Pop Crave Exclusive: MAX Interview
An angry ex, four-months of “yogi” vocal rest and a new management team are just some of the factors that helped form MAX’s upcoming album, ‘Colour Vision.’
Known best for his mega successful 2016 single, “Lights Down Low,” MAX‘s rise in popularity over the past few years has been anything but an overnight success. Raised in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen borough, the multi-talented performer got his start on Broadway as a swing understudy before landing a Dolce & Gabanna campaign alongside Madonna. He later starred in the Nickelodeon film, ‘Rags’ as Charlie Prince and toured with Victoria Justice on her ‘Make It In America Tour.’
Following his debut 2015 album, ‘NWL,’ MAX got his breakout moment with the single “Lights Down Low” from his sophomore project, ‘Hell’s Kitchen Angel.’ The track dominated adult contemporary radio, went on to earn a double PLATINUM certification from the RIAA and helped MAX earn an iHeartRadio Music Awards nomination for “Best New Pop Artist.”
MAX has promoted his new album, ‘Colour Vision’ with four standalone tracks in the past year: “Love Me Less,” “Acid Dream,” “Checklist” and “Where Am I At.” Originally scheduled for a May 22nd release, MAX tells Pop Crave that ‘Colour Vision’ and its accompanying tour will likely be postponed due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. “It’s like 99 percent probably going to change,” MAX said.
While the rollout schedule remains uncertain, MAX is certain he will release new music between now and the release of ‘Colour Vision.’ We caught up with the singer-songwriter this week to chat about the inspiration behind his album, his thoughts on Stan Twitter and the exciting collaborations he has in the works.
Your album, ‘Colour Vision’ is scheduled for May 22nd. Do you think the Coronavirus pandemic will push back your release schedule?
It’ll probably be pushed a little bit. When you make vinyls and CDs… it usually takes three months to get everything made in time for an album release. That’s a normal time, and we’re figuring it out now. All the music is done, but it’s more about making sure all the exciting things like CDs, vinyls, signed things all come out at the same time. It’s all up in the air right now.
But the music is done which is the most important part. And we’ll be rolling out the songs until whenever that new album release date is…It’s like 99 percent probably going to change, which is OK with me. I just hope people are healthy and safe.
What makes ‘Colour Vision’ stand apart from your 2016 album, ‘Hell’s Kitchen Angel’?
This is the first time with an album I really felt it was truly complete. It’s a full thought, the theme is there with everything I wanted visually, and sonically it’s what I want in one chapter of music.
With the last one, ‘Hell’s Kitchen Angel’ there are songs like “Lights Down Low” that I’m really proud of, but didn’t feel like I had the cohesion I wanted as an artist. On this album I really spent the time having the songs flow into each other, have the stories make sense, have it be one real theme of rebirth and finding your light after going through something traumatic. It’s that process and journey, and now I definitely feel that chapter is done.
Can you go into more detail on what your vocal rest looked like?
I found out I had this polyp, and I was supposed to tour next week. It was a two month tour. I hadn’t decided if I wanted surgery, and I didn’t speak with my wife, my crew, to anyone. I didn’t speak at all except for singing on the shows. So for two months on tour the only time noise came out of mouth was for show. I got the surgery, and there wasn’t a single sound out of my mouth for a month. Then I had a month after that where could make sound, but it was only to get my voice strong enough again. So there was one specific month when not a single sound came out of mouth.
I had these fights with my wife where I was silent. I had an app on phone [to communicate], she’d be yelling at me and I’d be making an angry face… It really affected me. She was like, ‘I just want you to talk to me, for 10 minutes. I know you only have a small amount of time to use voice…’ – it was so crazy.
It made me question at times… of course my shows are important to me, but my relationship with my wife is most important to me. Will my voice be worse tonight if I do 10 minutes of talking with my wife? Those little moments, how you utilize time – it’s like that Eddie Murphy movie where you only have 1,000 words. It ended up being so heart wrenching choosing who to use your voice for.
What’s the story behind the first ‘Colour Vision’ single, “Love Me Less”?
I started it two years ago, and it was the beginning of the theme for this ‘Colour Vision’ album. I started with a whole new team – all the negative things in my life were stripped away, that’s when album started.
That song came out of a specific story. My wife is British, she’s been here a long time, but I have this ex-girlfriend who was very hurt over our break up. She called and threatened to have my wife deported. It was a very traumatic beginning, this was right when I started dating my wife. I thought it would potentially ruin my relationship with my wife. I got in the studio, wrote this song basically saying, “I hope you don’t love me less for my past, all the things I can’t help that already happened.”
That began the color scheme for the album… When I came out of that surgery, I saw yellow. I’m wearing it now. I wanted the whole theme to be on top of this bright rebirth colorful layer which is the yellow. And then every song has a different suit color…It all plays back into the Rubik’s Cube which is the album cover.
How did Quinn XCII and Kim Petras end up getting involved with the track?
I always thought the feature would be a female, but Quinn XCII was working with our same producers. They played him the song and he loved it. He texted me and said, “would you mind if I tried a verse on this?” It didn’t even cross my mind to have another guy, but he did and it was amazing!
And then Kim Petras and I started doing a bunch of radio shows, hanging out, and I thought she was a star the second I met her. We were still working “Love Me Less” at radio, and with “Lights Down Low” I put put out a million versions – like a Japanese version and the version with Gnash. So I thought, hey, I’ll do the same with this song. I texted Kim, she wrote her verse and it was amazing. I always wanted the female perspective, so it was nice to have both vibes on the same song that was so special.
Have you chosen which song you’re going to promote as the next single?
I think “Love Me Less” is the one we put the most promotion behind. The rest of these songs were really special ones that I wanted to see how the fans reacted to, so we’ll see how it goes from there. There’s eight more songs people haven’t heard on album, two of which are really special. So we’re waiting to see how people feel about each one.
What inspired your latest song, “Where Am I At”?
I usually give a very specific story for each song, but this one has been special because it’s from losing someone in my life who meant everything to me. And when they were gone I didn’t know who I was. When someone leaves your life and you know they’ll never return, even though there’s a part of them with you forever, you feel empty.
I haven’t been saying the specific because I like that it means different things to different people. I used to tell a very specific story for every song and I thought it took people out of it.
You teased on Twitter that you have a feature on the album with lyrics in Korean, and many fans seem to have already figured out who it is. Are you able to confirm the artist?
I’m going to keep this teasing going until I can’t tease no more!
I had my first trip to Korea a few months ago. It was unbelievable, it blew my mind. Since then I’ve connected with a lot of different Korean artists, I’m truly obsessed with Korean music. All the different genres that come out of Korea are next level. I got really lucky, got to be really friendly with someone from there who I didn’t even expect to collaborate with. After we hung out in Korea we’ve been making music together ever since.
The song sounds amazing. Once I got those vocals the other day I was like “oh, it’s on, let’s go!” It’s going to be one of the singles for sure. We’re going to have fun with that, and it’s one of my favorite songs too.
SO I JUST GOT VOCALS IN FOR A FEATURE ON THE ALBUM…
AND THEYRE IN KOREAN…?
— MAX (@MAXMusic) March 12, 2020
Do you pay attention to Stan Twitter?
Y’all have savage fans on Pop Crave, I love it. It’s nice because it lets you know what people are thinking. You guys posted the ‘Colour Vision’ album cover, and Stan Twitter was actually very kind about it. I feel like even the biggest artists posted on Pop Crave, like Ariana Grande, have people saying “Ariana Grande failed.” What??? Ariana is the biggest artist in the world! What are you talking about? It’s really funny how savage people are.
How can you take it to heart when they’re doing it to everyone? If Selena Gomez is getting it, MAX is OK with getting it too.
Were there any songs, concepts or other ideas you got pushback for on ‘Colour Vision’?
I feel like I got pushback about some things, which I appreciate. In the end, if I push through it I know I really believed in the thing.
Even with having this giant Rubik’s Cube, I think everyone supported it but they questioned it. People supporting the risk and the dive, even if they don’t see it at first, has happened a lot more with this album than last album, which is nice. The fight is still there and I think it’ll always be there
It’s also nice to fight for features. On last album I had Lil Uzi Vert, he was just a homie of mine, we were on the Fallout Boy and Wiz Khalifa tour. I got so much pushback. People were like, “this guy doesn’t have a big enough following for people to care, we should get someone who’s bigger.” I was like “he sounds amazing, this is my dude, I want him on this song.” And then he blew up a year later.
Even the Katy Perry’s and the Lady Gaga’s have to fight for their Super Bowl concepts and all those kinds of things. That’s a part of being an artist, you have to accept that and love the fight.
Despite the altered release schedule for ‘Colour Vision,’ do you expect to put out more songs between now and the album?
Oh yeah! My next one has a feature, not Korean, but someone who I’ve been frinds with for like 10 years. It’s so cool to finally have a song together, I always thought she was the coolest. It’s been fun to make the next song with her, I’m excited for people to know who it is. She’s such a cool figure and light in the LGBT community, and just an amazing artist.
Should people expect the ‘Colour Vision’ tour to also be postponed due to the Coronavirus?
I think we’re going to push everything. I think everyone is in the same boat. Anyone putting a tour out in that time period is taking a big risk.
I’m excited for people to see the whole vision unfold. “Love Me Less,” “Checklist,” “Acid Dream” and “Where Am I At” have all been one story that’s going to continue through the next singles. And there’s a big, crazy finale at the end– I hope people have fun figuring out how all that’s connected. Stan twitter, stay savage. I appreciate your honesty and I hope you dig this.
Stream MAX‘s latest single, “Where Am I At” on Spotify below: