Maxim Ludwig is on the road to success in his new song “Big White Wall” and won’t let anything get in the way. It’s a familiar and seemingly noble pursuit, but the soulful L.A. rocker asks is that such a good thing?
On “Big White Wall,” which Billboard is exclusively premiering, Ludwig plays the fanatically obsessive nihilist ready to lay it all on the line to achieve his goal. Like many of the songs on his debut album Liba-Scorpio Cusp (out June 2), Ludwig takes on the voice of someone that exists deep in most of us and is intrinsic in our American identity. Here, he is unwavering in his commitment to his own egocentricity.
“I heard to sacrifice is a part of life, but I promised that I’d never make a compromise,” he sings over a fist-pumping, sax-heavy groove that channels 1980s David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and even mid-era Prince with unabashed earnestness.
“There is a fine line between obsession and drive — that’s what the song is about,” Ludwig tells Billboard, explaining Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick served as his primary inspiration. “Is it heroic that Ahab finally does harpoon the whale, but the whale takes him down as well? Is getting what you want the thing that’s gonna save you, or the thing that’s gonna kill you?”
Ludwig’s no stranger to these kinds of emotional extremes. As a teenager nearly a decade ago, he was hyped as Los Angeles’ second coming of Buffalo Springfield and Bob Dylan‘s rightful heir following performances at the Stagecoach Festival and Austin City Limits with his Santa Fe Seven Band, even working with superstar producer T-Bone Burnett for a time. But his career faltered and in a bitterly ironic twist he wound up working as an assembly line foreman at a downtown factory packaging other artists’ deluxe edition CDs and box sets. Now Ludwig’s back for more and from the sound of it “Big White Wall” serves as much as a warning to others as a reminder to himself to do things differently this time around.
“What’s the difference between a successful asshole and an asshole? It’s just success,” he says. “You hear about these titans of industry and geniuses of art who f— people over and we excuse them and say they did what they needed to do. When Frank Sinatra sings ‘I did it my way’ and we all love him for it, we applaud it. But that kind of individualism can be just as dangerous as it is enviable. It all depends. For instance: There is nothing romantic or sexy about Trump’s success, but there is in Van Gogh’s failure.”
Listen to Ludwig’s “Big White Wall” here: