Authentic Appeal

(Photo by Robby Jeffers)

Authentic Appeal
Why Madison Cunningham is Discussing the Need to be Real 

By Sarah Komisky

With a unique style, amazing voice, Calvary Chapel worship leader Scott Cunningham as a father and beauty all her own, some think Madison Cunningham has no reason to struggle. However, the teen musician candidly shares the opposing truth. When fear and insecurity became her main enemies, the songstress found courage to rise above them when confronted with the choice to let fear stifle her steps in becoming a musician. Here is how it all began.

Getting her start singing at home with her dad in a children’s group called “The Bear Hug Band,” Madison let fear creep in when procrastination, avoiding songwriting and practicing drew fears of what others would think. Prompted by her father to start taking music seriously, she began writing songs at age twelve. Madison performed for the first time a song she wrote entitled “Forever Grateful” at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa when she was thirteen years of age. Appearing in the Scott Cunningham Band with her sister Releigh, Madison found herself influenced by various genres of music. Soul, R&B, Funk and Blues lead to her first solo project.

“Fear’s an enemy that’s really hard to beat because it’s deep inside of you and insecurity will always be there. I remember when I was young and actually still today I would always pray, ‘Lord, take my insecurities away, take them away that they’re there no longer,’” Madison said. “I kind of realize that it’s not that those insecurities will ever go away, but it’s how you react despite your insecurity. It’s how you move on from them and you say, ‘You know, I’m not going to believe the lie of myself and not let myself be my worst enemy. I’m going to go forth in confidence but also in humility.’ I just think it’s good to see that for what it is and to maybe understand fear’s game and know how to respond to it.”

In 2012, the songstress again found courage to rise above during a deep conversation with friends in York, England. Sharing things they never shared with others for fear of what it would look like or wanting to keep it private, Madison took steps to be real with others and with God through conversation. Madison shared her thoughts.

“Most people are going through the same thing, and it’s not talked about. And sometimes in the church, you can come in and out of a church pew and never talk to anybody, especially in a big congregation,” Madison said. “I’ve always been the person that was afraid to go up to the pastor and ask for prayer or tell them what was really going on. So I never did and kept a lot of things inside.”

As everything was coming out at the dinner table that evening, one of the words that was commonly shared amongst the friends was “authenticity.” Desiring to be authentic with people and with God by not putting up a facade, Madison went home and on that evening, she took the words from their conversations as the beginning of song lyrics for “Authenticity.” The title of the album roots itself in the song so-named. This further step in her ability to overcome fear still inspires others to do the same.

“Songs kept coming and I was asking the same type of questions,” Madison said. “They kind of had the same questions and honesty coming out in question asking. The whole record was appropriately named ‘Authenticity,’ because that kind of honesty was captured in each individual song and its personality and what it was wanting to say.”

Desiring to inspire others to be real before God and not try to be perfect, Madison pulls from her own struggles.

“I can get so twisted and think, ‘Man I have to try harder. I’ve gotta make up for this mistake.’ And that’s so not God’s heart, because He’s already made up for those mistakes we could never ever atone for on the cross in our place. That’s a reality that I think we can replace with our own works, and I found myself doing that a lot. I was knowing the rituals of God, and I don’t think God wants us to see Him that way. I know He doesn’t.”

“I think sometimes we don’t understand the whole God, and we kind of delete out some of His attributes. We kind of just see Him as this God of justice and we’re always trying to please this God of justice. And He is. But He is also the God of grace, and He’s the God of love, and those are words we conveniently leave out. I think when we understand the reliability of God and when we see Him as He wanted us to see Him as a human almost, to relate to us, that’s what He wants. He wants us to come to Him as we are, and He presented Himself in the most authentic way He possibly could. So I think it’s just about remembering and not forgetting His love and His mercy and His grace.”

Discover more about Madison and her music at and don’t forget to check out, “Secret Place” with Phil Wickham on his newest release, “Children of God.”