So by now, you gone out and copped Maxwell latest album, BLACKsummers’night (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?). His first album after an eight year hiatus, the artist, known for his silky vocals and heartfelt lyrics, is hitting the ground running. Thanks to “Pretty Wings,” the first single off the album, breaking up has never looked or sounded so good. If you’re looking for the Maxwell from “Urban Hang Suite,” you should look elsewhere. This new Maxwell is older, wiser, and willing to be rough around the edges and it shows in the music. While a younger Maxwell worked diligently to create a polished sound, the self-assured brother that took the stage sans huge trademark afro for a taping of CBS’ “The Early Show” exudes a quiet confidence and a mega-watt smile that instantly soothes an agitated audience waiting impatiently for his arrival. And when he starts the opening chords to “Pretty Wings,” the crowd is in his thrall, passionately singing along and snapping cameras left and right. He instantly connects with his article and we remember why we fell in love with this talented artist.
But as much as we think we love and know him, Maxwell is still an intensely private man. While it’s common knowledge that “Pretty Wings” is about an ex-girlfriend, Maxwell has never disclosed the identity of his lost love. And while he hints that he’s in the beginnings of a relationship he won’t tell you much else about it and maybe that’s the way it should be. With the passing of the incomparable Michael Jackson, Maxwell reflects on the high price of fame. Maybe it’s enough that his music makes us feel things about love and life that many current R&B/Soul artists fail to convey. It’s his unwavering humility and dedication to creating music his way that keeps us loyal fans. After an eight year hiatus most artists wouldn’t have a chance in hell of staging a comeback of this magnitude, but most artists aren’t Maxwell. And as he prepares to go on tour, and legions of fans ready themselves to throw massive amounts of undergarments at the stage, we’ll have to content ourselves to knowing Maxwell through his music and with a such a solid piece of work, that’s not a bad thing.
Clutch: What are your thoughts on Michael Jackson’s passing?
Maxwell: It’s undeniable that he had an effect on my music. The fact that he was where he was, he set such a high bar for everybody. It’s almost like what James Brown is to all the musicians in the world. He was one of those. There’s something about them that’s in everything that everyone does now and everything that anyone’s ever going to do. I mean who else has that kind of fame. I would never want that kind of fame. I mean he was only 50 years old and he was probably really like 150 years old. When you think about what he’s experienced and what he’s been through. I’m very psyched about what his influence will have upon future artists. I believe it’ll be like a ripple effect where you throw a pebble in the lake and all these ripple occur. I believe that Michael’s ripple will effect the whole consciousness of music.
Clutch: How do you feel that your music has changed? How have you changed as a person?
Maxwell: Well I’ve obviously gotten older and I’ve matured. In my 20’s I was trying to do this mature music (laughs). I was 21 when I started working on “Urban Hang Suite.” I was trying to prove to the world that I was a grown up and I could make grown up music. What I hope that people walk away with, because you never know what people feel until they tell you, is that it got raw, that it got more gritty, it got less precious. People know me to be more of a smooth type of person in terms of music. It’s something about the sound of the music, it’s grimey…I really can’t describe it. I feel like we’ve achieved that in some kind of way with this album.
Clutch: Given the current state of the music industry with artists basically jumping on the bandwagon in regards to what’s hot, do you think the fans are ready for something so different?
Maxwell: You know what I try to do? I just do what calls me. I’m working with the same person that I’ve worked with for the last 15 years. If you look in the top ten, you won’t find him anywhere. If you look on Billboard, he’s not there. We just do what we can to fill a void. Whatever’s missing in the world, I try to see if I can make that be more universal. I’m just trying to make a space that’s outside of the flock. There’s really no point to making music that’s inside of the flock.
Clutch: What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B?
Maxwell: Well I mean it’s hard. Do I want to sound like the crotchety old guy that thinks he knows better saying ‘back in my day?’ I always hated that guy when I was a kid so I don’t want to be that guy. I think that with present time, the recession, we lived in very extravagant times over the last six years with credit cards and the illusion of the money you had. People were living beyond their means and sometimes that takes the depth away from the common sense of things. Now with the recession, there’s a changing of the guard and with Michael passing away there’s a lot shifting going on. People are becoming more compassionate and less commercial. It’s more about what I can do with what I have or let’s see how far I can go with what I’ve got. I want to be apart of that shift.
Clutch: You’ve always had an incredible talent for making unforgettable lovemaking music. Why would you say that is?
Maxwell: (Laughs) Wow, that’s a really good question. I love that kind of music. I mean I’m the last person I would put on to assist my “process” (laughs). I’ve always loved music that worked for those occasions and it’s such an honor to think that some children have been conceived to your music.
Clutch: What can people expect from your tour this time?
Maxwell: People should expect a celebration of musicianship. We just want to show you people playing real instruments, we want you to get down, and we really want you to have a feeling like you’ve gone back in time. And my band is more than capable. They are the best in the business. I can’t wait for the album to sink into the consciousness a little deeper because ultimately the shows will get better because people will know the songs. I’m looking forward to those days especially when we start really touring in the fall.
Clutch: What’s the best way to get next to Maxwell?
Maxwell: I’m trying to figure that one out myself (laughs). Um, I’m sorta, kinda in a situation. We’re just starting out and I never like to disclose a lot of information about that kind of stuff but she’s a great girl. In the meantime, I’m in the throes of promoting something that’s been six years and a half in the making. So you can imagine all the catch up work I’m doing. It definitely stresses out the possibility of having a personal life. As far as the type of girl, I like strong women who have their own sense of self. You really need to have that with a person like me because of all the craziness that can happen. There definitely need to be a certain level of maturity and trust on her part.
Clutch: What’s your idea of a perfect date.
Maxwell: I don’t know if there’s such a thing as perfect. I think sometimes the most memorable things were happy mistakes where it just falls into place. I like a nice romantic three course meal with a movie. Sunsets work too. I love anything island since I’m West Indian. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than looking out at a sunset with palm trees and its always nice when there’s someone nice to share it with.