Home for Christmas: ‘American Idol’ winner returns to Iowa for Dubuque show


Maddie Poppe will perform an intimate holiday concert at on Sunday, Dec. 13, at Dubuque’s historic Grand Opera House. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

In more ways than one, Maddie Poppe has come full circle.

The 22-year-old singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from humble Clarksville, Iowa, might be best known for taking the win on season 16 of ABC’s “American Idol.” But prior to that, she was simply a sweet small-town girl singing Christmas carols in the company of her family.

“When I was younger, my dad would have me and my sister perform Christmas songs, and we’d make a Christmas album every year to give to family as a gift,” Poppe said in a phone interview. “It’s kind of funny, but that was where I cut my teeth. As I got older, I realized, ‘I think I’m OK at this. I enjoy this.’ That was a turning point for me.”

It’s a fitting start given that her latest album and tour are centered around the holidays and will see her coming home for them at that.

Poppe will return to Iowa to perform an intimate acoustic Christmas show on Sunday, Dec. 13, at Dubuque’s historic Grand Opera House. The concert, which is part of Poppe’s holiday tour across the state, will be presented in partnership with the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association.

“It’s always fun to come back home,” Poppe said. “Out of all the places I’ve played, the support in Iowa is unlike anywhere else. It’s nice to know the area and exciting to see family and familiar faces.”

Along with a homecoming, it will mark the first time Poppe has performed live this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of her concert dates had been canceled.

“I haven’t been able to do any shows this year, and I actually had a bunch of stuff planned, but everything took a tumble and hit pretty hard,” she said. “Everything has been virtual. Those are still fun, but I miss the people and seeing faces. You don’t get the same butterflies you usually do when playing a live show. So, that makes this extra exciting.”

The show, Poppe said, will include the five songs featured on her Nov. 20 release, the appropriately titled “Christmas from Home,” as well as a few of her originally penned tunes.

“It was kind of the middle of quarantine that I realized I had to have something,” she said. “I was going to release an album with a label, but now that I’m independent, I knew I had to figure this out on my own and prove that I was good enough to do that. I could have released something with my own music, but a Christmas album seemed like the way to go.”

Though “Christmas from Home” marks Poppe’s debut as an independent artist, she previously release two albums — 2016’s self-produced “Songs from the Basement” and her sophomore effort, “Whirlwind.”

The latter reached No. 2 on the iTunes Pop charts, and her hit single, “Made You Miss,” peaked at No. 19 on the Hot AC Radio charts. Her sentimental ballad, “Not Losing You,” swept radio charts as well.

Poppe had auditioned for NBC’s “The Voice” prior to becoming the next “American Idol,” a place she credited with helping her grow in her art and in her business savvy.

“It was a cool experience,” Poppe said of her experience with the show, in which Lionel Richie described her as having a “storytelling voice,” Katy Perry adding she possessed a “distinctive quality” in her voice and Luke Bryan saying, “I’m not critiquing you, ’cause you got me. I’m saying yes.”

“It really helped me navigate getting thrown into the industry,” Poppe said. “Since then, I’ve gotten thicker skin. I’ve had a lot of help and support. But there definitely are people who don’t have the best interests for you. I’ve grown up pretty fast and learned quickly that you can’t trust everyone.”

Following her “American Idol” win, Poppe appeared on multiple TV shows, including “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Live! with Kelly & Ryan” and the 2018 Radio Disney Music Awards. She also performed at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the Special Olympics and the CMA Fest in Nashville.

There is something sweet about coming home.

“I’m very thankful for all the love and support and for people coming together,” Poppe said. “I’m happy we could make this Iowa thing happen.”

COVID-19 guidelines

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ latest restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19 will have little impact on the performance.

The concert will be conducted with planned safety protocols in place as recommended by state and local health officials, according to Grand Opera House Executive Director Frank McClain.

“Our interpretation of the new restrictions as they now stand is that they will not impact the Maddie Poppe concert or live stream,” McClain said. “The section on the 15-person maximum for indoor gatherings would not apply to us because the section on theaters and performance venues allows us to remain open as long as we ensure 6 feet between individuals and groups, require masks and implement other social distancing and increased hygiene practices, all of which we have been planning all along.”

Tickets will be sold in groups of two, three or four, with patrons only able to purchase seats within a selected group size. No groups larger than four will be allowed to sit together. There also will be a limit of six tickets per patron, and groups will be socially distanced.

A livestream option will be available at a later date.

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