Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Max Marshall: Too the Max

Max Marshall @bluesandsoul.com
Max Marshall @bluesandsoul.com

Born in Baltimore, USA and now residing in East London, 21-year-old contemporary soul singer/songwriter Max Marshall this month follows up her recent, well-received mixtape âForgive Meâ with the release of her debut single âDonât Tripâ. An addictively melodic groover whose clear, uncluttered production - courtesy of newcomers Electric - blends the warm, laidback vibe of old skool R&B with dreamy beats, fingerclicks and a hauntingly insistent chorus.

An accomplished multi-instrumentalist and former school-orchestra-member, a musically-immersed Max first began writing songs at the tender age of 14. A time when, with her mother teaching at the prestigious Baltimore Theatre School (whose students at the time included both Tupac Shakur and Jada Pinkett) and her father owning a tour bus that was frequently borrowed by big-name soul acts of the day, she would regularly find herself side-of-stage captivated watching the likes Ashford & Simpson and Earth, Wind & Fire perform.

Meanwhile, it was following a move from Baltimore to Philadelphia to study Fashion that, at 18, years old, Max made the decision to move to London. Where, accompanied by her guitar, she would immediately begin honing her talent and perfecting her sound playing gigs across town while simultaneously carving out a successful career in fashion - creating wigs for pop megastar Lady Gaga while working for French couture designer Charlie Le Mindu, as well as making bespoke, 1940âs-inspired clothes for men and women.

However, following a demo made on Garageband finding its way to San Remo Publishing last summer - just a month before she graduated with two fashion degrees - by the end of 2012 it had become clear that it was Maxâs first love, music, that would finally start taking priority.

⦠Which in turn neatly brings us back to today, as a laid-back Ms Marshall (who, thanks to her music-loving mom, grew up listening to such soul legends as Donnie Hathaway, Etta James and Patti LaBelle) calling up âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a late-Thursday-morning introductory chat.

PETE: So letâs start off by discussing your new debut single âDonât Tripâ, which has been described as combining old skool R&B with clean, uncluttered production

MAX: âBasically the song is about just being young in LONDON. Iâm really just summarising what me and my friends DO - like going to Livinâ Proof on a Friday and getting on the stage and dancing and just chilling out and RELAXING.â

PETE: Youâre actually collaborating with new producers Electric, who also produced your warmly-received recent mixtape âForgive Meââ¦

MAX: âYeah, theyâre both from Norway plus they have a really wide variety of like musical inspirations. So for me working with them is ALWAYS great, because with my musical library being so big they always allow me to get all my points across - plus theyâre just really good at what they DO. You know, theyâre basically my label-mates and so weâre quite close. To where, when weâre in the studio together, itâs like all of US for all THINGS! Like Iâm in there pressing the buttons, Iâm in the vocal booth⦠Itâs like a real combined effort.â

PETE: So what was the story behind you meeting numerous soul stars at a young age due to your fatherâs bus regularly being used on the touring circuit?

MAX: âWell, the bus was just a FAMILY thing really. We just travelled around The United States most of the time. But then because my dad did also have some MUSIC contacts, each year whenever thereâd be some festival or other on, some stars would use the BUS. Which I think was a really great EXPERIENCE for me to be honest. Because at like 12/13 years old it meant I got to see things and got to meet people before I knew for sure that this was what I wanted to DO in life. You know, it really opened my mind, just being able to be there watching the greats and wondering to myself when it would be MY turn to be onstage! Like I remember one time standing side-of-stage for Earth, Wind & FIRE - which was just INSANE!â

PETE: I understand youâve already carved out for yourself a career in fashion - creating wigs for Lady Gaga as well as making bespoke 1940s-inspired clothesâ¦

MAX: âLike you said earlier, as far as the wigs go that came about when I was working under Charlie Le Mindu - the haute-couture designer from France whoâs based in East London. But then at the same time, because he deals with a lot of artists and singers, it was actually much more than just WIGS. We did clothing, fashion weeks - I mean, it was whole COLLECTIONS really. Which is why I guess that whole experience did really impact on me fashion-wise, as well as in terms of networking and having contacts... Then the 1940s-inspired things represent more what I do and what MY fashion aesthetics are. You know, I basically just like the way that 1940s clothes - specifically German Nazi uniforms - were made and the DESIGN of them. So I basically just take inspiration from that and mix it with my own ideas and just make it more stylistic and contemporary.â

The single âDonât Tripâ is out through Fudge Records
Words PETE LEWIS

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