Pop singer MAX, a guy who grew up on a steady diet of NSYNC, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, started acting and singing at an early age. He says those early days gave him a chance to grow and explore just what his sound and overall approach to art would be.
“I had the passion at 5 years old, but I needed to work a lot on my acting and singing and dancing,” he says in an email interview. MAX performs on Friday, Dec. 2, at House of Blues. “I had a lot of wonderful and very patient teachers who inspired me and kept it real when they knew I could be better. Our mentors and teachers always deserve so much praise for giving us a safe space to mess up and to try new things that could end up being what makes us unique in our performance styles.”
Recording at a New York studio owned by his father’s friend, MAX put out his first EP in 2010.
“I had just gotten home from summer camp with my friend Nick (who is to this day one of the greatest piano players I know), and we recorded songs that I had been writing in high school and at my summer camp together,” he says. “It’s so funny to look back on those early ideas. Sometimes, people at shows who have been fans for a long time even ask me to play ‘The Coconut Song,’ which was the first song I ever wrote.”
MAX has certainly evolved over a series of singles and albums. His latest effort, Colour Vision, features collaborations with a variety of musicians and embraces a variety of musical styles, ranging from hip-hop and pop to rock. “Love Me Less,” the first song that MAX wrote for the album, helped shape the album. With its ratcheting percussion and upper-range vocals, the song displays MAX's keen modern pop sensibilities. It features a cameo by Quinn XCIII, who delivers soulful vocals of his own.
“I wanted to have a distinct high energy in every track that feels colorful and vibrant while still having vulnerability in the lyrics,” MAX says when asked about his approach on the album. “Then, the visuals started to take form in the yellow theme space and storyline. I’m so proud of the whole team who helped bring the album vision to life. [Working with Quinn XCIII] was so cool. He’s the best. Quinn is such a humble and outrageously talented man and he has the best stage presence. It’s so great to work with him!”
The sonically dense pop tune “Blueberry Eyes,” a track that features SUGA of BTS, stands out as another album highlight.
“I remember distinctly the day we started writing it,” MAX says when asked about the tune. “I wanted to write a sort of dreamy and lush feeling song, and I had the lines ‘blueberry eyes and strawberry skies.’ The other songwriters were into it and the rest of the day was a dream songwriting day. Then, SUGA of BTS and I became friends, and he added his incredible verse to the song. [The song is] inspired by my beautiful wife and her outrageously mesmerizing blue eyes, so it’s always her song — and now my daughter who got her eyes as well :).”
MAX brings the funk to his latest single, the infectiously groovy “Wasabi.”
“I wanted to write a song that felt magical when we performed it live,” he says of "Wasabi." “[Multi-instrumentalist and composer] Cody Dear, one of my consistent collaborators, had the drop musical line, and it got me inspired. I had the title ‘Wasabi’ in my phone, and we just built from there to make the song the most fun possible.”
For the live show, MAX says he wants people to leave the concert feeling incredibly “alive.”
Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]