Mon, 20 Jul 2009 08:57:25
Maxwell is on cloud nine right now.
His soulful and sultry brand new album, BLACKsummers'night, just debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. It's the first time the world has heard from the neo-soul crooner since 2001's Now. However, Maxwell spent that time wisely crafting the album of his career. BLACKsummers'night is powerful and poignant at all the right points. It also shows his growth as a songwriter and a man.
While riding on the tour bus from Columbus to Cleveland, Maxwell talked to ARTISTdirect.com about the new record, how the world has changed, why the Wayans Brothers rule and some flicks that he digs.
Congratulations on your number #1 debut!
Thank you! It was a labor of love and I know it took awhile. People were so patient. Now they're going out and buying the record, and that's always a great compliment to what I do.
Did you approach the album like a movie where everything connects and follows one narrative?
We try to do that. You don't know if it's going to read that way, but I don't want to be heavy handed at all. I like people to feel that naturally. I'm glad that you take that away from it. I do this because I love the art of music and the art of albums. To have something like this happen twice in my career even after so many years between records is incredible. There are no words to truly express that feeling. All I can say is W-O-W [Laughs].
Each song definitely tells a story. What inspired that? Were you reading a lot or watching a lot of movies?
I think what I went through helped. I didn't have a year to chalk up a bunch of life experience and then just put a record out. Usually when artists put out records there's a year or two between them. In that time, they're fresh off of being so famous or something like that typically [Laughs]. That's not what was going on in my life. I had days where I didn't even know if anybody would care if this record ever came out. I made it from the days I was truly living in, which were void of anything related to the music business, music life or my career. I'm just a guy dating girls and having things work out and not work out. I had room to live and write. That was a real blessing.
Soul music has to come from that natural place.
Yeah, unfortunately it's a business too. You've got people tapping on your shoulder and fearmongers creating insecurity. They say stuff like, "If you don't come out now, this person's going to take over." You've got to deal with that. I stuck to my guns though. It's a trilogy so there were a lot of records to be written for this. There's what you just got, and we've got the second and the third kind of ready to go. I want to do something good. I'm just glad some people think it is good. I can't say the world is unanimous. Who knows? I don't necessarily need reviews and things like that because they make me too self-conscious about myself. I get words from whatever people feel when I'm walking down the street or having a conversation with someone like you [Laughs]. I'm pleasantly surprised when there is positivity connected to anything that I do [Laughs]. I take it with great joy, and I'm glad it's for real.
Well, since you have this vision for a trilogy, you're going to follow it through no matter what. That's the most inspiring aspect of it.
Wow…I can't say that I'm the only one who's a part of it. Again, kudos to Hod David for his co-contributor expertise here. Kudos to the musicians. Kudos to my manager as well for fighting the good fight and re-convincing people that all is not lost and over. I know it's been seven years but trust me when you get this…A lot of people have a lot to be grateful when it comes to the first week and the reception of the album overall. I'm so happy. I can't even tell you! It really is like a big weight off my shoulders.
"Cold" stands out. What's the story behind that one?
It's like the flip side of "Pretty Wings." It's what happens after "Pretty Wings"—after the breakup. It's about reconnecting with that person and realizing that person does not feel the same. If they do, they get so hidden in this iceberg or these polar caps—whatever they are at this point. Maybe there's something at epicenter of this frozen person that still feels something for you, but the exterior is ice. That's really what "Cold" is about.
Is the last song "Phoenix Rise" like your segue to the next album?
Some people are like, "There are only nine songs. Why do you have an instrumental ending the record?" [Laughs] I'm glad that you can see that. It's definitely a segue. It's a hint to what's coming up. I didn't want to put all these records out at once. It didn't make any sense because that's too much music for people. I do enjoy the fact that there's something to wait for.
You build it like a series and people have something to look forward to.
That was the goal. That's what I hope happens. People are really into it. I heard so many incredible stories about people not being able to buy the album because it basically left the store. Who knew? When I was on year four without an album, I was nervous. I didn't know if this would all be waiting for me. I'm so grateful. In a world where people come and go so fast to have my feet firmly planted in people's musical consciousness is amazing. I don't know what to say. It's a great feeling.
The Wayans Brothers were particularly excited about your new record in one interview I did.
Are you serious? I'm a huge Wayans fan! That's awesome. Shout out to the Wayans! In Living Color is my stuff! There is so much that they've done after. They're like their own Jacksons in a weird way. It's funny. It's almost so funny it's cringe-ready. You're like, "Oh my God they did not make this joke" [Laughs]. You love it. For those funny guys to be interested in what I do, I'm like "Wow!" It's been a huge surprise on all accounts. On the first day that the album came out, I was out in New York walking around. This 20-year-old girl comes up to me and goes, "I just bought your record." I'm looking at her like, "You're 20-years-old. My last album came out eight years ago so you were eleven or twelve. Why do you know me?" [Laughs] That was my question to her! You've got that and then you've got people in their 40s or their late 30s that are into it. It's a surprise.
What movies are you watching these days?
I'm in hotels so I'm watching in-theater stuff On Demand. I checked out Watchmen. I loved Revolutionary Road. I liked I Love You, Man. I'm catching up on a lot of movies that I didn't get to see. I saw Doubt and Slumdog Millionaire. I liked Wolverine. I'm a fan. When I was a kid I would buy old comic books. Whenever those action/hero movies come out, I can't front, they're guilty pleasures for sure.
You've done things so naturally this record, and that integrity is tangible.
That's all you can do. I'm so happy. I look at what people go through in my world. I've been so blessed that people have always focused on my music and they've allowed me the space to live.