Strings & Stories: Madhavi Steinert’s journey from a small town to Spotify stardom

Steinert performs at The Milk Crate's Halloween concert which was the venue first show that she runs with her roommates. - Arts & Entertainment Editor / Al Harmon

Originally from Jackson, New Jersey, Madhavi Steinert is a 21-year-old music industry major in her last year at Rowan University. At first glance, she may look like just any other student, but she’s an aspiring musician commanding more than 15,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and hosting killer concerts in her garage.

Steinert is a singer-songwriter who has been creating for about as long as she can remember. The daughter of a teacher, Steinert started writing around the age of five or six. She picked up a guitar soon after, spending countless hours teaching herself how to play with the help of YouTube’s many guitar gurus.

“I don’t come from a musical family. My mom was an English teacher and she was interested in poetry, I think that influenced my writing,” Steinert said.

Steinert’s earliest and most profound influences included Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Nora Jones, and Adele.

“I was just so inspired by Taylor [Swift’s] work ethic, and I said, ‘I want to do that’,” Steinert said.

Steinert attended Performing Arts Academy Vocational High School. It was here that she was able to further hone her skills. Around the age of fourteen, she published her first single, titled “What If.” Despite her lifelong passion, upon graduation, Steinert was still uncertain about pursuing a music career. Growing up, she excelled academically so she felt pressured to follow a more traditional path. 

After high school, she enrolled in Mercer County College as a communications major and wrote for their newspaper. She liked it and was quite good, as reflected by her New Jersey Press Association Award wins. But, she still felt like something was missing, and took a semester off before transferring to Rowan.

“I said, I guess I’ll just do entertainment journalism…I was afraid of investing in myself,” Steinert said. 

Instinctively, she knew that was no way to be.

“I would rather chase something I love than settle,” she said.

She learned about Rowan through a high school classmate who was taking college courses. Her choice to study the business side of the industry stemmed from the belief that she already had a firm grasp on the technical side of things and it may serve her better in the long run. 

“If I want to be an artist, let me learn the back end so I can manage myself,” she said.

Along the way, Steinert befriended a producer named Connor Hansen, who she is still working with today. Their first project together, entitled “You’re the One to Lose” was released in April of 2023.

Steinert’s songwriting process with lyrics. Her ideas are often spontaneous but always deeply personal and related to her current circumstances.

“They’re mostly inspired by what I’m going through at the moment….Music helps me process my emotions,” she said. 

Being proficient in guitar and piano, she records her performances on both instruments live for all her releases. Her friend Ray Laux performs on drums. Any synth sounds or effects are added digitally.

“I feel like I can hear the finished arrangements in my head,” Steinert said.

When Steinert isn’t in class or making music, she’s hosting concerts in her garage, getting people to perform on a stage made of milk crates. The aptly named “Milk Crate” was the brainchild of Steinert and her best friend, Bianca Ragusa, whom she rooms with on campus. Most musical guests are native to the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas, but she’s seen people from as far as Arizona. Booking bands have proven to be great practice for Steinert.

She promotes Milk Crate through Instagram (@themilkcratenj), and anyone can obtain an invite via direct message. Their next show is on Feb. 16.

Steinert is expected to graduate in May, and although she doesn’t have a concrete plan, she’s remaining open-minded and excited about the future.

“I’ll look for PR or production assistant jobs, or join somebody on tour,” she continued. “I love the beach, I have so many great memories with friends, so I’m thinking of staying in New Jersey, but it depends on the opportunity. I’m willing to go where it takes me.”

Throughout our time with Steinert, she emphasized the importance of honesty and staying true to yourself. When asked if she had any advice for aspiring creatives, she responded, “Just do it. That fear you have, that’s what should be in a box, not you…What’s the worst that can happen?”

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