On a remarkably sunny afternoon [yes, deliberate Kinks reference] in Amsterdam I met up with upcoming singer-songwriter Max Jury. Max, who hails from Des Moines, IA, deep in the heartland of the United States is visiting our fair city for the first time. It marks one of the first stops on his big first European tour which started in Londen a couple of nights ago.
After our introductions we started talking. I asked him how he was enjoying himself on tour so far and immediately Max told me that it’s been great and that he is really looking forward to playing on the road and visiting a lot of places for the first time. He’s going to Antwerp, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Leeds, Manchester, Dublin and many other places. We talked about some of these places and how it’s going to be a splendid time for him discovering all these cities and meeting new people along the way.
This tour, which is in support of the new release “All I Want”, officially his sophomore effort and the lead single Black Metal. Of course I wanted to know about the inspiration for the EP and the song and how the whole thing came together. The new EP, “All I Want”, is a mix of new songs and a couple older songs. In the past, Max told me, he used to do everything himself in house studios, with the help of a few friends. They’d record and mix and overdub on their computers until they had it just right. Nowadays, he mentioned, things have turned a little more professional. He brought in a guitar player from L.A. and a bass player from Carolina, both of whom he met in college and they decided to cut the whole record live, playing the songs over and over again until they sounded the way they wanted. This change in approach was a conscious change, Max said. He likes both ways, doing everything by yourself in your own little zone but it was a nice change of pace to take this new approach and the outcome was really good.
As for the single, Black Metal, Max told me it was inspired by events surrounding his bass player, Nolan. One night, Nolan was dancing with a girl and while Max didn’t remember exactly what was up with her, she and Nolan kind of went back and forth and after a while he looked her up online and they found out she was some kind of satanist, or at least she was into some really dark stuff. And that kind of led to the inspiration for the song. Isn’t that a cool story?!
We also talked about some older songs of his, which he recorded a few years ago. One of the songs, Change Your Mind For Me, had stuck with through the years. I asked him if he was planning on using some of his older work again. And to my surprise, Max said he recorded that exact song for the new EP. So that was great! Later that night, Max played that song during his performance. Thank you for that, Max, I really enjoyed hearing it again!
We then started talking a little more about songwriting. I noticed Max has a tendency to tweet about places he does his writing and recently he mentioned he was writing in a parking lot. So I asked him what that was all about. He explained that he likes to do his writing while doing what he calls ‘secondary actions’. For example, writing while on the couch with the TV on, going out to a parking lot while taking in the surroundings and movements. It seems to give him another perspective, a change of scenery away from everyday life. Based on the songs he has written so far, this approach is really working for him.
Max plays all kinds of keys, from piano to organ to keyboard to, well, basically anything with keys. He also plays acoustic and electric guitar but he confessed to wanting to expand his skillset on the electric guitar so he can play more solos and licks. When it comes to the songwriting, Max said it can really help him to switch between instruments because when he gets stuck on piano and he switches to guitar it gives him a new outlook and helps him to finish a song sometimes.
Max Jury has a very beautiful sound which is really hard to describe. It mixes in many different influences and most of his songs have a slightly different sound compared to eachother. It is often described as americana or roots music and Max himself desribed it as a ‘big stew’ in another interview. I asked him if he could elaborate on that. The answer I got was that he doesn’t really know how to desribe it himself. “Big stew kind of covers it. I have so many different influences; I like the Beatles and the Kinks but also Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams, so yeah, I guess it all mixes in there somehow.”
We both understand why people try to give a name to what they hear but also, we concluded that these labels are somewhat archaic in today’s music. There is so much crossover between genres that it’s hard to pinpoint it with the labels we used to know. Max added: “I like how artists like David Bowie can change things from album to album. It definitely keeps things interesting!”
Max is a young guy, in his early twenties, but recently his career is really starting to take off. His name is out there and he’s getting to play in a lot of different places all over the world. I asked him how he got to this point in his career and how he sees himself going forward.
“Basically, I wrote a lot, I recorded a lot. I worked really hard to get my music herad. Then about 2 years ago, through mutual acquaintances, I met these people at Marathon and they offered me a contract and helped me to release music and play gigs.” As far as the future goes, Max would really like to take his band on the road with him, because they were such a big help on the EPs and he would really like to record a proper full-length album. In the fall, Max and his band are playing live in New York, so if you have the chance, be sure to catch the show!
Apart from his influences, which are listed in his bio as Gram Parsons, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, The Kinks, The Beatles, etc. I wondered what he was currently listening to.
“What is it we’re listening to in the van again. Right. Justin Timberlake, Cry Me A River and some of those songs. I’m really into that. Also Jessica Lea Mayfield, Courtney Barnett who is also on Marathon. I’ve also been listening to War on Drugs and Mark Kozelek’s AC/DC cover album. It’s sort of folky versions of the songs and it’s surprisingly good!”
And to show you how much Max appreciates his musical influences, did you know he named his young French bulldog after Emmylou Harris? Now that’s something you don’t hear everyday.
In the end we discussed the emergence of the internet in the past decade or so as a tool in the music industry. I asked Max how it influences his life as a musician in both good and bad ways. Because he’s a young guy, the internet has sort of always been around but he does imagine it took away a lot of the power from major record labels because it allows upcoming musicians to sort of promote themselves in a grassroots movement kind of way. Keeping up with the internet and social media does take a lot of work and sometimes you’d wish you wouldn’t have to but it comes with the territory and it is really important to put time and effort in it because it can do so much for an artist, especially when you’re trying to get your name out there.
Many thanks to Max Jury for being open and honest about the life as a recording and touring musician. Also many thanks to the people at Marathon for facilitating the interview and special thanks to Max’s tour manager Bobby who helped set up the appointment. I hope you all have a successful European tour with a lot of fun and new fans along the way. See you again next time!