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The student news site of The Archer School for Girls

The Oracle

Her mind through national parks: Senior Eleanor Madley shares seasons of her life, love of nature in new EP

Eleanor Madley (’24) gazes out over River Sheen at the greenery in Sheen Falls, County Kerry, Ireland. Madley said she is considering using this photo, a Polaroid taken on vintage film, as the cover of her EP, “National Park, My Mind.” “It’s very magical, and I really wanted to bring that in because … I allude to the natural world a lot to express how I was feeling when I was younger and going through all that,” Madley said. “So, I really wanted to bring in that really whimsical, magical feeling.” Photo by Jacob Madley.

Senior Eleanor Madley started writing songs and singing when she was 5 years old. Around that same time, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Madley said she often made up songs as a way to cope with dyslexia and express her feelings, which she recorded on her parents’ phones.

In the summer of 2022, Madley began creating an EP, a collection of four to six songs, titled “National Park, My Mind.” Seeking inspiration from the natural world, she spent a week backpacking through Yosemite National Park writing lyrics, without a phone or instruments.

“That was a really incredible experience because I was just writing, and there was nothing else going on,” Madley said. “Nobody was able to find me or access me, and I could just write from the heart, which was incredible.”

Madley brought her ideas to eighth grade Dean of Culture, Community and Belonging Hannah O’Connor, who teaches her Advanced Study in Music class, at the beginning of her junior year. She said they worked together to create structure and a storyline, however, Madley wrote, produced and mixed the EP by herself. She also plays the guitar and piano, which are featured in all of the songs.

“I think I was subliminally writing about my experience with dyslexia, how traumatic that was for me and how that’s changed,” Madley said. “We only realized [that] when we were sitting down, putting this collection of songs together and trying to find a storyline. Then, it just came together in an instant.”

I’m writing about my mind as a national park, how I want to preserve it and keep it a sacred place and how in many ways I was exploited and now, that’s now longer happening for me.

— Eleanor Madley ('24)

While reflecting on the mood and tone of the EP, Madley described each song as folksy, ethereal, mysterious and magical. She said she was drawn to experimenting with the keys of each song, among other musical elements, while recording and producing.

“There’s this idea of soundscapes that I’m really, really interested in, and it’s like, ‘What’s the landscape? What’s the environment you create with each song for the listener?’ That’s something I was really interested in, so I really focused on these mystical sounding harmonies and layers,” Madley said. “I had a lot of fun with that and [with] using the different elements of music, sound and that texture to build this soundscape.” 

Annie Friedman (’24), Madley’s close friend, said Madley has shown a lot of dedication and commitment to music and her EP, as she would spend time working in and outside of school. She added that what particularly stands out to her about Madley as a musician is her storytelling through songwriting.

“In 10th grade, she was thinking about doing an album, but she wasn’t really sure if that’s what she had time for or something that people would enjoy or even appreciate. But last year, she just went for it. Of course, everyone loved it, and it was amazing,” Friedman said. “I think she got more dedicated to the craft and knew this is what she wanted to do later on in life, so she really pushed for it last year.”

Madley said one challenge she faced in the process was producing each song after recording them, joking that she is using program that professionals typically use in studios, and she is “not a big shot producer — I’m just a 17-year-old girl.” Outside of production, she said a challenge she faced was releasing something so personal to her.

“Of course, putting out something that is so close to your heart and so vulnerable is challenging, but once I did some reflecting, I’d realized that once it’s out there, it’s like sending out a vessel. It’s its own thing, and it’s separate from you because it can be interpreted in so many different ways,” Madley said. “Even when I’ve shown lyrics to friends and family members, they interpret it in so many different ways that maybe relate to their lives or not necessarily mine.”

As a musician, Madley said she is inspired by folk artist Logan Bowden, as well as her grandparents, who are in a band. However, Madley’s biggest inspiration for “National Park, My Mind” was national parks, specifically Yosemite National Park, and the natural world. She said she feels extremely comfortable in nature, and being in the natural world helps her include vivid imagery in her writing.

The title, “National Park, My Mind,” came after she had written the title track. She explained how the song’s title embodies the concept that she envisioned for the whole EP.

“The title came pretty late in the process. One of the songs on the EP is the title track, ‘National Park, My Mind,’ and it’s, to me, the concluding piece. It was the last song I wrote; I wrote it in a day or two, produced it in a day or two; it just all came together,” Madley said. “I’m writing about my mind as a national park and how I want to preserve it and keep it a sacred place and how, in many ways, I was exploited and now, that’s no longer happening for me.” 

Madley said when she finished her EP, it felt very complete to her, and she is extremely proud of herself for this project. O’Connor shared a Google Drive folder with the Archer community containing the EP’s tracks and Madley’s artist statement June 8, as it is not available on streaming platforms yet. Madley said, after taking a break from music over the summer, she is currently working on new projects, as well as mastering “National Park, My Mind” in order to release it on music streaming platforms later on.

“I hope they enjoy it. I hope they can find a piece of themselves in the lyrics. There are so many different situations that everyone can fit themself into with my lyrics, which I think is really, really special,” Madley said. “I hope people feel inspired because writing is amazing, songwriting is amazing. Any kind of art is incredible. I think this EP, ‘National Park, My Mind,’ just shows how important it is to use art — creative art— as an outlet. It helped me heal so much.”

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About the Contributor
Nina Sperling
Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter
Nina Sperling joined the Oracle in 2021. She became a senior reporter in 2022 and continued in that role for the 2023-24 school year. She loves spending time with family and friends, dancing in and out of school, reading and playing with her labradoodle Georgie. She is also passionate about politics, history, international relations, social justice and Spanish. Nina graduated in 2024.   

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