Phil Madeira is an award-winning singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and author.
He has been playing what is now called "Americana" music long before it was a genre. As a writer, his songs have been cut by Buddy Miller, Garth Brooks, Keb Mo', the Civil Wars, and dozens of others and he remains prolifically active. A longstanding member/leader of Emmylou Harris' backing band the Red Dirt Boys, Madeira is an in-demand session and touring musician and singer who has assisted a long list of artists including Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Amy Grant, Mavis Staples, and Patty Griffin, to name a scant few. He has also released, albeit infrequently, a host of resonant solo recordings (including 3 Horse Shoes), celebrated for their tenderness, poignancy, wit, and warmth.
Madeira was born and raised in Barrington, Rhode Island. His parents were musically inclined and passed their enthusiasm on to their son. He learned to play drums first while studying jazz, and later picked up piano (his instrument of choice), organ, and guitar -- as well as half-a-dozen other stringed instruments. He attended Taylor University in Indiana, where he studied art. After graduation he did a stint playing with the Chicago-based country-rock outfit Morninglory; he played piano, drums, and contributed vocals. He moved on to Indiana country band Hickory Wind for a short time and continued his move east. From 1976 to 1978, Madeira was a member of Phil Keaggy's band with Lynn Nichols, Terry Andersen, and Dan Cunningham; they released one album together, 1977's Emerging. The group split in 1978 but Madeira and Keaggy remain close and have worked together often. He spent the next several years doing gigs and sessions before relocating to Nashville in 1983.
Because of his work with Keaggy and his connections in the evangelical music scene, Madeira quickly established himself as a capable arranger, producer, and session musician working on recordings by Mark Heard and Kathy Troccoli, among others, and was also playing solo gigs. In 1986 he issued his debut leader album, Citizen of Heaven, on Refuge Records. His peers were inspired by his songs and Madeira became a go-to in the CCM community; for the next decade, he worked as a sessionman on dozens of recordings by the hottest artists in the genre including Steve Camp, Rich Mullins, Dallas Holm, Ashley Cleveland, the Newsboys, and dc Talk. In 1983, he produced his first album, Michele Wagner's Heart of the Journey, and in 1994 worked on recordings by Charlie Peacock (Everything That's on My Mind) and Julie Miller (Invisible Girl). Between 1994 and 1995, Madeira played on no less than 30 albums. In 1996, he self-released his sophomore long-player Off Kilter. He continued session work and contributed his original songs to recordings by Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Michael Card, Krauss, and Brooks' Chris Gaines project. Madeira's critically acclaimed third album, 3 Horse Shoe, was issued just before the century closed.
Though he was working steadily, it was during the first decade of the 21st century that Madeira came into his own in all of his roles. He worked almost constantly as a sessionman, playing on records by Buddy and Julie Miller, Tim Finn, Toby Keith, and
The following year, Madeira released PM, an album that featured his own songs as well as co-writes with Berg, Gordon Kennedy, Farnsworth, and others. His first book, an eye-opening work on personal faith journeys entitled God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith, was published by Jericho Books and sparked compelling -- and sometimes controversial -- conversation in the evangelical world. That summer he and his production partner Lynn Nichols produced the major-label debut of Pawnshop Kings and discovered and produced the Band Perry's first recordings. That fall he appeared alongside Jack White, Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, and Leon Russell to play Willie Nelson's 80th birthday party; it was televised on CMT. In 2014, his song "From This Valley" (co-written and recorded by the Civil Wars) won the Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo in 2014. His fifth album, Motorcycle, was issued in 2015 with studio assistance from friends Derri Daugherty and Mike Roe, Christy Sutherland, Harris, and others. Madeira issued a follow-up entitled Original Sinner in 2016, with a killer cast that included the McCrary Sisters, Byron House, and many more. He wrote or co-wrote all but one song, a celebrated cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man." That summer, Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, Vol. 2 was released, featuring appearances by Harris, the Lone Bellow, Scofield, and the Wood Brothers, among others. He also produced Pete Kronowitt's A Lone Voice. In 2017, Madeira played on Catie Curtis' While We're Here, and conceived, produced, and played on Treasure of the Broken Land: The Songs of Mark Heard. He also played a tour with Harris and John Mellencamp.
Madeira had been working on an album about his home state for some time. In 2018, the single "Providence" was issued and premiered by Rolling Stone Country. Recorded at Nashville's famed Sound Emporium, the jazz/blues/Americana outing included guest guitarists Will Kimbrough, James Hollihan, and Scofield backing the core band of Madeira on piano and vocals, Chris Donohue on upright bass, and Bryan Owings on drums. The full-length was issued in April 2018 on Mercyland. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi