Singer-songwriter MAX (aka Max Schneider) just became the latest up-and-comer to grace Pepsi’s The Sound Drop. The crooner has made waves by melding soul with electronica along with a heap of notable collaborations with artists like Lil Uzi Vert, gnash and Hoodie Allen.
Pepsi is the latest of MAX’s brand collaborators, as he recently released an acoustic version of his latest single, “Lights Down Low,” as an Amazon Original. The track, which is one of his most personal, just hit the Billboard Hot 100.
The Sound Drop was conceived in partnership with iHeartMedia, Shazam and Viacom in 2016, and it seeks to highlight emerging artists by telling their story while amplifying their visibility across social media.
Now MAX will join the ranks of fellow rising stars like Khalid, Bebe Rexha and Jidenna as the spotlight of Pepsi’s Sound Drop shines on him. He talked to Billboard about what he wants to get out of the Sound Drop and how Paul Dano inspired him to go all-in on a career in music.
How does it feel to be recognized as one of music’s biggest and brightest rising stars as part of the Sound Drop, especially when other people that were picked for this are artists like Khalid, James Arthur and Alessia Cara?
I was gonna say it’s such an honor just to be in that kind of company, with such incredible artists. I’m a big fan of Alessia Cara and Khalid and all of the people they’ve chosen. So when I found out that I was a part of that collective, it was an incredible honor. Pepsi’s so cool. I’ve been saying recently that it’s just really amazing that they spend so much love and energy to highlight artists in such an authentic way. Like, creating this piece for the Sound Drop was so cool because I’ve had experiences before where maybe it’s a piece that someone is trying to do it in their way or they want to hit certain points, but with this piece and with Pepsi Sound Drop, they create an authentic piece to represent me. I really appreciated that because, you know, this day and age, people see through the fake kind of pieces for artists and such. So it was really beautiful that they made it so authentic.
The mission statement for Sound Drop says it wants to “showcase new and original content to share the artists stories in a way that brings them closer to their fans.” Is there a part of your story that you didn’t feel like fans really know about yet that the Sound Drop is gonna be able to highlight for you?
We really got to dive into a few things really important to me. Including, you know, we’re very involved in … finding homes for animals. We had our own little dog named Wink that we adopted, and so we spend a lot of time going to shelters and doing shows there to find forever homes for these animals. It’s the most joyous experience when you see an animal finding a forever home with somebody you can just tell is gonna love them with all their heart. It was really cool to talk about that. And then, it was really beautiful to get to really dive into to, just, I guess, the ups and downs of what it takes to really be committed in music. You know, I was really happy that we got real with it because the biggest parts of the joy of getting to do this — really, it’s about the commitment, it’s about making sure that through whatever obstacles, you stay true to your vision, and you don’t compromise the message or the artistry. So, it was really wonderful to dive deeper than I’ve ever gotten to with this piece.
Initially when you were approached about Sound Drop, what were you hoping you’d get out of it?
It’s just so cool that the first time I met the Pepsi folks I went into their offices, and I played with them. I’ve just kicked it with them a bunch of times. I’ve performed for them at different showcases, things like that. It’s just getting to know the way that they like to run their world and the way that the want to showcase artists and the ways that they want to put it out there. I just wanted to be a part of that. And I love that with these Sound Drops — with Khalid and with every artist they’ve done it with this far — it has been a new way to really just get the message of these artists out there with an incredible company that has established themselves in such a massive, iconic way. So, in that way, it’s really just another piece of the puzzle I always say. It’s beautiful that they don’t have to do this.
Another thing that I really love about it is there’s such a strong and incredible brand that when you see the piece, it’s not like I’m holding Pepsi bottles. That was something that I really appreciated. There was really nothing of that in the piece. It was like — I love that as a company, they chose with this Sound Drop and with these pieces to just make it about the artist and utilize their incredible power and creative instincts to just let the artist to their thing. And that’s sort of in general what I think they continue to do. You see with some of the artists they’ve worked with already, they have featured their songs during commercials, and it’s more than just being part of the Sound Drop. These artists are now part of the Pepsi family that are going to be highlighted [in] different ways. So, I think, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I just was like, “All right, here we go. Let’s see what this becomes.” My expectations were blown away. They were so kind and so wonderful, and they just really created and treated me with such kindness and respect. I’m delighted to be part of the family.
You’ve talked about watching Paul Dano act and how it was kind of an epiphany for you to know that you wanted to do music instead of continuing your acting career [he starred in Nickelodeon’s How To Rock]. You were passionate about music the way he was passionate about acting.
Oh yeah. It would be an honor because, you know, that moment I had with Paul Dano was this moment of realizing, “Wow, this guy lives and breathes this.” He became this character in the Beach Boys movie [Love & Mercy, in which MAX played Van Dyke Parks]. He spent the last three, four months creating this persona and becoming this person to be the most truthful. And you could tell he loved doing that. It wasn’t work for him. It was hard work, but it was all about him doing out of passion.
For me, I’ve always been into acting. Acting is awesome. But I don’t have that passion that he has for it. But I have that passion for music, and I’m willing to live in a van and travel the country and go to however many radio stations a day and do however many shows a day to get it out there. I think that if you don’t have that, then do something else because the people that have that are the ones that are going to fight every obstacle. And if you’re willing to do that then you have to do it because it’s rare to have a feeling about whatever it is like that, you know? But if you have that feeling, that’s what special. Even more than the talent, even more than anything else, that work ethic and that passion are very rare. And so, yeah, that was the epiphany — realizing, that’s how I feel about music, I gotta stop acting for a while and just hop in a van and get this going. I gotta commit to this.
When was that?
It was about two and a half years ago. That was when I had the epiphany and, yeah, I’m blowing up mattresses in my van right now… but it’s worth it. I love it. It’s like, I just woke up. Five hours of sleep going from Denver to New Mexico with this guy here, and it’s like, in the end I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m not thinking about any other life that I’d want to be living, and I think that that’s how you know. That’s the bottom line: if you feel like there’s something else out there for you, you gotta do that thing.
What else can fans look forward to from MAX after The Sound Drop?
I got a little intro [for my tour] called Meteor that comes out right in November, so it will be a little piece. Just a short intro into the second album, and I’m really excited for people to start hearing what we’re working on for this second album because I’ve done probably 30, 35 songs for it but I’m wanting to do like 100 songs for it. I just want to make it for our peeps, so I’m really excited for that and again, just really honored to be part of the Sound Drop and Pepsi is amazing. And I can’t wait for people to see this piece that they’ve created because they’ve done such an incredible job just really highlighting what I think is important to make sure people get to know me.