With the gust of a Midwestern wind comes a breeze of Americana, resonant of soul with a slight country twang, rich in folk simplicity with a poeticism that reads like literature. This is the sound of singer-songwriter Max Jury, a sincere talent who despite his pristine voice and vulnerable lyricism, never imagined he would be set to release his debut album. The Des Moines-bred musician grew up with music pulsing through his veins, finding friendship in the sounds of the classics and therapy in songwriting himself. Eventually, his talents took him to the prestigious Berklee College of Music until life got the best of him and he dropped out, finding himself in an uninspiring rut for a period of time after leaving school. But now, just several years later, the young singer has found himself traveling back and forth to London, recording in Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios, and on the cusp of releasing his self-titled debut album— his songwriting, his personal remedy for growth and self understanding, the means that brought him to success. Max Jury now invites you to listen to his music and hear his diary come alive through song; he invites you to find a companion in his lyrics and realize that in whatever challenge you may be facing; his music will always provide a hand to hold.
How did growing up in the Midwest influence you?
MJ — I don’t know if the location necessarily influenced me as much as just the people that I hung out with. I was fortunate enough to have friends that were interested in music. We liked the same bands and we would spend our free time playing music [and] writing music, but I guess related to that, Des Moines is not the epicenter of culture, although it is growing. [So,] I don’t know if that desire to want to make a career out of good music stemmed from wanting to get out of Des Moines or being a bit bored of life there as a teenager, [but] obviously I guess you grow up and realize how much you like Des Moines.
Your song, “Numb” is about escape and you have a song called “Home,” which is about distance and the relation of place. How did moving to London from Des Moines influence as an individual and with your music?
MJ — I think getting out of Des Moines and moving to London was a big step for me in terms of admitting to myself and accepting that I wanted to take the next step and do the things that I needed to do to possibly progress my career. I’ve been going to London for the past four to five years, so to be honest, London feels a bit like home to me. I have all of these friends there and I remember I was in London from about last September to last December and when I was left I was like, ‘Man, I don’t really want to leave. It doesn’t really feel like I’m going home any more, it feels like I’m leaving home.’ I think that’s a big reason why I decided to set myself up there.
I read that you were sort of in a rut after leaving school. How does it feel having transitioned from that to releasing your first album?
MJ — Wonderful, actually. To be honest, it was something I never really expected to happen. I wanted it to happen, but when I was in that place, the last thing that I thought would happen was [that] I would have a record coming out, people would be behind it, and it would have the potential to do something. So, to be honest, not to be cheesy, I’m just grateful that everyday I get to do this for a living.
You’ve said that you’re very introverted and you share your most personal stories through your lyrics. Why do you think it’s important to let your listeners into this personal space of yours?
MJ — I think it’s important because, in a way, it’s sort of therapeutic for me. It’s the best way I know how to express myself, even though it’s kind of a weird concept that I couldn’t tell somebody close to me what I was feeling, but I can share it with the internet, which is strange, but for whatever reason, it’s easier for me that way. I take pleasure in knowing that maybe my music could touch people or affect people in some way because as a kid growing up, that’s why I listened to music. If I would have known that somebody like Bob Dylan, that the most important thing for him was to share his music and pass down the art of story telling and expressing your emotions, that would have been a really cool feeling to know that that’s why he did it. That’s why I do it, so they can take something from it, and that makes me feel better. I think there’s something comforting in knowing that all of the kind of issues that people go through, they’re all relatable. People are going through similar things and that kind of interconnectedness is something I’m interested in.
You said it’s like therapy for you, in what ways is that therapeutic?
MJ — A lot of times I feel like what I’m thinking or my feelings are in Limbo and I can’t really decide how I feel about a certain thing or I can’t really wrap my head around it or process it, [but] if I put it in a song or something and it feels A. like I’ve finalized that event a little bit and I can quit thinking about it and B. if I can hopefully turn it into something that people find beauty in, then that makes me feel better about all of my mistakes.
I read that you paid closer attention to your heart and soul in creating this album. What did you learn about yourself in doing that?
MJ — Good question. A lot of things. I think with this album a lot of the songs are very introspective and relationship-based, and I think when you dig deep like that for content, it’s sobering in the sense that you go back and you are reminded of things that you don’t necessarily remember or how situations played out or how things happened, and I learned a lot about myself in the sense that a lot of the time I’m at fault or if something would happen in my life whether it’s a relationship or what have you, I stuff it under the rug or glaze over it and not really admit to myself that I could be at fault or that something I did contributed to the down fall of whatever. I guess thinking about it [and] writing about it, really made me question my actions in life. It was kind of a humbling experience.
What was it like recording in Jimi Hendrix’s studio Electric Lady?
MJ — It was amazing! There’s so much rock and roll history and, if you want to get into that kind of thing, you can feel the ghosts around you. It was a real treat. It was amazing.
A lot of your music has a very old sounding style and you recorded in Electric Lady, which has such a strong history. Are you influenced by the past at all or perhaps nostalgic for this music history?
