Catharsis, Honesty, & Healing: Rett Madison Leans into Grief on ‘One for Jackie,’ Her Soul-Stirring Sophomore LP

Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller
Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller
Rett Madison takes us track-by-track through her soul-stirring sophomore album ‘One for Jackie,’ an achingly intimate record of grief, vulnerability, raw humanity, and breathtaking beauty whose twelve tracks act as an everlasting tribute to her late mother.
content warning: suicide
Stream: “Jacqueline” – Rett Madison




I made this album in memory of my mother and to honor my own grief. I hope these songs will provide a moment of catharsis for anyone that’s lost a loved one, especially those of us that have lost someone to suicide.

Grief takes center stage on Rett Madison’s sophomore album, and the result – while unavoidably heartbreaking – is also soothing, soul-stirring, and deeply cathartic.

After losing her mother Jackie unexpectedly to suicide in 2019, Madison channeled heaps of memories, reflections, and raw emotions into her songwriting. Making music doubled down as a form of self-therapy for her as her songs became safe spaces to unpack the unabating pain, try to understand her mother’s perspective, and work through what it meant to keep on living. Tragedy isn’t something we just “bounce back” from; I lost my own mother to cancer in 2017, and continue to grieve her, six years later.

Just as I have found my own way forward, Rett Madison is finding hers – and part of her journey involved processing her grief, her loss, and her love for her mother through music. The resulting One for Jackie is a musical memorial that only Madison could have made; an achingly intimate record of raw humanity and breathtaking beauty whose twelve tracks act as an everlasting tribute to her late mother. Tender and turbulent, honest and vulnerable, One for Jackie shines a light in the brutal darkness as Rett Madison grieves openly, empathically, and unapologetically.

One for Jackie - Rett Madison
One for Jackie – Rett Madison
Studying photo of you
grinnin’ at the kitchen table

Crowned in jewels and royal blue
Bright and young at 22
Everybody says I’m just like you
Was that one of many days you suffered through?
Both know sadness too well
I lost you to its spell
Waking up without you is waking up in hell
I’ll never meet you at 48
You won’t cry on my wedding day
You’ll never hear my children say your name
Jacqueline, ain’t that a shame?
Jacqueline, you’re not to blame
I’m just pissed off and bitter
I couldn’t save my mother
I’m grapplin’ with what I’ve got left
Jacqueline
– “Jacqueline,” Rett Madison

Released October 27, 2023 via War Buddha Records / Warner Records, Rett Madison’s sophomore album One for Jackie is a masterful expression of the rawest parts of our humanity. Plenty of people sing about loss, but not since I first experienced “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” have I felt an artist so expressively capture their own grief in a longform vessel. Death hangs heavy on these songs, its weight a presence in the wake of unbearable absence, but we inevitably come away from this album feeling lighter. Maybe it’s the knowledge that we’re not alone in our grief, or maybe it’s the experience of being privy to another heart and soul’s healing; either way, Madison brings her audience along for the ride as she processes a pain many of us are familiar with, and some of us know all too well.

Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller
Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller

But no matter how many people have felt it before her, or how many people will feel it after, this is her grief, born from her loss. We are all alone, together in our grief – it is, by its very nature, an isolating experience – and yet the beauty of these songs is that they do overcome that isolation, if not for Madison, then at least for the many listeners who will tune into hear her music and take in words.

“In my first years of grieving her, I leaned into songwriting to process the many complicated emotions I felt. One for Jackie is a collection of songs about my journey mourning my mother, and also my memorial to her,” Madison tells Atwood Magazine.

“When I first brought these songs in to Tyler Chester, the producer of One for Jackie, I’d presented them on acoustic guitar. I knew I wanted to broaden the arrangements of these songs outside of a singular instrument and my hope was to musically reference bands and artists that my mom adored throughout her life. Working alongside Tyler, I felt that we were able to be musically inspired by elements of Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, and Prince’s work in memory of my mom’s music taste while still staying true to who I am as an artist and storyteller.”

