How Madison Ryann Ward's Volleyball Career Inspired Her Music Debut

Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's new home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Up until recently, Madison Ward was known only for her talent on the court. The 23-year-old was on her way to a professional volleyball career after graduating Oklahoma University. Things changed almost overnight, though, after a clip of her singing Aretha Franklin's "Chain Of Fools" went viral. Ward had always had a passion for poetry and spoken word, but previously only shared it with her family. Following her brush with virality, she took the leap and went to Nashville to pursue a music career. From there, she was asked to duet with the Zac Brown Band and ended up here: with her first single, "Mirror." She had her second brush with virality this summer when she appeared on David Letterman's My Guest Needs No Introduction, where Ward actually sang a portion of "Mirror." Today, you can watch the full video for the song exclusively on Refinery29.
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The powerful visuals of the music video match Ward's soulful, smooth vocals about holding onto love — whether it's the right decision or not. Ward croons from the safety of a car as man and a woman dance in the rain. Each element of the video manages to capture a part of Ward's journey as an artist. Ahead, we talked about her switch from sports to music, and what she's feeling at the beginning of her journey.
Are you still connected to the sports community? Would you still call yourself an athlete?
"I still call myself an athlete. I'm not training the amount that I used to but I feel it's still very much a part of who I am. I think it's been the right decision to do this, to make the transition and be pursuing music professionally instead of playing volleyball professionally overseas, which is pretty funny because that's what I thought I was going to be doing."
Was it a hard adjustment?
"No, actually. Everything kind of naturally just happened...It's funny, I've talked about this with my managers. I was always a gym rat. I'm a perfectionist. To transition that into music and to get to be in the studio and working on my craft in that way has been really cool."
What most surprised you about the music world?
"I think what most surprised me was how many levels there are to all of it. How in-depth, how many people it takes, how big of a team it can require, how to get everybody working in-sync to one main goal — which is cool, because I know that there are so many things I've taken from being an athlete and being in the sports world and just being a leader, being a captain, setting goals, analyzing things, going back into work on things. I think that the team aspect and everybody working together and keeping the peace...there are similarities. I think that's why it's been such a natural transition."
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Is "Mirror" a song you've had written for a while?
"It was something I wrote after I decided to do music professionally. I was up in New York on a trip to meet one of my other managers and I just had a melody and I ended up going into a Guitar Center. I recorded a voice note of just the melody and it was something that happened right at the beginning of the big switch, the big transition in my life."
There's a dance element in the music video. Is that something you've also explored?
"It is something that I have just recently explored. Whenever I get to L.A. I, through hanging out with some different friends of mine, I ended up meeting some dancers and some really incredible people that have danced for the likes of Janet Jackson. I was hanging around these dancers because I was with a different friend in music and we all connected. I think being around them and talking with them...it's the same but it's different."
What's next for you?
"We're definitely creating — I've actually been up all night — creating. My days and nights are completely backwards. It's been amazing. We're making some really exciting stuff. I can't wait to share it."
Editor's note: This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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