Enamored with the need to release nearly eight years of pent up passion and musical ingenious because he says it simply “has to be done,” soulful R&B singer Maxwell has officially returned to a welcoming audience. When he took a break over seven years ago, shortly after “Now” was released, no one knew, including the man himself, whether the reception would be the same if and when he returned. Thankfully, fans of good music have turned out and supported the same man who sang “Fortunate,” “Matrimony” and “Lifetime” years back. Because of the immense support Maxwell is grateful. More than anything however, he is grateful for having the opportunity to simply “do it again.”
Sitting down with Singersroom for a candid session, Maxwell shares his love for music while also shedding light on his break from the scene; the link between a failed relationship and “Blacksummers’night;” his first demo; and even what makes him smile. But Maxwell does get a little serious with us when discussing the state of the music industry and what seems to motivate other artists â in fact, his answer will surprise you.
Singersroom: People continue to support your music. Is the reaction from fans still surprising?
Maxwell: Yes. It never stops for me. It’s kind of emotional for me. So many people have been so supportive and encouraging over the years and have been waiting for this album to make its debut. I’m just so grateful in every way that I still have this great, great opportunity to make music for people and to make music for myself. To share it with the world, that rush, it never loses its luster.
Singersroom: You mentioned time off. What was most liberating about your time away from music?
Maxwell: Not having pressure of being anything but a person. In my every day, not having a deadline [and] not having a due date. Making music like I did when I was a kid, because I just needed to finish it, because I wanted to hear how it ended up as opposed to getting it over to mastering and getting it over to production or all the outlets that it has to get through to get out to the world and in people’s hands.
Just making music for the sheer joy was really what captivated me over the last few years. I hope that people can really hear that in what we’ve put together for them in this trilogy that’s about to sort of find its way into people’s hearts over the next three years.
The first installment feels good. It’s like that published thing… You know how it is when you’re a writer and you see your name in the byline. In your own words and seeing them in print and knowing that even though you don’t know what eyes are watching or what eyes are reading, you know somebody is picking up what you have to say and your perspective. It all works the same with music in that regard. I’m delighted in so many ways to be published!!!
Singersroom: In a recent interview you said cutting your hair was liberating because people did not recognize you. Would you consider growing it back?
Maxwell: You know I may. I may wake up one morning if the wind is blowing this way [and do it]. I don’t ever want to be in the same zone. I know how easy it is to do what is expected of you.
I know a lot of people have their opinions about what I should do [and] that I should grow my hair back.
It’s funny. When I was in New Orleans I did some signings and met some really amazing people who buy and wanted to get their record signed and you know, give me a handshake and say hello and all those things. You get the occasional “Oh baby you need to grow your hair back” but I take it with love. I don’t see it as though I’m not being accepted because all of a sudden I want to have a fade.
You know I just wanted a fade so bad for a while. I just wanted to get lined up, go to the barber for a second, instead of waking up with my buckwheat or what was my hair before. I’m just happy that people are overlooking it, that my career wasn’t built on a hair style.
Singersroom: Let’s talk music. BLACKsummers’night is being released as a trilogy, why is that?
Maxwell: I just wanted to do something ambitious. I had spent so much time away and so much material that I did not want to inundate people with too much at once. I think that’s a why.
There’s not that much time in the world. People have so much that they want to listen to and do. I feel like if you’re concise and concentrated in your approach people can take it in a lot more and I’ve never done a trilogy and I’ve always wanted to do one so this was the perfect opportunity. I feel this was the perfect time with the way that the world is now with the recession and the passing of Michael Jackson and the changing of the garb, with our new president, and all the great things that are happening and making America progress I feel like this is a good time. I’m just happy that I’m here to do it and that I’m alive, able and healthy enough â¦ all those things you know.
Singersroom: It has been confirmed that an unfortunate break up affected this album. Would you say the best music comes from frustration in the romance department?
Maxwell: It’s sad to say but pain resonates in a way. Part of you that is bruised; part of you that yearns and longs for certain healing looks to art to help that cathartic movement; and it bodes well for material. I didn’t want to fake anything and try and create some pain. It was difficult after many years of being well received. And not just well received but, the loyalty that I feel like a lot of people have regarding what I do. Sometimes you can get kind of complacent. You can be in your zone and you don’t [feel] you have to try as hard and I think that the time away created a certain amount of urgency. It reminds me of my first days when I was just shopping a demo and working out all that I could in a four track studio that I bought as a teenager. All of those things sort of came back to me now. They’re here now. They’re all exemplified in the music that you’ll get over the next three years so it makes it feel real and that’s what I want to give people.
I don’t get up in the morning just to make money. I’m not just trying to sell records to meet the quota and keep the house going or the car running and all those things. It’s good to make music because there’s like an urge in you that needs it to happen. I think it’s much better for me to listen back to something and go wow there’s a struggle there, there’s purpose here and the purpose is a creative purpose and not just about maintaining my celebrity [or whatever that is] or fame. Those things don’t really interest me. They come and go fast and you can’t hang your hat on something like that. You can definitely hang your hat on the songs you’ve written.
Knowing that “hey I went through this thing that really happened to me and I hope that what I went through really resonates in someone else” and they can go “yeah, you know, me too, me too” or “yeah I know where you’re coming from” — That’s what I live for. I live for those moments and I’m so, so excited about this great opportunity before me right now.
Singersroom: With that said, if music turned into a job and was no longer fun would you call it quits?
Maxwell: You know. I don’t know if I could ever quit music. It’s just like a thing in me that I have no real control over why I need to do it â it’s just something that has to be done.
But I think I sort of did that already. I think that when I was trying to put together this next album, I was like why am I making this. I’ve said this before but, it’s like every artist, the first time they step into the world and first time they’re received or make that mark, it’s that feeling of doing it for the service of it rather than the result. I made this album and these albums with the assistance of so many great people. Musicians on this album are at the top of their game. To be in that zone or that place where you’re just making music because you really love itâ¦ you can tell the difference I think. I can [tell] when I hear it in someone else’s work. I’m sure when people listen to what I do, they know oh yeah you know “this guy is really doing it because he cares.” And you know when you hear the other thingâ¦ “This guy is doing it just because he wants to buy that new Lamborghini”.
Singersroom: How do you keep the energy around you fun and aloft?
Maxwell: I’m lucky. I’m really lucky. Blessed is what I really feel. I pride myself on not trying to look at things in that zone or that vein but, I think everyone around me really knows me like family. There’s no heir or hierarchy or any of that kind of stuff: People telling me what I gotta do and where I gotta go and come on andâ¦ I don’t look at it as people work for me. I work with people. We work with each other. We all are equal. Everyone’s role in my experience and from what I do is still equal and is so essential to the outcome that you ultimately get to hear or to see. It’s a team effort, that’s how I see it. —— By: Interview By Njai Joszor