Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Maxwell: The Heart Whisperer

Maxwell @bluesandsoul.com
Maxwell @bluesandsoul.com Maxwell @bluesandsoul.com Maxwell @bluesandsoul.com Maxwell @bluesandsoul.com

Maxwell is back. Cue the fanfare and the red carpet. The Neo-soul star has been out of the spotlight for seven long years, in respect of touring over here and a new album.

But the great news is; not only did he recently drop a stunning new album, the second of his Blacksummers’night trilogy, but he’s due here later this month for a UK arena tour.

The icing on the cake; he’s not alone. Mary J. Blige and Maxwell share headline billing for the King and Queen of Hearts World Tour, which kicks off with three UK shows; London’s O2 on October 28th as part of Bluesfest, Genting Arena, Birmingham on 29th and Manchester Arena on 30th.

Speaking to him at his New York home, Maxwell was excited about flying to London; his favourite city, for nine days of rehearsals with Mary.

“We are taking it to the old skool. This is the soul revival tour. She is one of the greatest, just legendary; the Queen of hip-hop soul. She brought a whole new genre when she was sampling those old records; she was birthing the whole neo-soul movement.”

“Through hip-hop she was keeping soul music alive by sampling Curtis Mayfield and the artists people had forgotten about, but giving them a new twist. She’s iconic. A national treasure. Mary is the epitome of soul.” Maxwell says there is a surprise in store during the evening but he doesn’t me to spoil it.

He really does adore the UK and our accent. “No matter what you guys say, with that accent, you always sound smart. I can do a bad English accent, which sounds like Dick Van Dyke!”

“I am not kissing ass or anything, I just think the British are so humorous and so smart about things; from art…I am a big fan of Tracey Emin and had the pleasure of meeting her…I know a few people in galleries over there.

“I am excited to go see some art and look at Knightsbridge. I love Brixton and Manchester; all those places just represent so much to me. Not to mention the take on British soul that British people have; how they deal with soul music. Like Sam Smith, Daley, Adele and of course, the late Amy Winehouse”.

“I am so excited I get to rehearse in my favourite place in the world. To check out bands playing over there and to go buy some cool clothes.”

“Last time I played London, it was so exciting. I feel like music is like alcohol for you, once you get that first drink of that first song, everyone just gets loose. That natural emotional reserve that I think British people may have, kind of goes out the window and you guys have a good time. You dance and sing along.”

Essential listening on the road: “I’m really crazy about The Vision, I love DVSN, I think Daniel Daley’s voice is spectacular; his falsetto. He is breathtakingly good, it is really shocking”.

“I love Ro James, and the artists today who care about the songs, the lyrics which are beautiful. Something they can sing when they are 40. A lot of records out there you know that artists cannot do in 20 years.”

“The words are misogynistic, there are way too many curses. It is braggadocios (bragging about something that’s not true), there’s nothing vulnerable about it. Until you encounter the rare artist that writes the songs that explore the more vulnerable aspects of the human psyche and emotional experience, which is such a breath of fresh air. I love trap and I understand how hip-hop works; it is supposed to be quite confident and egotistical in some way”.

“But it is nice when you get an artist who writes tender songs like Adele, looking at her faults, and when you have Sam (Smith) doing that, and DVSN”.

“Marvin Gaye…An inherent part of who he was is always in all his songs, even though he transformed. It is very difficult, which is probably why it takes so much time for me to release my music. It is so worth it when you achieve that continuity in your discography.”

Maxwell was born Gerald Maxwell Rivera, in1973 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Haitian mother and a Puerto Rican father. His father died in a plane crash when Maxwell was three.

His look has changed from the wild afro hair to a crop and sharply tailored suits. As he says; “I want to look as good as this music sounds.” Even when he was having success early in his career, he kept up a day job for a while. He worked in restaurants and was an usher in a cinema, taking tickets and making popcorn. He signed to Columbia Records in 1994.

His first single didn’t make it, but the second, “Ascension”, in 1996 was a gold-selling smash with its soaring soul falsetto. He released the albums Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite in 96, which went Platinum, was Grammy nominated and spawned four hit singles, "Embrya," in '98 also went Platinum and entered the US chart at number three.

In August 2001, his third album, “Now,” went straight into the US chart at number one. "BLACKsummers'night," was released in July 2009, the single from it "Pretty Wings," topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart and won a 2010 Grammy, as did the album.

The latest, "blackSUMMERS'night," dropped in July this year. There was also an EP, from his appearance on MTV Unplugged. Critics billed him as the next Prince and the new Marvin Gaye.

On fame and huge success: “I’m not concerned about being popular. I didn’t get into this to be famous and rich.”

“When I was doing the records I was doing in 1995 and 96, we were anomalies. It’s not about fame for me. Fame is so fleeting. It’s a lot of hard work to be a pop star; my heart goes out to a lot of my friends who are. It’s so fly by night.”

“At any given time someone replaces you, who may be younger or hotter. That’s why I stay away from trying to be famous. If I can just do the art, do the music, and stay away from whatever tabloid story…people can connect with me and what I am about in the music.”

You can read more from our interview with Neo-Soul King Of Hearts, Maxwell, in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the link below to order straight from our shop or read on for high street retailer details.

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Words SIMON REDLEY

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