At Espresso Royale, Madelyn Grant is telling me how an old high school friend asked her if she planned to pursue music after graduation. A wide smiles brims from the LSA senior, remembering how she laughed dismissively before saying, “No, I’m gonna do science.” Those turned out to be famous last words, because Grant is many things, but a biologist is not one of them.

Music as a viable career option is still a fairly recent development, though — it was just last year that Grant changed her major from the aforementioned Biology to LSA’s music major. Though Grant may be reticent to say music is definitely in the cards (after all, she is only 21 years old), the talented singer is poised for success. There is her impressive voice: in a single song she can fluctuate between smoldering powerhouse vocals to synth-pop-y harmonizing, and there is also an ODESZA song called “Sun Models” featuring Grant and has garnered more than two million views on YouTube.

Her collaboration with ODESZA, a Seattle-based electronica duo that’s made a name for themselves with insanely catchy tracks punctuated by bubble gum beats and trance-y vocals, represents a turning point in Grant’s novice career. Last December, the singer saw a Facebook post from the band calling for female vocals. “I was freaking out, so I stayed up all night over Christmas break,” she said, “trying to think of three samples to send them. I couldn’t sleep even after I sent it, but the next day, or the day after, they emailed back saying ‘We really like this, would you wanna work with us?’ ”

What makes Grant distinct is how self-directed and styled her budding career has been. Grant was in her high-school choir and sang for student a cappella group, 58 Greene, from freshman to junior year. She’s also a relatively new songwriter,having begun just two years ago, but music hasn’t been a serious pursuit until recently — this is in contrast to some students who “have been taking voice lessons since they were 5.” Indeed, Grant’s decision to study LSA’s major over the School of Music’s equivalent was driven partly by pragmatism (she would not have been able to stay on track for a 2015 graduation), but mostly by the program’s wide-ranging course load that isn’t limited to technical classical training. From musicology to theory to performance art technology classes, Grant described the major’s versatility as being able to “open a lot of doors and then begin to narrow them down.” And compared to the specialized emphasis in School of Music, LSA’s personalized major melds with her decidedly entrepreneurial ethos (Grant is also in the Program in Entrepreneurship).

That lack of classical structure seeps into her music — after all, if you never learn the rules, it’s easy to break them. While raised on Motown mainstays like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, Grant also cites a far-reaching array of experimental electronica artists. Listening to them and going to festivals made the genre a natural juncture for the genre-bending singer.

“Sounds and rhythms and voices you would never think could go together, worked so well,” Grant said. “And being new to writing, I loved how I could use whatever I was interested in rhythm- or lyric-wise without being held back by a technical format or standard rhyme scheme. In electronic music, I saw a lot more freedom to experiment.”

That freedom to experiment outside genre lines, something every artist holds as a conceit, is usually discouraged. But then there are cases like Grant who prove technical adherence would only subdue her voice, which finds its life in sprawling, graceful melodies. Take for example, her collaboration with FKJ (short for French Kiwi Juice), a Parisian producer with a penchant for pairing funky soul with smooth electronica. In “Waiting,” Grant’s smoky, asymmetric vocals (positively Winehouse-esque, no other word for it) snake themselves around FKJ’s ultra-smooth strain. It’s equal parts classic and experimental.

The collaboration between FKJ and Grant came about through a now established platform for young artists, social media; Grant sent FKJ a message on Facebook. In recent years, the Internet has become a well-documented platform for young artists of all mediums. It typifies the egalitarian current that runs through our generation — any artist can watch their work amass viewer/follower/retweet momentum, providing their work is good enough. We’ve all heard of a poet who got discovered on Twitter or the comedian who launched a career from a YouTube channel. Grant, herself is a SoundCloud user, and in January when she posted a collaboration with School of Music jazz student, Alekos Syropoulos, a slinky jazz song called “Purpose,” it racked up over 79,000 listens on the website. Scrolling through the hundreds of gushing comments, it’s obvious that Grant’s singing sparks the rare visceral reactions from fans.

The internet has also been a necessary tool in bridging the geographical gaps between Grant and her high-profile collaborators: FKJ resides in Paris, and the ODESZA duo in Seattle. In FJK’ case, it was all done via Facebook and e-mail. He sent her a rough instrumental track with the guitar, synthesizer, and drums, Grant wrote to it, and after they agreed on a general idea, the two passed the song back and forth, FKJ working on the mixing, while Grant wrote and recorded in Ann Arbor, made easy by a shared background.

“We both have a love for Motown, so we were already on the same page of style, so I felt really comfortable expressing myself with a soulful style.”

While plenty of remote opportunities are within Grant’s reach, the Ann Arbor community is particularly special to her: “There’s this whole awesome circle, community, really, you have to just get your foot in the door, but it’s like a family,” Grant said. “Obviously they’re all from the same city, but they all go to each other’s shows, play in each other’s bands.”

Grant eventually sees herself moving to a bigger music city, but her hopes have a healthy dose of practicality, and Ann Arbor isn’t a bad place for a developing artist.

“There’s a lot of gaps between wanting to have a music career and actually doing it, so it’s really cool to be around local musicians who are doing it.”

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