SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 9, 2009

Young songwriter wins contest with 'haunting' piece

Jennesa Regios

Molly Pinto Madigan, a 19-year-old from Peabody and freshman at Salem State College, recently won first place in the Boston Folk Festival songwriting contest. Her song "I'm Bound Away" was chosen out of five finalists in the youth division, and she performed the song last month on stage at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where the festival was held.

Click play to hear "I'm Bound Away" (Total time: 5:19)

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Madigan is a multi-instrumentalist; she plays bodhran, banjo, guitar, pennywhistle and is classically trained in piano. She is also the lead singer of a bluegrass band called Jaded Mandolin.

When did you begin writing your own music?

I wrote a few little songs when I was younger, but I started seriously writing music a few years ago when I was 15. I saw other people writing songs and thought, well I can do that. And I really like poetry so I can include that in my songs. I write mostly folk, though this ["I'm Bound Away"] is the first one I wrote for piano. I wasn't sure how to go about that. I'd written classical pieces. And I've written lyrics, but not piano and voice together.

How would you describe your winning song?

When I played the piano part for my piano teacher he said it was haunting. When I brought in the lyrics, my English teacher said the lyrics were haunting. And when someone heard them together, they described it as haunting.

What is the song about?

It's not about anything. Just what I was feeling. It's more about the emotion, not the event. My thoughts and feelings mulling around inside. I wrote the song in June. I started it, then I had to go to orientation at Salem State, and I kept saying, "I have to get back to my piano. I need to keep writing it." I think the whole song was influenced by the ballad tradition.

How did it feel to win?

I got a phone call and found out I had to perform with four other finalists on Saturday at the festival. I was really nervous. Then I found out I won. I was kind of shocked. I was kind of worried about the audience reaction at first. When I recorded it, to send in, it's six minutes, I was worried they would get bored with it. But a lot of people told me, "Oh, you sound beautiful."

What are your musical influences?

I'm really interested in world music and traditional music. I really have a keen interest in folk music and folk lore. I listen to a lot of that stuff.

How did you come to play the bodhran (an Irish frame drum)?

I listen to a lot of Celtic music. I thought, "Oh, that would be cool to play." And my dad kept saying, "You should get one." I saw one in the shop and it was cheap, so I just bought it and taught myself.

And what's happening with Jaded Mandolin?

We just had a gig this past Tuesday. It was in Acton at an open-mike feature. We play a lot of Club Passim, in Cambridge. And this October we're teaming up with another bluegrass band and opening for Claire Lynch.

Have you thought of recording a solo CD?

I haven't thought too much about it yet, but it would be pretty cool.