so it’s been full-on but it’s better to do it yourself than get someone else to do it and do it wrong.”