Earlier this year the world was introduced to Max Leone, who is the newest signee on The Darkroom/Interscope. Leone is rising pop singer from Portland, OR whose music is a breath of fresh air that falls somewhere in the Pop / R&B / Singer-Songwriter realm. His music is perfect for fans of Omar Apollo, Ryan Beatty, Trevor Daniel, and Jessie Reyez. We had the opportunity to talk to Leone about how he got started with making music, his process in the studio, and the most difficult lesson he’s learned as a musician thus far.
BTS: Can you tell us how you got started with making music?
MAX LEONE: My parents always wanted me to play an instrument as a kid and so I started taking guitar lessons when I was about seven. I can’t remember when i started writing my own songs but it just kind of seemed like a natural progression from learning to play guitar. In high school i started getting into production from watching youtube videos, and eventually started writing and producing my own music.
BTS: How would you describe your music for someone who hasn’t heard it before?
ML: Somewhere in between Kanye West and John Mayer.
BTS: Who are some of your influences, musically and non-musically?
ML: My biggest musical influences are probably Frank Ocean, Kanye, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Lorde, The 1975, Otis Redding… I’m also super inspired by artists like Martin Margiela, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Allen Ginsberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I could go on for a long time listing people.
BTS: You’re originally from Portland, Oregon – how has Portland inspired your music?
ML: Portland is a very special place to me. It’s a very small city but it has a ton of character and it’s a really inspiring place to grow up in. I think the biggest lesson Portland taught me was just to be real with myself. It feels like a very honest place.
BTS: What’s your process like in the studio?
ML: It really depends. I usually start with a chord progression on guitar or piano, but I also love writing to a drum groove or an entire beat. The song that feel most special are usually the ones that don’t take a lot of thinking about process and just come together themselves.
BTS: Can you tell us about what the process was like for writing and recording your songs “Cautious” and “First Grade”?
ML: “First Grade” came about in my first session with a now frequent collaborator of mine, Luke Niccoli. We started out with the chord progression that Luke actually played on bass and then wrote from there. I remember freestyling the melody for the chorus after a scratch vocal take and after that it all just came together. “Cautious” was also written in a single day but it was a solo effort. I came up with the guitar loop first and then built the rest of the song off of that. It was probably one of the most fun times i’ve had writing a song by myself.
BTS: Did the process for writing and recording those tracks differ? If so, how?
ML: They mostly differed in that one was written in a session with Luke and one was written by myself. Other than that they both came together fairly quickly and not a ton of editing was done after the initial demos.
BTS: What’s your favorite part about writing music?
ML: Definitely the rush that comes with discovering a really good melody. When something just clicks and it feels like it was meant to be, there’s no other feeling like that.
BTS: What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned as an artist so far?
ML: Not to overthink! It’s so easy to compare yourself to others and that can really have an effect on your creative drive. I wish it was more profound but that’s really the biggest thing that seems to weigh on me mentally.
BTS: What’s one fun fact about yourself for our readers?
ML: My two front teeth are fake (misjudged the depth of a pool)…
BTS: What can fans expect from you this year?
ML: More music and my debut EP! Hoping to go on tour later this year but we will have to see how everything pans out with what’s happening in the world right now. Until then i’ll just be writing as much as possible!
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