Rising Country Star

by Oct 3, 2022People, South Brunswick

South Columbus High School student Ryleigh Madison, who made it all the way to Showstopper round of American Idol before heading back to Whiteville, has no plans to stop the music.

TV show American Idol candidate Ryleigh Madison was born and raised in Whiteville, just over the line in Columbus County, but we love her just as much in Brunswick County and throughout North Carolina. The 16-year-old country songstress is the epitome of “God and family” and is about as level-headed a high school student as one will ever meet.

Madison is so “Carolina,” even pop star Idol judge Katy Perry said she “caught the country” when Madison wowed her, Lionel Ritchie and Luke Bryan during her Nashville audition for the show’s 20th anniversary season.

Madison speaks (and sings) with an authentic country Southern accent, and it was humorous watching the judges trying to decipher just what town she said she was from. She said “Whiteville,” of course, but they went round and round trying to determine if she meant Whiteville or Wyattville, or just Whatville. They finally figured it out with laughs all around.


At last, Madison sang and twanged and gave it her all on former American Idol top three finisher Gabby Barrett’s great song, “The Good Ones.” The judges smiled and shook their heads “yes” throughout the performance. Perry told Madison, “You’re super country and you’ve got a great voice.” And while she loved the performance, her coaching point was to dial down the accent a bit because she missed some of the lyrics. Madison was nervous, as most anyone would be, so Ritchie asked her to just slow down (he wasn’t worried about it for her, though), and Bryan implored her to just relax.

For the vote, Perry declared she “caught the country,” and Bryan declared he could not “un-catch the country,” to laughs all around. There were three “yes” votes, and Bryan asked Madison if she had ever been past the Mississippi River. “You know where you’re going?” And all three judges proclaimed, “You’re going to Hollywood.”

Madison went to the rack and picked out her Golden Ticket.

“I was super overwhelmed with so many emotions and was so grateful and happy,” she says.

During her Hollywood stay, Madison performed single and duet performances under the coaching of Lauren Alaina, whose singing inspired her so much when she was a child. It was a great surprise for Madison, and she broke into tears when meeting Alaina, saying it felt like a dream. Alaina told Madison she was here because she deserved to be, and she encouraged her to put her emotion into her performances because she was very special. Madison pledged to pour her heart out and give it everything she had. Her rendition of “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, whom Madison regards as the greatest all-time country singer, kept her in the hunt for the title of American Idol.

Ryleigh Madison American Idol Stage

She made it all the way to the ninth week, and the “final judgment. It was after the showstopper round, before Americans got a chance to vote for their favorites, that Madison learned her rendition of LeAnn Rimes’ song, “Blue,” would not put her through to the next round.

According to Perry, it seemed to be too fast an arrangement. With Madison sitting before the judges for the last time, Perry predicted that Madison would create a career and in the next few years would get exactly what she dreamed of.

The experience cemented a foundation for a musical career for which Madison says she is most grateful.

In the past few months, Madison and Dustin Chapman as the duo Kindred wrote a number one song on the Positive Country/Southern Gospel Radio. It’s called “Family Thing,” and Chapman says it’s about all the lessons your family has taught you as you grow and continue to chase whatever life is calling you toward.

Madison credits God and her family for her life successes so far. “Family Thing” sounds like her life in a nutshell and portends well for Perry’s prediction — and Madison’s lifelong dreams. She’s one of the good ones.

Q&A with Ryleigh Madison
Madison’s so busy writing songs and performing them with her uncle and best friend, Dustin Chapman, I had to settle for a Zoom video conference with her for this interview. The two comprise the duo named, Kindred, and they’ve been performing across the state and even in Nashville.

I was impressed with her poise, respectful good manners and sense of direction for her life. Some people who experience success are in your face about it, but Madison isn’t like that. I couldn’t help but tell her mother, Kayla Bunch, how special Madison is, and what a great job she and Madison’s father did raising her. Here is some of what we talked about.

Tell me about growing up in Whiteville and your early love of music?
Ryleigh Madison: Even as a little girl I always wanted to be a singer. I started singing in church at age 3. I would just go up and do a contemporary Christian song by myself, and it helped me on shaking my nerves. I learned guitar a couple years ago. I started singing with my uncle when I was around 13. I remember being very young and watching Scotty McCreery (American Idol 10th season winner from North Carolina) and Lauren Alaina (runner up to McCreery) inspiring me.

How did you get picked for the show?
My uncle Dustin had set it up where I could audition online, and he accompanied me. That’s how it worked for the first round, because of concern with the pandemic. If they approve, the staff sets up an audition in front of the judges and invites you. Me and my momma flew out from Myrtle Beach Airport to the second round in Nashville. I definitely was nervous, but Momma was very encouraging and supportive and helped me work through that.

Was it a crazy madhouse in Nashville?
It really wasn’t a madhouse. It was very organized. You sign up and sign in. They do interviews and take video footage about your life background and who you are as an artist. I auditioned the second day, and I met Ryan Seacrest for the first time when I auditioned. I was very excited. He was so nice and helped me calm my nerves. He was amazing. And Momma was there, and she calmed me. We were in Nashville a week.

Describe what it was like meeting the judges.
I walked into the judges’ room in bell-bottom jeans, and Lionel Ritchie commented they were the best elephant bells he had seen in quite a while. He was my favorite. He was so sweet and complimented me on my professionalism and strength after my duet. They all were super nice and engaging in conversation. Their energy was super fun. They were so excited to do their jobs.

Ryleigh Madison 2022 American Idol

How exhausting was it, and how did your nerves, confidence and strength hold up?
I was in Hollywood two weeks. It was a lot of work and exhausting. Maybe five hours of sleep. The days are very long and hard, but the excitement and adrenalin keep you going, and you push through. I draw my strength and confidence from the Lord, who gave me my gift and He helped me through. My parents raised me to believe I can do what I put my mind to, and they love me a lot.

If you could do it all over again, what things would you do differently and will you try American Idol again?
“Blue” is one of my favorites, and I don’t regret the choice. I really wouldn’t do anything different. Age may have been a factor. I am young and have a lot to learn, but I am happy with everything. I probably won’t do it again because the experience has helped me as an artist. Now, I just want to be the best friend and family member I can be and just grow as an artist and in every area of my life. I want to continue music as a lifelong career and find out who I am as an artist and be one who spreads a positive message and connects and encourages others. My biggest dream is to play at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

Listen to Ryleigh Madison and Kindred
You can find Ryleigh Madison’s American Idol performances on YouTube.
Learn more about Kindred and future performances at facebook.com/kindred.musicofficial and at briolive.com/kindred

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