Maxwell Invites Fans to the 'Lake By the Ocean'

Christian Hansen

Maxwell photographed while performing in 2016.

New single precedes July 1 release of long-awaited ‘blackSUMMERS’night’ album; a 25-date tour kicks off June 18

Maxwell gets a jump on boosting this summer’s heat index with today’s (April 8) release of “Lake By the Ocean.” It’s the lead single from the Grammy Award winner’s blackSUMMERS’night. Seven years in the making, the project is the second album in the artist’s three-part musical trilogy that began with 2009's BLACKsummers'night. Columbia Records will release the set on July 1.

The intense yet seductive “Lake By the Ocean” revolves around Maxwell’s favorite core subjects: love, heartbreak and relationships. Triggered by the singer’s silky, shape-shifting tenor, the mid-tempo track was written and produced by Musze (aka Maxwell) and his longtime collaborator Hod David. Acknowledging that heartbreak is always at the root of most of the songs he pens, Maxwell calls the single a “love story about finding joy after having gone through struggle and betrayal. Small situations, like even a lake by the ocean, is big enough for you. When you’re so in love, you don’t need more.” 

For fans, the song will call to mind Maxwell’s top-charting “Pretty Wings.” The sultry lead single introduced the trilogy’s first chapter,

. Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the album has sold 1.2 million according to Nielsen Music. “Pretty Wings” spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while second single “Bad Habits” peaked at No. 4 on the same tally. The album later won two Grammys, including best R&B album. The new single is available at all major digital retailers.

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the artist’s career-launching debut, 1996’s Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, the forthcoming blackSUMMERS’night has already set in motion plans for a 25-date tour. Kicking off June 18, the trek includes a headlining stint at the 2016 Essence Festival. The singer will announce the summer tour schedule on Monday, April 11 at http://www.musze.com/.

During a cab ride home from the New York studio where he’s been recording blackSUMMERS’night, Maxwell chatted with Billboard about his 20-year career, getting his “boogie” on and giving a shout-out to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on the new album. “You know, I’m crazy right now,” says Maxwell with a laugh, “because I’m sitting at the end of this. I’m always losing my mind when I’m at the end of something. But it’s a good crazy.”

Maxwell Takes Flight With 'Pretty Wings' Single, Readies Album

On notoriously taking his time: I’m always working on music. But when you put into play the release of an album, it’s a different situation; kind of a relationship. As much as you want to please the person, you have to be who you are but still evolve at the same time. You also have to keep your standards up in an ever-changing world of sound and new people coming up. At the same time, I don’t want to be formulaic or copy myself. That’s something I can’t stand. I can’t work based on just because two or three years have passed. So I go into these little pauses. I’m waiting for that spark. I can’t describe it. But it says to me that since I’ve been through more pain or I’m happy, I can now write and make a song that feels a certain way -- and one I feel is good enough to be on the record.

On name-checking President Obama and the First Lady: Because I love President Barack Obama so much, I definitely had to give a shout-out to him and First Lady Michelle Obama. I don’t think I’ve ever name-checked anybody on any album before. But when I was releasing the first BLACKsummers’night, President Obama was campaigning and then got elected. Now as I’m releasing this new album, he and the First Lady are just about to leave. So I just wanted to send a nod to them and the way that it’s expressed is pretty nice. It’s about having that special woman around you when the world is crazy.

On more hints about the new album: We have some boogie records on there, too, that I think will surprise people. I don’t want to sound too sure of myself, but I think you will want to dance when you hear them. We kind of went back to my first record where I had more of those type of songs like “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder).” And summer is the operative word. You’re out, drinking, dancing, moving. We have a lot of that going on with this album. I hope people can get into the boogie of it because there’s some boogie right up in there.

On his 20 years-and-counting career: I could not ever in my wildest imagination have envisioned this. I get to do something that most people dream about. I come from a lower middle class family; I know what real work is. So I’m very aware of how special it is to have the opportunity I’ve been given over the last 20 years to make music. I’m lucky, blessed … whatever you want to call it. I just got all these dates for things we’ll be doing in the next two years. It’s pretty intensive. Sometimes I’m a bit of a wild child and don’t like the routine. But I’m grateful for it and happy for what we have with this album.