Back to Rockville

KC musicians Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear to perform on ‘Letterman’

The Kansas City Star

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, a son-mother duo from Kansas City, has landed a spot on “Late Show With David Letterman.” Their performance will air Wednesday night on Channel 5 (KCTV5). The show starts at 10:35 p.m.

Neill Smith of SonArtists, the duo’s management company, said word came last minute from their label, Glassnote Records.

“I got a call from Glassnote at roughly at 10 this morning saying, ‘Hey, Letterman is hitting us up. Do you want to fly out a couple days early and do this Wednesday?’ said it was like, ‘Uh, yeah, we absolutely want to do that.’”

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear was already scheduled to be in New York later this week to perform for Fashion Week and designer Billy Reid. In August, they performed at Shindig in the Shoals, an annual fashion event in Alabama organized by Reid.

Instead, they will fly to New York on Tuesday. Their performance will be taped around 5 p.m. Wednesday. They are scheduled to perform one song, “Silent Movies.”

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is scheduled to be a guest. This week’s music lineup on “Late Show” is loaded with heavyweights: It also includes Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sturgill Simpson and the Shakey Graves.

It continues what has been a busy several days for the duo. On Saturday, they were in Los Angeles to perform at Lucian Grainge’s Grammy luncheon, which was also a showcase for Grainge’s Universal Music Group. They were on a bill that included Iggy Azalea, Sam Smith, Keith Urban, Fall Out Boy and Maroon 5.

“It was kind of crazy,” Madisen Ward said. “They put us right in the middle of the lineup. We followed Keith Urban, did our thing, then came off stage, and Fall Out Boy was getting ready to go on.”

Before an invite-only audience of more than 300 music industry people, they performed for five minutes. They were the only acoustic-roots act in the lineup.

“We did ‘Silent Movies,’ then a medley of tunes,” Ward said. “We knew we had to make what little time we had count and give them a good taste of who we are. We were a real change of pace. I think it took some time for people to process what we did. But the response was great.”

Smith said producer Max Martin video-recorded the performance on his phone. “He was all about it,” he said. “He congratulated them. Maroon 5’s manager came up to us outside the hotel and said he really liked it.”

Afterward, Shirley Halperin, music editor of the Hollywood Reporter, tweeted that Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear were Rick Rubin’s “favorite act at the UMG showcase.” Rubin, the co-founder of Def Jam Records, has produced scores of artists, including Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, Metallica, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and AC/DC.

It all continues a swift, steep ascent for Ruth Ward and her youngest child, Madisen. The two began performing together about six years ago, mostly at cafes in Independence and Overland Park.

Gradually, they built a following and started booking shows in Kansas City, including the 2014 Crossroads Music Festival, where they played to a full house in the Tank Room. In September, they opened for B.B. King at the Midland. Here’s the story that ran in The Star previewing that performance. Late last year they signed a deal with Glassnote Records, home of Mumford & Sons. They recently finished recording a full-length album that’s expected to be released late this spring.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear will perform at the Uptown Theater on April 23, opening for Iron and Wine as part of Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

More music inside

“I Love You, Honeybear,” a critically acclaimed new CD by Father John Misty, chronicles a love gone right. | C3