By Alan Ho
Who: Madison Ryann Ward
Where: Lawton, OK
For fans of: Billie Holiday, Kelly Clarkson (post-RCA), Alicia Keys
Sooner fans and followers of NCAA women’s volleyball will know Madison Ryann Ward as an excellent outside hitter who was one of Oklahoma’s top high school volleyball players. They will know her from her rebounding from an injury her freshman year into earning all Big 12 freshman honors and her first unanimous Big 12 selection the following season.
She was on her way to turning her collegiate career into a professional one until a group of fellow student-athletes caught the volleyball star hear her sing a cover of Aretha Franklin’s hit “Chain of Fools” at the OU cafeteria and turned the subsequent video viral after WorldStarHipHop took notice and posted it on their website. The response Madison Ryann Ward received prompted her to consider a shift towards making music professionally, “That split the road for me,” she says.
Music was always in Madison’s blood, instilled into her well before volleyball. Her first brush with music came at age eight with her mother, a pianist for her church chior while growing up in southwestern Oklahoma. Then from age 12 to 17, she waited tables at her father’s BBQ joint where she was exposed to the likes of Etta James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt and BB King.
After the viral video, Ward decided to give music a spin, taking her on trips to Nashville, NYC and eventually LA, where she inked a label and development deal with legendary producer Rick Rubin, completing her transformation from collegiate volleyball player to singer-songwriter.
Check out the rising singer-songwriter’s debut video to “Mirrors,” featuring her soulful and sultry voice set to a rain-soaked backdrop and you will hear and see why Madison Ryann Ward has traded her volleyball gear for a microphone, headset, a recording studio and trips to Nashville and NYC.