MJ — I’m influenced by it; I don’t know if I’m necessarily nostalgic for it. I listen to old music and new music. I’m not like a grumpy, old person who doesn’t think good music is good. I love “Jumpman” as much as the next person, but for whatever reason, that kind of music was something I was influenced by as a kid in my formative years, so stylistically it’s what I go back to, what I feel most comfortable doing. And especially from a song writing perspective, I hold what I consider the greats in really high regard, both as writers and artists and kind of as mythological creatures.
And who do you consider the greats? You mentioned Dylan earlier.
MJ — Yeah, Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell.
How do you think you’ve made this old soul and Americana sound your own?
MJ — It was tough for a long time trying to figure out. I think the toughest part for me being a singer-songwriter and performer is you have all of these different influences and musical styles [that] you might want to pursue, but you have to narrow it down to find your voice and that’s a really hard thing that takes years of practice and searching to figure out, but I was particular in the studio about trying to keep it modern and add modern production values and modern instruments, whether synths or what have you. I worked with a producer who came from a different background than me, I guess he started out with hip hop records and more and more has been doing singer-songwriter stuff. I wanted to work with him because I wanted to have that other side of opinions and thoughts because I thought that it could be cooler because you can get so stuck in your own head and your own ideas about what works, so it was refreshing to work with somebody who came from music from a completely different perspective.
What do you think your listeners are going to discover most about you with your debut album?
MJ — I guess from a musical standpoint that I like to experiment in the studio with different sounds. There [are] more upbeat songs on the record than I’ve released in the past, so there’s some toe tappers in there! About me, they’ll discover my relationships in the last four years of my life because that’s really what the record is. It’s about me; it’s about my friends. It’s basically a snapshot of what’s been going on for the past two or three years. To be honest, if they listen to it, hopefully they’ll be able to take that from the music.
What is it like playing such introspective songs live?
MJ — It’s funny because some nights you’re on autopilot. Not in a bad way, but you’ve just done it so much that [it’s] like muscle memory, but then some nights you remember what a certain song is about and you’re like, “Oh!” And then some nights, if people know the song or they’re singing along, it makes you feel good that you’ve reached people in that way. I chose to do the album this way and write songs this way up until this point. One thing about performing, for me, is I continually enjoy playing songs that came to me really naturally I guess or felt like they came to me naturally. If I work on a song for a few months it feels like a labored process, it gets really old live quick, but if I wrote it in thirty minutes and it felt like it needed to be written, for whatever reason, I never really get tired of playing it.
Do you seek out experiences that will inspire you to write a song, or do song ideas come naturally?
MJ — Good question. I guess I kind of seek it out some times a little bit. I don’t know if it’s conscious or a subconscious thing, but in the last few years I’ve put myself in situations that maybe would make a good song that maybe wouldn’t be the easiest thing to deal with. Usually, I write [going] through spurts where I write a lot in a short period of time and then I’ll go like a month or two and not feel like writing, and then I’ll write a lot in a short period of time. I just live a little bit and write about it, do it that way.
You said you want people to connect to your music. What do you most hope your fans get from that?
MJ — I think with this album a lot of the songs are sad and true, and I didn’t want it to be a pity party, I wanted it to be more comforting, in the sense like, ‘Hey, I’m going through it, too. I’m right there with you,’ whatever it is, being a twenty something and dealing with various relationship woes and financial things and moving things. I feel a bit like a shoulder to cry on, we’re all in this together and hopefully they can kind of find something in the lyrics that make them feel better or make them feel that they’re not alone.
Are lyrics more important to you or is it everything altogether?
MJ — Lyrics are the most important thing for me. I wanted to be a writer when I was growing up, I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a musician. Lyrics are the thing that is most difficult for me, I spend the most time on, and I’m most careful about. I want them to be right, whatever that is in my mind. In the studio or when I’m writing, it’s not easy or anything to come up with melodies or chord progressions, but I can do it quickly and that is the easy part to have that, but then connecting it with lyrics that both seem poetic, but not over the top, and people can relate with— putting together is tough and for me, I think the lyrics take the most time to craft.
What did you want to write when you were growing up?
MJ — I wanted to write short stories just about whatever, but I ended up doing music.
Who are your favorite authors?
MJ — I’m a big fan of Raymond Carver, he’s a short story writer. I guess the usual suspects. My favorite book is probably, To Kill A Mockingbird. I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway.
What shifted your path then into music? You went to Berklee College of Music.
MJ — I applied to creative writing school and I applied to Berklee, and I got a scholarship to Berklee so I could afford it, so I just went.
What are your hopes going forward with your career?
MJ — I just want to keep doing this, whatever this is, playing and writing and recording. It would be nice to have a catalog of albums to reflect where I was at in different stages in my career. I really just want to keep doing it. Hopefully the record does well and I continue to grow, but as long as I can make music and play songs for people.