Madison Elle Beer is like any 21-year-old. She loves a New York slice—”there’s nothing in L.A. that compares” and cartoons—she has a “Nightosphere” tattoo on her foot, a reference to Adventure Time, and she included a Rick and Morty snippet in “Homesick,” a track from her debut musical album Life Support. She also has 23.6 million followers on Instagram. Ever since Justin Bieber posted a link to one of her YouTube covers at the age of 12, leading to a record deal at 13, she’s been under a constant, ever-bright spotlight, observed as she makes moves to become the pop star she’s always dreamt of becoming. With Life Support, an emotionally resonant pop album for an internet-addled generation, Beer proves that she can, in fact, turn her wildest dreams into reality. It’s her out-of-this-world ambition that led to the singer’s rather unexpected friendship with Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, on which he voices both titular characters, and the co-creator of Hulu’s Solar Opposites. Below, Roiland joins Beer from another universe to talk about his own contribution to her album, The Eric Andre Show, and being Madison Beer.
ERNESTO MACIAS: You started using YouTube at age 12. What was your teenage dream?
MADISON BEER: Music always really spoke to me as a kid. I was obsessed with American Idol growing up, so I always had it in my mind that music was something I wanted to pursue. YouTube was the most obvious way for me to channel that interest when I was young, and things just took off from there.
MACIAS: When did you know music was going to become your career?
BEER: Things became really real for me when I signed my first record deal at 13. I’ve been through a lot since then, but everything I’ve gone through in my career so far has only allowed me to evolve and realize I should never compromise on my vision for my art and career.
MACIAS: You have over 40 million followers on social media combined. How do you deal with the pressure of having so many eyes on your every move?
BEER: I’ve dealt with my fair share of criticism, but that’s also where I connect with my fans, who have always been so supportive. I think it’s really important to find a balance between being online and being present in your real life—it’s easier said than done, but it’s something I’ve been trying to focus on.
MACIAS: What is the biggest misconception people have of you?
BEER: I think people who aren’t already fans of mine often see me as an “influencer” and assume my music is something I do on the side, when it’s really my entire life. I want people to pay attention to the music and take it as seriously as I do. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I wish more people recognized that.
MACIAS: What were the inspirations behind Life Support?
BEER: There were a lot of different things that went into making Life Support. Some of it stemmed from a break-up, some of it stemmed from my struggles with mental health. It’s just my life. So much of me is laid bare on this record. It’s been really rewarding to create something that feels so true to myself and my story.
MACIAS: What do you do when you’re not working?
BEER: I’ve always really loved going to the beach, but there are times when I get back from a long tour where all I want to do is binge a new show and spend time at home. I, like so many people, recently binged The Queen’s Gambit, and was totally obsessed. I’ve loved Anya Taylor-Joy since I saw her in Split so was really excited when I saw she was doing this show.
MACIAS: What is one thing that has shocked you about your career up to this point?
BEER: I’ve created so many deep friendships through social media. Some of my fans have literally become best friends of mine. For my birthday this past year, some of them got together and made a little book of my career, which just totally blew my mind. It’s one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.
[ROILAND JOINS THE CALL]
JUSTIN ROILAND: Sorry. I had the wrong pin number. Can you imagine my confusion? How are you today, Madison? Nice to speak with you.
BEER: Nice to speak with you as well. I’m doing great. How are you?
ROILAND: I’m good. We’re both in the Whole Foods parking lot in Studio city. I can see you. You’re parked right across from me. It’s very interesting.
BEER: What a coincidence.
ROILAND: No, I made all that up. But seriously. How are you? It’s been a long time. I haven’t talked to you in a little bit.
BEER: I know. Miss you. I’m good. I’m excited about my album is out. I’m just chilling. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m good.
ROILAND: I’m busy myself. I’m raising 15 kids as everyone knows, all adopted. I’m super busy, I’m working on my video game and Solar Opposites and Rick and Morty and a couple of new things that no one knows about yet. I’m exhausted. I got my pups, and one of them has cancer, I just found out yesterday. It’s just a lot. And I’m not joking about that—that’s serious and it fucking sucks.
BEER: Wait, is it Jerry?
ROILAND: It’s Jerry. In the summer of last year he had nose cancer, which was just such a—
BEER: I remember.
ROILAND: I got radiation for him and he beat it and now he’s got fucking bladder cancer. If I do treatment for that, it’s five days a week for a month. So it’s 20 days for him. And he’s 13, he’s old. It’s too much. I would do anything to keep him alive. He’s my family, he’s my best friend, but I just don’t want to torture him. I’m going to clone him at some point.
BEER: As you should.
ROILAND: I’ll have another Jerry. It seems very wasteful when I could rescue a bunch of dogs. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it’s just heartbreaking. But anyway, why are we talking about that when we can talk about the new album?
