Instruments: Guitar and Voice
Genres: Pop, R&B
Infusing soul into vocals with jazzy chords into a pop song structure, Maxine has a ton of feelings to share and uses music as a way to express herself and connect with other people. Her honesty in her music leaves a relatable feeling that tells you she’s singing her message from the heart. Maxine and I hung out on her balcony and chatted as she did her makeup for work later that night. It was a lot of fun spending a relaxing afternoon with her in the warm summer air. She talked about all her hard work on her upcoming single and experience as a songwriter and performer.
Ashley: How long have you been playing?
Maxine: Well [I’ve been] singing always. When I was really little, like four or five years old, my parents would have me sing in church all the time. I would go up [on stage] and do solos in my little church dress and hats with no fear. As I grew a little bit older and grew very shy. I was very academically focused and did really good in high school. [Music] was this secret love of mine. I only started playing guitar when I was 18, a friend of mine got me a guitar because he believed in me and knew I had this secret love for singing. From then on I started writing with a guitar and then I went to college I finally admitted to myself that [music] is what I wanted to do with my life and have been pursuing it ever since then.
Ashley: How often are you playing or practicing at home?
Maxine: Practicing? I find that at this point I am so busy gigging, I have a lot of things that just keep me up to practice. I find that I’m not practicing as much as I used to when I was in college or when I was taking voice lessons. These house gigs I have are great places to try out new songs and make sure I stay in practice, as long as I’m doing it in a weekly or biweekly basis. That keeps me up to speed on a lot of things. Otherwise, I don’t have a lot of time. If I’m at home, I’m songwriting.
Ashley: What are house performances?
Maxine: By house gig I mean I have a regular gig there.
Ashley: Have you toured before?
Maxine: I went to a music school in Nashville and when I was there we went on a tour collectively; but I haven’t done a solo tour. I’ve traveled around to Toronto and some places in the states but I haven’t done a full-fledged tour.
Ashley: What would be the most stressful thing about planning or getting ready to tour?
Maxine: Booking is tough in outside markets, especially when you are doing it alone and trying to sell somebody on yourself. It’s definitely easier when you have somebody else booking for you. Being an unknown and reaching out to a market that doesn’t know you is the toughest part. In Winnipeg, I feel like I have decent handle the regular big gigs I want to book. Everybody is connected here so I find that if I want to get in touch with somebody I can. They won’t necessarily book me but I find it easier in touch with people rather than going to Toronto who would prefer your agency to book you and you don’t have an agency.
Ashley: What you recommend for people who want to book shows in Winnipeg?
Maxine: It depends what kind of shows you want to book. Once I have new music to market myself, I want to push for playing bigger gigs and festivals. Right now I’m playing smaller patios and such. For that, I just found contacts with managers at different bars, etc. For festivals, I’d say the more musicians you know the better. Even getting booked as an opening act at the park theatre or West End. The more friends you make, the better. Go to Manitoba music events, work your ass off, follow people online and connect with them. Try to write with them and things like that. If you have that rapport and your genres work together, why wouldn’t you want to work together?
I’d say try having someone vouch for you for festivals, unless you know the organizers yourself. Sometimes it just looks better to have someone else; if you have an agent that is awesome or a manager, or if you have somebody who can play that role for you.
Ashley: Who inspires your music when you are writing or performing?
Maxine: There is this girl I’m currently obsessed with lately, everybody knows it, her name is Tori Kelly, she is the love of my life. She is doing something very similar to what I want to be doing. She writes from the heart, which I love. I also love Lauren Hill she’s amazing! I love Top 40 too. People knock on pop music all the time, but I love pop song structure. Styles like Katy Perry and Taylor swift; I love taking that and infusing it with jazz and soul.
Ashley: What is your songwriting process?
Maxine: I’m not going to lie I need to do more co-writing; I don’t do a lot of it. I usually write by myself. I like to start by writing before I go to bed if I have some thoughts in my head. I have to feel like I have something to say. I’ll usually write the lyrics separately and a lot of the time I’ll just let go of whatever is inside me. When you are writing you have to turn off your editor at first. You can turn it on later to make the song the best it can be but at the beginning during the creative process you just need to let yourself be as free as possible. I like to just write and write and never let myself think something is too wrong to write. I’ll usually take a section or a line or two lines and later when I’m playing guitar I’ll come up with a riff and whatever that riff is I’ll find some sort of melody to go with it. I’ll try to infuse the two together and build other lyrics around that. I’d say my music is very rhythmic based.
Ashley: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Maxine: In 2013 I won a songwriting contest for a single of mine called Shame On Me with the Manitoba Songfest. It was really nice as a writer because I’m primarily a singer and it was great to be acknowledged that way.
What’s really cool and recent is that I opened Nick Carter and the Pyramid. That was a lot of fun! The demographic was exactly what I want to be playing for.
Also, I was with a bunch of artists about a year and half ago playing a fundraising show at the Burton Cummings Theatre. It was with all these other local artists. On that stage I did a song solo and did two songs with a beat boxing friend of mine. Being alone on that giant stage, it’s such an iconic stage, it was such a big moment for me.
Ashley: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous about starting out?
Maxine: I would say when it comes to being on stage and getting over nerves you have to throw yourself into it and know that it’s going to get better. I find with nerves that often half way through the first song you’ll find that you’re going to be okay. It’s going to be all right and you are going to get less nervous as you do it.
Also when songwriting, don’t be afraid to suck and know that you’re going to write a lot of shit. Most people write a lot and take what’s good and you edit that to make it the best version of itself. Not everything you’re going to write is going to be gold and you have to be okay with that. I know people that have told me that they have tried to write and they say, “everything I write is just so cheesy.” You don’t need to worry about that right now and just keep writing. The greatest songwriters are not writing hits every single moment. They are writing a lot and they take from that lot and edit it down.
[You also need] to network. The better your know yourself as an artist and a band the easier it is to stay true to yourself, to market yourself and sell yourself when you are in the world.
Ashley: What is your favorite song to perform live?
Maxine: I have two songs, one that I open every show with and one that I close every show with. One is called Better that’s the one I’m recording it right now and I’ll close every show with it. I open with I just want to love you. They are both really upbeat jams with pop chorus. I feel like they optimize what I do so those are my favorite. You have to have your opening and closing songs down pat for sure, they have to be killer.
Ashley: What is the process to get started to record a single? Did you have to apply for funding?
Maxine: I’ve applied for grants in the past and did not get accepted for them. The current producer I work with, he is fantastic, has been helping me out. I got connected through a DJ friend of mine, so we sat down and I played him a bunch of songs and he was really into what I do and he wanted to help me out.
Ashley: How did you decide which song to pick for your single? How did you know the song was ready to be set in stone through recording?
Maxine: I’d say the latest song you’ve written is always your favorite one but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best one. Sometimes you have to let them sit for a month and play it for people that you trust too. Have them tell you if you need to tweak some things. For a single it has to be a very specific type of song and I just had that feeling for this one song of mine. I feel like it could have a good mainstream feel and I love what I’m saying in it. As long as it’s got the marketability along with heart connection, I think that’s a good balance.
Ashley: What’s the best advice since you’ve started working in the music business that has just stuck with you?
Maxine: One of my Profs in Nashville said ‘the audience isn’t always right but they never lie.’ The audience is going to react the way they are going to react, they may not be right but they are always telling you their truth. I think that’s something to keep in mind. Think about that when you are out online or at shows, you don’t have to take everybody’s advice but they are going to tell you what they think is true.
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