‘America's Got Talent’ Golden Buzzer Maddie Hopes Singing Through Her Pain Will Help Her Make the Finale

·8 min read

Madison Taylor Baez made quite the impression on the second night of auditions for season 17 of America’s Got Talent when Simon Cowell discovered her singing in the audience. The way it works is that when the show takes a break, the audience warmer goes around and gives a variety of people the opportunity to sing.

That night, the 11-year-old from Orange County, Calif., was singing “Amazing Grace” when Simon heard her on his way back to his seat at the judges’ table and, in an AGT first, he asked her up on the stage to audition. The rest is history: Maddie was amazing, and Howie Mandel pushed the Golden Buzzer for her, sending her straight through to the Live Shows.

Now tonight, she will compete against 10 other acts—including one other Golden Buzzer, Chapel Hart—for one of only two spots that would put her through to the finale and her dream of winning the competition. So we asked her what her strategy is going to be to help her get through.

“My plan is I’m going to channel all of my energy into the song,” Maddie told Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “I’m going to pour my heart out into it. I’m going to use my dad and all the pain that I’ve gone through as motivation to sing this song. I’m going to give it my all.”

The pain that Maddie is talking about is the fact that her father Chris was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer when she was 3 years old. To help him through, Maddie used to sing to him during his chemo treatment and other hospital stays.

“I was always by his side,” she said. “Usually ‘Amazing Grace’ was the song that I would sing to him. That’s what made him stronger.”

And that’s why she chose it to sing on America’s Got Talent and why she plans to donate a good portion of her winnings to cancer research should she win. The good news is that Chris is cancer free.

Related: It’s an America’s Got Talent First when Howie Mandel Picks His Golden Buzzer!

Also in our conversation, Maddie talked about how her love for Motown music comes from her father, how she would love to sing with Bruno Mars, her upcoming Showtime series Let the Right One In, and more!

How fun was it to be sitting in the audience for your AGT audition when it’s something you’ve wanted to do for years?

Just to be able to audition and to get the Golden Buzzer was amazing. Being in the audience, I was so excited. I was hoping to sing for the commercial break. Then Simon called on me and when I went on stage, to be honest, I was really freaking out. It was all kind of a blur. But everything happened so fast and once Howie hit the Golden Buzzer, it was like my dream come true.

You’ve been going to AGT or watching since you were 4 years old. Why was this the year that you were finally able to audition?

You know what? I think it was just my time. I’ve always been wanting to audition but I’ve always wanted to be ready. I felt ready this year. I went for it, and I gave it my all.

<p>Photo by: Danny Ventrella/NBC</p>

Photo by: Danny Ventrella/NBC

How surprised were you when Howie pushed the Golden Buzzer for you? Did you have any inkling when the voting started that that’s what he was going to do?

No, not at all. Once I sang the song on stage, I was nervous because I didn’t know what they were going to think. I heard everybody in the crowd chanting, “Golden Buzzer, Golden Buzzer.” At that point I was just freaking out. I didn’t know what to expect. Howie stood up and he walked towards the Golden Buzzer, he pressed it and all my dreams came true.

Related: How to Vote on America's Got Talent

How did it come about that you would sing to your father at the hospital?

When I was born, my dad was in love with all the Motown music, and he wanted to pass that down to me. So, he introduced me to all the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s, all the Motown music. I immediately fell in love with it. When he went to the hospital, I would always learn new songs. I would steal his iPad, go through his iTunes, and learn and listen to all these new songs to sing to him to make him happy. That’s when it all really started.

You said that you would spend the million dollars, if you win, on cancer research. Would you keep a little bit of it and maybe treat yourself to something?

I think a lot of it would go to cancer research, not only for my dad, but for all the other people who have had cancer. It’s a horrible disease. I also think I would give some of it to my family, to my mom. I don’t know what I would want to get. Maybe a bunch of candy or something.

Related: Find Out Who Went Home on America’s Got Talent and Who Made the Finale!

You have some professional credits. You played young Selena Quintanilla in Netflix’s Selena: The Series and you’ve sung the national anthem at lots of major league sporting events. What is the dream? Is the dream a singing career or an acting career?

To be honest, I think it’s a mixture of acting and singing. I love singing; it’s always been my passion. But acting, I’ve fallen in love with acting. I think both.

Your Showtime series, Let the Right One In, was picked up for 10 episodes. Tell me a little bit about your role in that and when you start filming.

So, in Let the Right One In, I play a young girl named Eleanor Kane. She’s about 12 years old and she’s a total science nerd. She loves astronomy, she loves planets, she loves everything about space that there could possibly be. And then she’s bitten by a creature. So, for the past 10 years she and her father have been on the run and must kill so she can survive since she’s now a vampire.

What was it like to work with Demian Bichir, who plays your father?

Oh, Demian was amazing. I loved him to play my dad. He’s just an amazing actor, an amazing person overall. He was awesome to work with.

Have you started filming yet?

We finished filming about a month ago. Six months of filming. It was really fun, I loved everybody that I worked with.

Since you’re done filming, if you win you will be able to go to Las Vegas and headline the AGT Live show there?

Yes, yes. I’m super excited about that.

Are you homeschooled? Is that how you juggle school with your career? Or would you have to transfer to another school in Las Vegas?

No, actually, I’m still in my original school. They’re really flexible. They send me all my homework and I send it right back to them. They’re really supportive with what I’m doing.

Tell me who some of your musical icons are. Is there somebody you would like to maybe duet with?

My musical icons are Bruno Mars, Meghan Trainor, and Charlie Puth. They’re all really good artists. But I also really like the oldies. I really like Sam Cooke, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and the Jackson Five. I like all the oldies, all the Motown music. I think somebody to duet with would probably be Bruno Mars. I really love his style, his singing. He just seems really cool overall.

You also play several instruments. How many instruments do you play and which ones?

I play six instruments. I play the electric guitar, the acoustic guitar, piano, saxophone, violin and ukulele.

Related: Listen to the America's Got Talent Performer Simon Cowell Compared to Carrie Underwood

Speaking of the saxophone, have you talked to Avery Dixon at all?

No, you know what? I haven’t. I have not had a chance to meet him yet. I was like, “Oh my gosh, he’s an amazing saxophonist." I loved his act. I just haven’t gotten the chance to meet him. But I think Avery’s awesome.

How did you learn to play? Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?

I’m self-taught overall. I took saxophone for school, violin for school, and I learned how to play that after school on my own. But, mostly I’m self-taught.

Tune in tonight when Howie’s Golden Buzzer Madison Taylor Baez will compete for a spot in the Season 17 America’s Got Talent finale at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

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