Tyra Madison can’t help but be moved as she scrolls through the screen shots she’s saved on her phone of the heartfelt messages she’s received from fans responding to her viral TikTok hit, “Right Girl Wrong Time.” After her cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s runaway hit “Driver’s License” scored thousands of views on TikTok, the Nashville transplant by way of Kentucky built on that momentum with “Right Girl Wrong Time,” her original song that represents her ability to create relatable music that provides as much healing to listeners as she experienced while writing it. In this installment of Female Friday, Madison reminisces with Sounds Like Nashville about winning her school talent show when she was in kindergarten and reflects on the impact of TikTok and “Right Girl Wrong Time.”
When did you first discover your passion for music?
I have a musical family. My papaw played the harmonica, my uncle played the guitar. What I would do when I was younger, every Tuesday night, me and my papaw and my mamaw would go to Pickin’ and Grinnin’ where all these musicians would get together and play bluegrass music. I was four-years-old at the time when I started going and I would get up and sing “Rocky Top.” My mom had no idea what I was doing with my grandparents when I went. I would just go and I had the greatest time. I told my mom when I was in kindergarten that I wanted to do the school talent show, and at that time I went to a private school where K-12 attended. I was like ‘mom, I want to do the talent show.’ I’m a little kindergartener, and she was like, ‘well, what are you going to do?’ because she had no idea that I had been going and singing, and I was like ‘I want to sing.’ So like a normal supportive mom, she’s like, ‘okay, what are you going to sing?’ and I was like, ‘I’m going to sing “You Are My Sunshine’” and I sang “You Are My Sunshine” a capella, and little kindergartener me won that talent show [Laughs]. Since then they’re like ‘that little girl has a big voice.’
I discovered my love for performing and my mom supported that; we tried to find different resources. I’m from a really small town, so if I did have a voice lesson, I’d have to go an hour away to a place called Prestonsburg to be in any kind of singing group. I was in a singing group called the Kentucky Opry Junior Pros when I was younger and we had to travel an hour away just to give me the opportunity to do that. Performing has always been something that came natural to me. I did musical theater when I was younger. In high school, I danced on a competition dance team. Performing in general, especially music and singing, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. Belmont [University] is the only school I applied to for college because I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to do music and I was determined to do so, I had no backup plan. Music is the only thing I could ever see myself doing.
What drew you to TikTok?
I’ve always been an Instagram girl. I love pictures and I love sharing them with people, but I feel like TikTok is a way to be more personable and to show through the videos more of your personality. I think that’s one of my strong suits is I’m very real, 110 percent myself, I always have been. So TikTok, you notice how many people it truly reaches, the range of people, and I was like ‘I need to start getting on TikTok more.’ January 10th, that’s when I posted my “Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo cover and it got 300K views and I was like, ‘holy crap, did that work’ [Laughs]. I was determined, I was motivated, and I started posting singing videos twice a day. I was going to dinner with a friend one night and from that “Driver’s License” cover, I went from 7,000 followers to 14K and I was like, ‘okay, well I’ve got new followers, I got new people. Maybe I should show some of my original music. I’m going to upload a video, “Right Girl Wrong Time.’” It’s definitely one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I released it last year, which is why all of this is so crazy, but I was going to dinner with a friend and I was like, ‘I’m going to upload a video, “Right Girl Wrong Time” to show them this is me as an artist. This is who I want to be and the kind of music I want to write to be relatable to people.’ I posted that video and I remember I was in the bathtub, I was scrolling through TikTok and I saw that video and I was like ‘mom, mom! I got 30K likes right now on my own song!’ “Driver’s License” is a big deal because it was 300K views for song that wasn’t mine, but this was a song that was mine, and that was the crazy part to me is that people liked it and they wanted to hear it.
I worked for this song. I wrote it with one other girl named Regan Rousseau. We worked so hard with production on it. I worked hard to find a good producer that fit my visions, his name is Brad Hill, and I also worked with Lee Holland. It was just crazy, and now it’s up to 3.7 million views, and from that, I went from 14K followers to now I have [166K]from that one video of my original. Also, the TikTok transferred to Instagram; my Instagram followers have went up. It’s transferred to Spotify; my Spotify streams have went up tremendously. I’m almost to a million streams on “Right Girl Wrong Time.”
Congratulations on all the success! Tell me about the story behind “Right Girl Wrong Time” and where your head and heart was at that time?
The beauty of songwriting to me is that you don’t always have to write something that you’re going through. It’s what my friend was going through and as a friend, you feel what they feel most of the time, more than they feel it sometimes. She was dating this guy in college and they were really struggling because he wanted the party life over her. They’d been dating all of high school and then they get to college and he’s like, ‘I don’t really want to be with you,’ and you could tell she was so heartbroken about it, and I was like ‘I’m going to write that song.’ I wrote “Right Girl Wrong Time” in two hours because I was so passionate about it.
What has been the fan reaction to it? What have been some of the most moving responses that you’ve heard from people?
It makes me emotional reading these DMs that I get. So many girls reach out and they’re like ‘thank you so much.’ I screenshot-ed a lot of them, but they’re like, ‘thank you so much for this song, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s helped me through what I’m going through. This has totally happened to me, I’ve never related to a country song like this before.’ I’ve had some say ‘this is exactly how I’m feeling. I went through a horrible breakup and your song lifted me up for a little bit.’ Music really does heal and [it’s] a crazy thing that a song I wrote is helping people. Honestly, my goal was to affect people and touch people and relate to people, and I think that this song truly did that for a lot of people. Even though it says “right girl, wrong time,” I feel like majority of people have been the right person at the wrong time. I feel like people can relate to it and I think that’s why it did so good. I posted it around the time that “Driver’s License” came out because people love that song and they’re relating and it’s a great song and it makes them feel something. I think they relate to “Right Girl Wrong Time,” that’s why I write it. That’s why I do what I do.
Your new single “Hostage” is out now. Tell me about the story behind that song and what made you want to put it out as the follow-up single to “Right Girl Wrong Time”?
With COVID and stuff, it was hard to perform out and at times it was hard to song write, so I wasn’t really writing at the time. We were actually shopping songs. We were looking at different songs that other people have written and “Hostage” stood out to me, the meaning of it. I’m a big advocate in self-worth. I think that all of my songs relate to self-worth in some way shape or form and “Hostage” definitely did to me when I heard it. It’s about a person knowing that something isn’t good for them, but it’s hard for them to walk away from it. I feel like everyone has battled heart versus head a lot, or at least one time in life, ‘is it a smart thing to do or am I living through my emotions?’ I think it spoke to me in that way and I felt like it could be relatable to other people.
How do you hope to impact people as an artist?
I’m 110 percent me. I always say ‘why would you try to be someone else when you can be yourself?’ and I truly live by that. I think that God has made us the way we are supposed to be, and we should take advantage of that and live life to the fullest, completely; self-worth and knowing what makes you special and being confident about that. I think that being an artist, you’re also a role model to some people and little girls, and they’re picking out every insecurity about themselves and it’s like ‘why would you do that?’ You are perfectly made the way that you are, you are that way for a reason. Everyone has their insecurities, but I think that you just need to own who you are. You were perfectly made to be different.
I hope that people relate to me. I like all of the glitz, I like all the glam, I always have, but also I love being natural just as much. I want to be relatable in that sense of embracing who you are and always writing songs that will heal people or people relate to — writing relatable music and embracing who I am and encouraging others to do the same.