I came across Portsmouth U.K. singer-songwriter Max Avery on Instagram and became a fan of his melodic yet unpretentious and straightforward style of music. I soon found out that he had a sizeable following both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere – probably in no small part to his vocal resemblance to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.
Therefore, in the interest of his many fans, I set about interviewing Max about his musical background, his songs and his plans for the future. He set aside some time from his busy schedule to grant me the following interview.
About Max Avery
Where are you from and how did you get into music?
I’m from Portsmouth England. To cut a long story short, a few friends and I were watching local acts on a stage at a festival. I had never sung, couldn’t play an instrument, and had never written a song. Fast forward five years from then: we got booked to play the main stage! Eleven years later and here I am!
You play guitar and keyboards – are you pretty much self taught?
Yeah, I’ve never had a lesson. I either figure stuff out by ear or by way of YouTube. I taught myself keyboards and piano during the lockdown.
Did you teach yourself to sing or do you have any formal training?
I’ve never had any vocal training.
As others have noted, your singing voice is very reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen. And like Springsteen, you have an “Everyman” persona – the relatable chap that you can approach at the local pub and casually chat with about life. Do you think that this relatable image has contributed to the success you’ve had in obtaining followers of your music?
I would never pretend to be anything I’m not. I couldn’t see any point in doing that. Bruce is a hero of mine, so thank you for the kind words!
I guess I’m just being me and putting my thoughts and feelings out there in musical form. People connect with honesty and I guess vulnerability. People aren’t stupid and see through bullshit. I’m always happy to chat even if I’m not in a pub at the moment!
Aside from Springsteen, who are your other musical influences?
I grew up listening to The Levellers and a lot of folk influenced artists. I’m obsessed with a lot of Irish songwriters – Mick Flannery, Dermot Kennedy, to name a few. I think they’re the best at exposing their feelings.
Are there any mainstream artists (both past and present) that you admire?
I admire anyone with a strong work ethic whether they’re mainstream or not. I’ve seen Bon Jovi live seven times!
Are there any relatively unknown artists who you admire and want to give a shout out to?
Dan Owen is great. I love his music.
Where do you get your songwriting ideas from? To be more specific: do you consciously set a schedule and say to yourself “OK, now I have to write a song.” Or do your songs come from inspiration – perhaps a melody or lyric you hear in your head?
Songwriting for me is like a bolt of lightning that has struck. Usually, an idea or a melody just comes to me in the most unexpected places. I’ll make a quick note and build on that idea from there.
I’m constantly writing on most days, although I very rarely sit down consciously to write a song from scratch. My writing ethos is to try and find a place between feelings of despair and feelings of elation.
As of this writing, you have three published songs: “Mirror”, “You” and “The Last To Cry”. Can you kindly provide my readers with a breakdown of the origins for each these songs – i.e., what inspired the lyrical and musical content?
My latest single “Mirror” comes from the idea of ‘taking a good look at yourself’. Sometimes blame can be misplaced and sometimes problems may actually come from within.
For “You“, I came up with the full instrumental guitar parts which is unusual for me. As for the lyrical content, I guess you could call it a journey from meeting the one you love to the loss of that person. Those feelings never leave you.
“Last To Cry” – this was one of the first songs I wrote for my solo project. I recorded this over the internet with a producer from L.A. It was a strange but fun experience. What the song is about is this: if you had a second chance, would things be different?
Are there any specific tips that you can give to aspiring songwriters who may be reading this interview?
Just keep writing and keep everything. I often look back at old phrases and verses that I stole bits from and change them to improve on them.
What type of gear (e.g., guitars, amplifiers, pedals, keyboards, microphones and other musical equipment) are you using in your studio and live setups?
I’m not a gear nerd at all. I only have one guitar and my piano. I play a Martin & Co. DRS Road Series. I leave the techy side to my friends. I don’t feel the need to surround myself with gear.
What’s the music scene like where you reside (Portsmouth, UK)?
It’s great! There are so many talented artists from my area. Unfortunately, venues have suffered greatly due to Covid-19. Hopefully we can fill these venues again once things slowly return to normal.
How did you develop your social media following? And is there any advice you can give to artists out there who wish to follow in your footsteps and gain a following?
As I mentioned, people see straight through people who aren’t being themselves. I’ve enjoyed putting up clips of my writing process and not shroud my music in any mystery. I share as much of my musical journey as possible. I know I’d want to see this from my own favourite artists!
If Max Avery of the year 2020 could sit down with Max Avery of the year 2010 at the local pub for a pint, what advice would he give to his younger self based on what he’s learned and experienced (both good and bad) over the past 10 years?
Work hard and be nice. Without either of these I don’t believe you’ll succeed at anything in life. Sure, you’ll meet people along the way who may not reflect these attitudes, but most people are usually cool in the music world. Keep writing and take opportunities.
What are your short-term (within a year), medium-term (within 5 years) and long-term (within 10 years) professional goals?
Putting out as much music as I can covers all those timescales. I’d love to be able to pull a crowd in any city I toured in. I want my music to provoke an emotional feeling in people, and as long as I can do that, I’m happy.
And of course, you can listen to his music over at Spotify and other major streaming platforms.