BEER: Well, we all wish Jerry a speedy recovery. He beat nose cancer, he could beat bladder cancer. That dog’s a fucking champion. But yeah. My album is out. You’re on it. You’re the only featured person on my whole album.
ROILAND: How does that feel to have another voice other than your own on the album? Am I really the only other… That can’t be true.
BEER: Yes. You’re the only sample on the whole album.
ROILAND: That’s how we met, by the way. I just reached out to her on Instagram, and I’m like, “Hey, what’s up? I think you’re making a big mistake putting my voice at the end of your song, but I’m down to let you do it if you really want to do it. It just feels so incongruent to what you’re doing.” From there we talked more and then we hung out and became friends.
BEER: We were talking and I remember we were just going back and forth on DM after that for an hour. And literally, I was just home and you were like, “Are you in L.A.?” And I was like, “Yeah. Why?” You were like, “Do you want to just come over?” I just came over within an hour of that and it was so chill and we just hung at your old house. That was such a fun little meeting. You started talking to me about what you were going through, and the song was touching to you.
ROILAND: I was going through some shit. It was a very cool sort of connection. You get those here and there, but they’re few and far between, I feel like. We hung out a bunch since and it’s really cool.
BEER: It’s crazy. I feel like I’ve now incorporated Rick and Morty into my brand. Everyone just associates it with me. I did a bunch of meet and greets yesterday and every single fan either had my merch on or a Rick and Morty hoodie on. It’s just become a precedent in my fan base—it’s like you have to be a Rick and Morty fan to be in my fan base, basically. I just felt like that was the only thing I really wanted to sample. Nothing else felt right.
ROILAND: I remember, I got the song—
BEER: You didn’t like it. You were like, “Why would you want to ruin such a good song with my fucking voice?”
ROILAND: That’s right. That’s exactly what I said. I still feel that way, but I respect it. I’m appreciative of it. I don’t know how to feel about it. It’s like you put a big, giant, noisy mess at the end of your song.
BEER: That’s why I decided to do it. You know I have the whole thing memorized?
ROILAND: Oh, that Rick and Morty bit?
BEER: Mmhmm. I know it all.
ROILAND: I’m not surprised. I want to know when you went on Mostly 4 Millennials. Did you know it was mostly for Millennials? Did you know any of that shit?
BEER: I did not know what it was. I had no idea what it was.
ROILAND: Okay, because I just watched all those again recently. And I was like, “Oh my god.” I forgot that you were on it.
BEER: I forgot that I was on it. What the fuck is that show?
ROILAND: It’s so good. It’s one of my favorite things ever. Derrick Beckles and also Eric Andre as the EP. It’s fucking crazy. You actually came off really good. Other people, not so much.
BEER: Thank you. I used to watch The Eric Andre Show. I always was a fan of it. So once he started, I understood the satirical irony of the whole thing. I was like, “Okay. I kind of understand what’s going on right now.” Whereas I feel like someone else who doesn’t know shows like that would go into it and be so fucking confused. I mean, how do you even react to that?
ROILAND: It’s almost like you can’t fight it. You got to just kind of go with it and have fun. It’s the same thing that could be said for a shroom trip or an acid trip. If you try to fight it you’re just going to fucking fall into a really bad trip. You got to just kind of go with it, take deep breaths, relax, meditate in your brain. But you handled it very well, I must say. Tell me everything about it.
BEER: I honestly don’t even remember filming it. It was so long ago. They prepped me a bit, but I feel like the only reason I held afloat was that I have seen shows like that. I got it immediately.
ROILAND: You’re obviously an Adult Swim fan. So is this going straight to the NSA? I know they’re recording this.
BEER: They’re just running a voice scan technology on us and they’re going to probably upload our consciousness into something.
ROILAND: They’re going to reverse engineer our voices, the frequency of our voices.
BEER: Oh fuck. They’re going to be able to make us say things that we didn’t actually ever say. So what are you excited about? You have another video game coming out?
ROILAND: I’m in the middle of a new video game; we’re just through pre-production. Today I’m going and recording a bunch of audio for a demo that we’re making. I wouldn’t say it’s a sequel to Trover, but it’s sort of a spiritual sequel in the sense that it’s the same creative team.
BEER: Is it virtual reality too?
ROILAND: This one’s traditional. It’s a traditional game. It’s really cool. I’m very excited about it. But we have a year or two left. We need to hang out soon because I don’t know, it’d be fun.
BEER: You’ve got a hot tub pool.
ROILAND: I’ve got a hot tub pool and I have a trampoline that has knives at the bottom of the pit, so if you jump too hard it just cuts your feet really bad.
BEER: Oh, amazing. That sounds great.