Pop

20 Questions With Max: Artist Talks Collaborating With BTS' Suga, Preparing to Become a Dad For the First Time

Deanie Chen

Max has proven himself as one of the most versatile artists in pop music. Over his 12-year career, the singer-songwriter has performed on Broadway, starred in TV shows and movies, and collaborated with artists like Noah Cyrus, Lil Uzi Vert and Hayley Kiyoko. Throughout it all, he’s consistently released stellar solo material, reaching new heights with the 2016 sleeper hit "Lights Down Low."

Max hasn’t slowed down since. With his new album Colour Vision, the followup to 2016's Hell's Kitchen Angel, he’s delivered a tight set of pop gems with some help from collaborators including Chromeo, Felly and Suga of BTS.

Ahead of the album’s Sept. 18 release, Max answered 20 questions for Billboard. Check it out below.


What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?

Purple Rain by Prince was the first vinyl I bought. It still sits in my studio right near where I record to spark inspiration.

What was the first concert you saw?

Insanely enough, I didn’t see a proper concert live -- besides doing my own -- until I was in college. Justin Nozuka at Webster Hall my freshman year. Many *NYSNC and Britney Spears live DVDs were watched growing up, though.

What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?

They were both lawyers, but my dad has always had the performing bug in him. He’s a character and a half and always making people smile with his personality. They actually came on my first tour and lived in the bus with us.

Who or what made you realize you could be an artist full-time?

First time I met Pharrell, he listened to my song “Mug Shot.” His reaction was so pure. He kept complimenting the vocal moments that others had criticized me for being too “out there” for. He instilled a very deep confidence in trusting my own gut and committing to a vision and career.

What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?

Headlining Madison Square Garden. I’m a New Yorker, and a die-hard Knicks fan. Headlining Red Rocks is a close second.

How did your hometown/city shape who you are?

New York is so full of energy and vibrance. Everywhere you go you are surrounded by different stories and cultures. There’s an independence that comes with being able to explore at an early age and an empathy that comes from being able to get to know so many people from different backgrounds and cultures.

What’s the last song you listened to?

Kacey Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy.”

If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?

Prince live during the Purple Rain era, hands down.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?

I had just performed my song “Lights Down Low” in Alabama at Hangout Fest. I always say a little speech that I wrote the song for my wife and proposed to her with it, so it represents loving who you’re meant to love, whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, transgender. Usually there is a very roaring and loving response, but this show was almost silent. I started the song and mid-way through I heard roars from the crowd. Two beautiful women had just gotten engaged mid-song.

We brought them on stage and I felt the energy completely change to one of acceptance and kindness. I’ve never felt quite a shift like that at a show. It was magical.

What’s the weirdest or most unique venue you’ve played?

I’ve played some really weird venues! The most unique and magical was probably Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. It’s an interactive, vibrant, immersive art museum mixed with a music venue.

Which band would you drop everything to join if you were asked?

BTS. I’d have to really step my game up to keep up with their work ethic and diligence, but for obvious reasons they take everything to another level.

What TV series have you watched all the way through multiple times?

Brooklyn Nine Nine and Shark Tank. I’m watching the most recent episodes of Shark Tank and comparing the latest ones to the first season episodes is wild.

What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?

My baby’s name that we’ve chosen, but I still ain’t revealing that ‘till she’s born!

If you were not a musician, what would you be?

I think I would be a director. I collaborate with the directors of a lot of my music videos or direct them myself. I just love the process and how many incredibly talented people are involved each step of the way to bring a piece to fruition.

What was it like reuniting with BTS’s Suga on “Blueberry Eyes”?

Suga is the best. We text back and forth with excitement about each other’s new music and all the new developments in our careers. We encourage each other. Our texts literally read [like] him saying, “Go MAX, Go ‘Blueberry Eyes,’” and me saying, “Go Yoongi, Go ‘Dynamite!’” I’m really grateful to have him on the album.

Who do you want to collaborate with next?

Tyler, the Creator and Aminé. They both are so involved in every aspect of their projects, from the music to the visuals, to the merch. It’s all a part of a very specific world with each album and I admire that attention to detail.

What are the challenges of releasing an album during a pandemic?

It tests your creativity. Everyone is wearing multiple hats to get everything done. Even as I do this interview, I have the “Working For the Weekend” video being edited with the director on my right, and the editor for the “Blueberry Eyes” video on my left. It’s like we’re in a quarantined music startup.

What about the benefits/positives?

You just feel even more immersed in every aspect of the album, because you just have to be. I’m more involved with every part of this rollout and it’s making me realize I want it to be like this with every album from now on. I just think the fans will feel the spirit and connective tissue so much more so with this project because of the deeper involvement I’ve had with every piece.

What do you miss most about performing in front of a live audience?

Everything. It’s a piece of my soul and energy just vacant. Nothing fills that feeling. It’s intangible and a magic you just can’t replicate with anything else.

What’s something you’ve been passionate about lately outside of your work?

My baby girl is due in December. So just soaking in every kick I feel through my wife’s stomach. She’s even in her first music video -- the “Blueberry Eyes” video. It’s amazing how much you can love a human being who you haven’t even met yet. My passion is for my wife and our soon-to-be little queen.


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