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An Interview With Max Kennedy

A brand new album release from Max Kennedy brings a lush and gorgeous set of acoustic guitar textures and weaves them into detailed and honest songs in true and genuine singer-songwriter style but with some additional almost jazz undertones that hold true though the records playthrough.

The First I've Seen album is bright and full with augmented changes, distanced in room electric guitars floating around the atmospheres of tracks while that refreshing acoustic stay on the forefront along with piano and other instruments while vocals boast dome perfected melodies that seem to ever change.

You really never know what exactly to expect with this record from song to song but there is always something a little different from the last and it's really zestful and crisp.

There are plenty of classic songwriting undertones and influences but that jazz tonality also shines through almost all the time especially in those changes.

The record also has a lot of honesty lyrically and the artist sure knows how to paint vivid pictures for you to feed off of.

There is something about this record that feels like it was released in a different time. It feels classic.

With such a pleasantly breathable album, we wanted to have a chat with Kennedy to find out where this all really came from.

Here's what happened.

BuzzSlayers: Okay so let's start with the First I've Seen album. This record has a real acoustic singer songwriter feel with some classic pop undertones. Where did this record come from?

I think this record came from a very inward facing time in my life - I wrote the songs right before or during quarantine and tracked and mixed the whole thing during the pandemic, so it is definitely a very introspective record. I think more than anything, the songs are really coming from my own inner monologue - both in terms of lyrics and in terms of songwriting and production. They're the songs I have been singing to myself for the last couple of years, and the production is really just about putting that inner monologue to tape.

BuzzSlayers: I'm hearing some great styles throughout the album. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

A huge influence on this record is Chris Weisman. If people don't know him, they need to check him out - he's in Vermont and he's one of the greatest living songwriters. His harmonic imagination has had a huge influence on my writing over the years - you can hear his influence most strongly in the chord progressions on "Ball is Life" and "Family Tree" . I also was spending a lot of time with the book Harmonic Experience by W.A. Mathieu and studying North Indian classical music with an amazing teacher named Warren Senders, and a lot of the ideas on this record came to me through those masters, especially on tracks like "Saturn's Rings," "Write and Revise," and "When My Earth Friends Ask Me".

BuzzSlayers: So, how did all of this start for you?

Ha, good question. I think it started when I was 16 and I wrote this song called "Fishes". I was obsessed with the legendary Brazilian songwriter & guitarist Guinga. I learned from him that you can write beautiful, listenable pop music that explores some really alien harmonic landscapes. Everything I've done in the last decade and a half has been growing from that seed.

BuzzSlayers: What do you think is next for you as an artist?

Right now I have a couple of projects in the pipeline. My band Big Fuzzy released a record back in January and I've been working on writing the next album for the band, so stay tuned for that. The project I'm actually most excited about right now is an album of preludes and fugues for solo piano and solo guitar that I've been working on, which I'm also planning to release on Dollhouse Lightning in the next yearish. I've been sort of obsessed with fugues as a form for the last couple of years and this set of compositions is a really weird and dense puzzle that I've been working to piece together. I'm really fortunate to be on this label where I can put out solo records, full band stuff and also the "modern classical" (whatever that means) compositions that matter a lot to me.

BuzzSlayers: Have you given any thought to live performances anytime soon?

Yeah - I'm playing at Pink Noise Studios in Somerville MA Oct 22nd and a house show in Boston on Oct 23rd to celebrate the album release (maybe those will have already happened by the time this comes out...?) and looking forward to booking some more stuff in the coming months, both solo and with the band.

BuzzSlayers: Can we expect any music videos from you this year?

Who knows, maybe?!

BuzzSlayers: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?

A lot of the time I am teaching precalculus to high school seniors. I'm a math teacher in Boston Public Schools which is one of the most beautiful and challenging ways I can imagine spending my time, and which inspires a lot of my writing. Other than that I spend a lot of my time reading sci-fi, being in nature with my best friends, and doing my best to fight for a sustainable post-capitalist future as we stare down the barrel of climate catastrophe.

BuzzSlayers: Who are you listening to right now?

My favorite recent discovery is Michael Gregory Jackson. Insanely underrated artist, and his whole catalogue is just totally mind blowing. His first record "Clarity" is this gorgeous melodic avante garde jazz record, and he has a record from the 80's called Situation X that's kind of hard to find, but it is like Prince-level pop music brain genius shit. I've also been listening to some of the younger rock stars like Samia and Snail Mail - they've really been guiding me emotionally through these weird times. And um, yeah, I spend a lot of my time these days breaking my brain on Bach fugues. If you haven't ever listened to the harpsichord fugues of A Musical Offering then you are missing out on one of history's great psychedelic encounters with the universe.

BuzzSlayers: What kind of things really inspire you to write?

One of the songs on the record came to me in a dream where it was being performed by the superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Sometimes I'm inspired by specific harmonic ideas that I have heard somewhere and sometimes I just write because I am feeling sad or overwhelmed. I'm always a little confused about where the desire to write a song comes from. I know that I write most prolifically when I am overworked and have no time to write songs, and when I am listening to a ton of interesting music, so I guess it is the experience of having a lot of music floating around in my brain but not enough to to play it that makes the ideas flow.

BuzzSlayers: How do you write your songs? Is it lyrics first or guitar chords? How does it work for you?

Melody and harmony definitely come first. Sometimes I wrote a whole tune and then put lyrics to it. Sometimes the lyrics come as I am writing the melody. I'm usually kind of working everything out a bit at a time, all at once.

BuzzSlayers: This album feels like it was a big undertaking. What advice would you have for other up and coming artists out there?

I'm not sure if I have any advice that would be meaningful to anyone else, but I guess the advice I would give myself is to be obsessive and detail oriented. When I first started making music I felt like it was enough to just write a good song and put it into the world. I have since learned that I can only feel satisfied that I have realized my own artistic vision if I spend a stupid amount of time on the details of writing, performance and production. And feeling satisfied that you have realized your own artistic vision is the only thing that matters as an artist I think.

BuzzSlayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?

I would like to say wow, seriously thank you. Honestly this music is really personal and emotional for me so the possibility that anyone else might feel anything at all when they listen to it is unspeakably thrilling and makes me feel less like a piece of interstellar space debris separated from all other living beings by a boundless un-breachable void.

Max Kennedy Spotify

Max Kennedy Website

Max Kennedy Bandcamp

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