The 405 meets Max Jury: "I've been trying to tune into my heart and soul more these last few months."
Electric Lady Studios located in Greenwich Village, New York City, is pretty legendary. Built by the one and only Jimi Hendrix just four weeks before his tragic death, the studios have since been used by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Kanye West, Guns N Roses and Daft Punk to name a few. Oh, and one of the latest offering? Max Jury.
Part recording his forthcoming album Max Jury in the big apple, the Iowa singer-songwriter reminisces with a cheeky "Ha!"
"We were listening back to an early mix of 'Numb' at Electric Lady very loudly and the vibration of the bass knocked a candle conveniently onto the mixing board. A mixing board which I'm sure contributed to some pretty classic recordings. Wax was everywhere. They ended up being able to restore it easy enough but we were promptly kicked out. That was the end of the Electric Lady session, to say the least. Just one of those freak accidents. Note to self: buy battery operated candles."
He's toured with Lana Del Rey, and been appearing on radio airwaves, with a debut album up his sleeve it won't be long until you're formally introduced.
The piano-playing musician carefully weaves bluesy tones with '70s folksy acoustics and contemporary neo-soul confession, whilst rock 'n roll spills off the tip of the tongue with rough edges. His already vast back-catalogue feels timeless. As though we've dug it up from dry ground, wiped off the mud and placed it on the record player. Span in a euphoric haze, then, placed it carefully back for others to enjoy in forty years' time.
Latest single, 'Numb', spills heart with warm rhythm and gospel chorus. Transporting to a sleepy American dust road with brick cliff side we roll down a slow burning trail with steady percussion and swaggering drums. Rock riffs kick alongside longing vocals and slick bass.
Flecked with electric elements, the savvy mix of old and new rolls like old friends that meet unplanned in a crappy bar, and end up drinking whiskey and righting the wrongs until the sun comes up.
Nodding towards a crooked road of sin, and desire to escape, Max's writing is always autobiographical. Making his move to London from Des Moines, Max laughs off any hints of rebellion burrowed in his loving bones "Oh, yes. Very rebellious. I even have a Che Guevara shirt...!"
"I've been trying to tune into my heart and soul more these last few months," he confides. "Be more honest with myself, ya know? It's actually pretty scary for me to dig deep down in there. "It's easier to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. But when I am paying attention to what my heart and soul, and even conscience, need and what they are saying, I'm happier. If I had a totally healthy relationship with my insides I don't think I would have the pressing need to write songs."
The 23-year-old kindly weaves wisdom into his songs, challenging innermost emotion and setting it free through bruised vocals and poetic honesty. Recently released 'Great American Novel' spellbinds with simplicity, orchestral accompaniment only highlights the ache in his voice that teeters on tired.
Talking about the self-titled landing this June, Max lets us read his diary.
"Over the last few years I've probably racked up about 100 songs. Some written by myself, some written with others. Some very good, some very, very bad. I picked these 11 songs for the album for one simple reason - they were my favourite to sing.
"They are all autobiographical in some capacity because I find it hard to perform songs I can't relate with. If I don't have some sort of emotional attachment to the tune it ends up feeling forced or half-assed. I think audiences can hear that. So in terms of the story, it's basically just a document of my life and the lives of my friends these past couple of years!"
Undeniable shots of early Americana taint Jury's music. From rustic acoustics to folksy storytelling, organic arpeggios and sweetheart swing rhythms capsule an intoxicating blend of sunbeams and reassurance. There's bittersweet catharsis with every word and pluck, lit with wisdom and wonder.
Talking further about the album, the American influences flood from different directions. Part recorded in NYC, and the other in an isolated part of North Carolina, two types of processes meet in the middle to craft a sound that capture the movement of life.
"In New York we were working against the clock and cut a lot of parts live, so the recordings have a sense of urgency and rawness. We recorded at Electric Lady, which is rich in musical history, so I think everyone was feeling really inspired and really going for it.
"In North Carolina, we had a home recording setup in the middle of the woods. It was serenely beautiful, I'd walk out on the porch in the morning and see hummingbirds. Once Stacy (who owned the home studio) managed to get one to land on his finger. Everything and everyone was very relaxed and the songs we cut there reflected that."
The end result is "pretty transparent", true to its emotions and roots. With the help of hip-hop producer Inflo and Stacy, who is the musical director of a small, black church, the album promises to encapsulate gospel and soul with a fresh gloss.
Well, this is the guy who decided that if there were a jukebox on the first date it'd be a tie "between Drake's 'Hotline Bling' and the Daryl Hall and John Oates' classic 'Rich Girl'" as to where he'd put his dime.
On the way, we're sure to meet vibrant characters in Max's honest stories. We've already been introduced to the girl with 'Christian Eyes', the lady who knows too much in the slinking 'Killing Time' and the swing-infused Mr whose crooked schemes have led to begging for his love to 'Change Your Mind for Me'.
"I think my favourite personal story is the one behind 'Black Metal' because of how unusual it is." Max starts, interestingly. "My friend was dancing with this sundress wearing, seemingly very innocent and sweet girl at a bar in Iowa. When we got back to my place later that night we looked her up on Instagram, because hey it's 2016, no shame. We found her account was mostly dedicated to Satan. We thought it was hilarious and penned the song that night."
Delightful angelic harmonies shine with blissful irony, whilst nifty electronic riffs perk the downtempo rhythm. Bracing a wry, crooked smile the repetitive object of affection in steady hymn. "She don't listen to rock and roll, she don't listen jazz or soul."
As the theme of lost love rolls throughout the wistful lyricism, Max lends a shoulder to cry on and is a world away from the "nonsense humming" that he used to trill around his house as a toddler. Wise beyond his years, he explains "I don't think I really started to discover my voice, both physically and 'artistically' until making this record. I was fortunate enough to work with my man Inflo, who challenged and questioned me in new ways. He really shifted my perspective on how much effort, patience, and care it takes just to sing one song. At 23, I feel like I still have a long road until I really discover my voice and where/how it belongs in the world - but that's half the fun."
With his heart on his flannel shirt sleeve and the secret twinkle in his eye, complete with a full band for forthcoming performances, Max's live shows are something endearing.
"Sometimes it is scary to reveal myself, emotionally, in front of a crowd. And sometimes you just don't want to relive any given song on any given night. But more often than not I find it to be a liberation. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that a song I wrote connected with a stranger in a deep way and helped them through something they were struggling with. That is easily the most rewarding part of the job."
Lathered in sepia tones and a rich charisma, the Iowa singer is a heartthrob in his own right. Sterling vocals and blue-collar sensibilities create a precious collection of intimate songs to be enjoyed over and over. With the debut album dropping this summer, its dusty roots will transpire best of a warm evening, perhaps rocking in a chair where you can drape in its magic.
Max Jury is out June 3rd.
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