This interview previously appeared on Alt Philanthropy, an online music publication active from March 2016 to April 2020.
Rising star MAX is only beginning to culminate a music discography in his own name, but he has been an influential part of young Hollywood for years. Boasting high-profile song placements, Disney channel roles and a Dolce and Gabbana campaign (featuring Madonna, no less) - Max is far from a newcomer. Backstage at Summerfest I had a chance to talk with him about his recent creative work and what listeners can expect in the era afterHell's Kitchen Angel.
Emily Muller: You've already had a long and successful career before adapting the MAX moniker. What has been the biggest shift in going from acting and placing songs to making music under your own name?
MAX: It's mostly traveling around so much to play and perform to people and to go to radio stations and whatever else. It's amazing to get to travel to places and see the people who are listening. That's been the biggest change for sure.
EM: Speaking of placements, have there been any songs that you placed with other artists that you found particularly hard to part with?
MAX: Great question. I did a song with my friend Prince Fox recently. That one was a special story of mine, but it ended up that he wanted to sing it. It was really cool that he embodied the work. That's always awesome. I've had the same on my end with Jon Bellion...he's started a song and then said "I want you to sing this." When something comes from such a special place, you want to intrust it to someone that is going to take care of your baby.
[The one placed with Prince Fox] was special. It was called Five Months Later. The story was special to me.
EM: Wonderful, and if someone brings good life to it why not part with it. You've been playing new material on your tour. Any hints on what we can expect from the new album?
MAX: A lot of soul. This record I've done mostly with these guys in Modern Reggae who did "Love Me Less" and a bunch of other songs. We've brought a lot of energy in the production which is unique in comparison to my last album which I'm excited for people to hear.
EM: You've been really vocal in support of animal adoption and you said earlier that you had a dog. What started this passion? Tell me about your own pets.
MAX: I've had animals a lot of my life. I had cats and then I had a hamster. I think a lot of my animals passed away when I was very young so I had a weird feeling about having an animal. When my wife moved in with me she gave her cat to her best friend. She said, "we have to get an animal, we have to get a dog or something."
We met Wink on the street! He's a little one-eyed yorkie and that changed everything for me. The second I adopted him I knew that I wanted to [be vocal about animal adoption] because he changed my life in such an incredible way. I couldn't imagine someone abandoning him and it was so clear that [animal adoption] was going to be the cause that we were going to go for. It's been cool to get other babies adopted.
MAX: Exactly, he's always winking.
EM: And you've said before thatHell's Kitchen Angel was your most honest work but that you only scratched the surface with that record. How has your search for authenticity evolved throughout your music career?
MAX: It's always a fight, I'd say, especially in the pop-sphere of music to put out songs with messages that you really believe in. That's always a priority for me. I think it's gotten easier because of the success of "Lights Down Low". It blows my mind that every time something does well, still some people are like "put this song out that you didn't write." It doesn't feel right. I would never want to put that out.
It's given me more strength to fight to put out the authentic messages. My last album was very honest but I'm even more excited to dive even deeper with this new record.
EM: Brilliant, I'm excited. After your show tonight you'll be heading to Europe. What are you most looking forward to?
MAX: I have a few beautiful friends there which is always great. More than anything I just love the different vibes of the different crowds in each country. The fact that you're going to a different country every day with a different language is probably the most unique thing in the world. Where else can you do that, day-to-day?
EM: Thanks! I look forward to the show tonight.