Crying at the flea market
Clenching fists in my jean jacket
‘Cause everything they got here’s leopard print
Like they’ve raided your closet
And I’m so pathetic I almost bought
The ugliest shirt I ever saw
‘Cause you would have loved it, you would have worn it
Singing along to “Little Red Corvette”
Shaking hands by the casket
Folks that miss you kept asking
If I’ve slept since your passing
And how I’m holding on
Well, I’m so pathetic my only thought
Was how they got your lipstick wrong
‘Cause peach ain’t your shade, never had worn it
But in red you always felt gorgeous
I ask myself what could I have done
I was six, I was twelve, I was twenty-one
But it’s like I wake up
With my hands wrapped around a gun





Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller
Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller

Madison describes One for Jackie as a record of catharsis, honesty, and healing.

The new album arrives two years after 2021’s full-length debut, Pin-Up Daddy, which received considerable praise upon its release, featuring acclaimed songs (and streaming hits) including “Emily,” “God Is a Woman,” and the title track, “Pin-Up Daddy.”

There’s a marked, perhaps understandable depression in Madison’s tone throughout One for Jackie – she’s not wailing away, as she did at times on her first LP – but the control she exhibits, in addition to her sheer vocal range and the levels of emotional and musical maturity she reaches throughout her sophomore effort, make these twelve tracks utterly astounding. The Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist pours her full self into a record that, from start to finish, aches with heated passion and unfiltered emotion. Moments of polished production comfortably sit side-by-side with intentionally raw eruptions of visceral feeling; Madison holds nothing back, ensuring every song hits hard and hits home.

For her, making this album was far more than a means of emotional processing; it was also a deeply intentional artistic endeavor. Owning that process – and seeing things through the way she envisioned them in her head – represented a kind of growth she hopes to take with her into the future.

I dreamt we were dancing near the ledge
I reach to pull you back but you’d already fallen
If I’d stayed would I had made a difference
We can’t choose the sickness we inherit
We all die
So while there’s time left can we make amends?
So tonight I’ll stay on the line
Between your whispers that you wish it all would end
Can we save ourselves from each other?
Mother like father like daughter
Am I cursed?
Am I stubborn?
I fall in love once I suffer
Can we be saved from each other
Is there a line we haven’t crossed
What good’s a Saint six feet under
Cause death don’t make a bitch an angel
– “Death Don’t Make a Bitch an Angel,” Rett Madison
Rett Madison © Caity Krone
Rett Madison © Caity Krone




“Getting over imposter syndrome is a never-ending journey, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts as a musician and artist more since the making of my debut album,” Madison explains. “On One for Jackie, I co-produced the song ‘St. Luke’s’ and directed the musicians in the studio while Tyler Chester, my producer, was running an errand for the band. I’d never taken on the producer role before, but I really had to trust my gut and my ability to lead in that moment.”

“In that session, I had asked the musicians to do multiple takes of ‘St. Luke’s’ while approaching their instruments as if they were Foley artists. The song is set in a church at my mother’s funeral and imagines me in the same room as a man that got away with abusing my mom when she was a girl. To help place the listener in that setting, I had asked the musicians to pretend they were flipping through the service pamphlets by recording them actually shuffling lyric sheets from our studio sessions. I asked them to interpret the eerie noises of old church floorboards and pews creaking. Overall, I really had them lean into the theatrics, and a lot of those sounds were sampled and used by Tyler throughout the final cut on the album. I think the Foley samples established the underlying, unsettling tone of ‘St. Luke’s’ and helped place the listener in the midst of that scene.”

“The most affirming part of that process was when our bassist, Solomon Dorsey, a musician I deeply respect and admire, noted that I could be a good producer. It’s a skill and role I’d like to explore more on my next record, especially since I think I’ve doubted my own musical instincts in the past.”

Highlights are aplenty on the long road from “Jacqueline” to “Kiki,” the latter of which features a stunning performance from Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam. Some may find solace in the smoldering hues of “How It All Began,” others the soulful heat of “Lipstick” or the cinematic ache of “Flea Market.” The aforementioned “St. Luke’s” is as marvelous a song as it is a shiver-inducing sound sculpture, and while “Skydiving” may not have the same kind of work put into its background sonics, the vibrance of that song’s melodies and the depths of its harmonies – not to mention its enchanting poetry (“Twenty-two, grieving in LA, City of Angels sent you my way”) – make it an instantly memorable and moving standout.

Your star sign holds me down
Steady Virgo with a furrowed brow
I won’t write your name in clouds
But stand before me and I’ll kiss the ground
You look at me and my heart pounds
Found the one the first time I fell
Twenty-two, grieving in LA
City of Angels sent you my way
I won’t ever go
Skydiving with you
I won’t lay my life on the lines
Of a parachute
I won’t ever go
Skydiving with you
I won’t ever know what that smile looks like
From an angel’s view




Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller
Rett Madison © Mikayla Miller

“Overall, I’m really proud of my songwriting on ‘Mediums, Therapists, and Sheriffs,’” Madison reflects, highlighting the album’s powerful penultimate offering. “I wrote that song from a place of total honesty and vulnerability.”

On the topic of favorites, she adds, “One of my favorite lyrics is at the end of the song ‘St. Luke’s’ – ‘I’ve heard spirits find a way to bring the dark to light. Justice just might be divine, if you give it time.’”

Whether or not you’ve experienced the kind of grief that’s feverishly flowing throughout One for Jackie, Rett Madison promises to send tears to the eyes and shivers down the spine.

Born from devastation and tragedy, the LA artist’s new album is a comforting, breathtakingly beautiful expression of grief and mourning, love and light.

“I hope listeners feel less isolated in their grief after hearing One for Jackie,” Madison shares. “I hope it encourages folks to feel that they can be more vulnerable and open with their loved ones about whatever it is that they’re going through.”

“One of my take-aways from making this album is how healing talking about my grief has been for me. Not carrying the pain on my own, but sharing my experiences with others through these songs has made me feel more connected to my community and understood.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Rett Madison’s One for Jackie with Atwood Magazine as she goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore album!

— —

:: stream/purchase One for Jackie here ::
:: connect with Rett Madison here ::
Stream: ‘One for Jackie’ – Rett Madison



:: Inside One for Jackie ::

One for Jackie - Rett Madison

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Jacqueline 

This is the first song I wrote after my mother passed away. When I wrote “Jacqueline” I had been dog sitting for my friends. In the aftermath of losing my mom, I had a lot of trouble sleeping. Late one night, I sat at the top of the staircase at my friend’s home, playing guitar, while their two pit bulls slept beside me. After an hour, I had this song and the two pit bulls comforted me while I cried. It was simultaneously the beginning of this album and my healing process.



How It All Began

I wrote this song from the perspective of my mother reckoning with the decades she spent battling addiction. My mother was more candid with me as I grew older about her struggles with alcoholism. Although I witnessed firsthand much of her pain throughout my own childhood, hearing her share her experiences with me in her own words as I became a teen and young adult shifted my outlook to be more compassionate towards her, and myself.
This song’s production was also very musically influenced by Bruce Springsteen since he was the first artist my mom saw live in concert.

Flea Market

My mom adored leopard print. If there was a day that she wasn’t already dressed in leopard print, she’d almost always have an accessory on her with the pattern. A few months after I’d lost my mom, I was wandering around a flea market when I passed by a tent that had a gaudy, leopard shirt for sale. I didn’t even like the shirt, but I nearly bought it just because it’s something my mom would have loved. The thought itself was enough to make me cry before I could make the purchase. When I got home I began writing “Flea Market” as a stream of consciousness and by the time I started working on the chorus it lead me to a place of grace for all of my younger selves that so desperately wanted my mom to be healthy and sober and happy, but had no power over her state of mind or wellbeing throughout my childhood and adolescence.



Lipstick

This song was originally going to be a stripped back interlude, but when I brought it to Tyler Chester, he phrased the chords in such a way where it gave the lyric a new life and soon it felt like it needed to be it’s own song. I began writing the lyric about a misunderstanding with my mom a few months before she passed. My mom had assumed my best friend at the time was my girlfriend and she was hurt that I was hiding my relationship from her, even though I was single.
Coincidentally, I fell in love for the first time only a few months after my mom died and am still with the same partner, Wes, years later. Wes was a witness to so much of my grieving process and had brought me so much comfort that I also began to grieve on my mother’s behalf for the supportive partnership she didn’t have towards the end of her life.



St. Luke’s

I had originally written “St. Luke’s” on guitar. When I brought the song to Tyler, he suggested we build the production with piano as the foundation instead of acoustic guitar which really set the stage for my lyrics.
When we recorded the band at Sonic Ranch, I had a chance to lead the session for “St. Luke’s” and co-produce this song. I asked the band to play their instruments like they were foley artists. I wanted them to imitate the squeaks of the pews in an old church, the rustling of funeral programs, or footsteps down its center aisle. I wanted them to experiment and really capture the discomfort, tension, and rage of this song. I wanted the arrangement to embody how suffocating it would feel if you ran into someone that abused the person you loved at their funeral.

Ballet

“Ballet” is a love song that I wrote for my partner when we first began dating. My partner and I began dating only a few months after I lost my mom, so I was still in the midst of grief and quite depressed day to day. I was at my lowest, but also falling in love for the first time with a beautiful, kind person that made me feel safe and understood. It was a whirlwind of emotions, but I’m eternally grateful that we found each when we did.

Death Don’t Make a Bitch an Angel

I wrote this song only a few weeks before my mom passed which either makes for an eerie coincidence or makes me a psychic. I was reflecting on the more complex aspects of our relationship which at times could be codependent or strained due to her decades long battle with alcoholism. I was voicing my frustrations in our mother daughter relationship, while also acknowledging that death doesn’t necessarily erase the pain we cause each other here on earth. I wrote the refrain with myself in mind too, knowing that whenever I leave earth that my death won’t absolve me of the pain I may have caused others while I’m alive. Death in itself doesn’t make somebody a saint.

Skydiving

 “Skydiving” was the first song I brought to Tyler Chester. We were working out of his home studio in a garage where we tracked my vocal that was originally intended to just be on the demo, but is what ultimately became the final vocal on the album. Working with Tyler that day was so exciting. I felt so creatively inspired by his instincts with arrangement and production. He totally transformed this song I’d brought in on acoustic guitar to a full rock vibe.



Fortune Teller

While I’m no longer a religious person, I still consider myself to be very spiritual. A few months after I lost my mom, I sought out psychics and mediums because I was curious if anyone could connect to my mother’s spirit. I was really seeking comfort and reassurance at the time.
My friend, Natalie James Taylor, is an incredibly gifted and talented psychic medium. One day we had a session and she talked about past lives that I may have had with my mother. I found all of it very comforting to imagine that I’d known my mother’s soul in previous lifetimes and that maybe we’d know each other again someday. That reading is what inspired “Fortune Teller.”



One for Jackie, One for Crystal

The year following my mom’s passing, I had an unshakeable gut feeling that my mother had been sexually abused as a child. Following my intuition, I went through the legal process of obtaining her medical records from her time at a rehab when I was a little girl. In her records, my gut feeling was confirmed, and I’d learned she’d been a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. At the time, this gave me a deeper understanding into the pain my mom carried throughout her adulthood. I was also immediately heartbroken and furious on her behalf. I so badly wanted to reach through time and protect my mother as a child. “One for Jackie, One for Crystal” is my rage fantasy of murdering the man that abused my mother and other children.



Mediums, Therapists, and Sheriffs 

I wrote this song about many of the people I found myself in conversation with after my mom’s passing. In the studio, Tyler Chester had a great idea to have two drummers playing the song on the recording at the same time. Theo Katzman and Paul Taylor both played drums and elevated the song to another level.



Kiki

When I wrote “Kiki” I was sitting at my kitchen table at 1 AM and messing around on guitar one night that I couldn’t sleep. All of a sudden, I felt that I needed to write a song from my mom’s perspective after she died. I imagined what she’d say to me now if we could have a phone call. It was a really cathartic experience for me and brought me a lot of closure. It felt like I was connecting with my mom’s spirit through songwriting.
When I brought the song to Tyler Chester, he suggested we have another vocalist sing the lyric. Tyler reached out to Sam Beam of Iron & Wine to sing and Sam graciously recorded his vocals at his home studio. When I first heard Iron & Wine singing the words I’d imagined my mom saying to me, I wept. His voice and interpretation of the lyric had this beautiful, omniscient quality to it. I’m so grateful to Sam for singing “Kiki” because I really can’t hear the song any other way now.
After I wrote “Kiki” I knew I wanted it to close the album because it bookends the record with my mom’s response to “Jacqueline.”

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:: stream/purchase One for Jackie here ::
:: connect with Rett Madison here ::



— — — —

One for Jackie - Rett Madison

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? © Mikayla Miller

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