The mak­ing of a proud ally

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In 2010, a 17-year old Maxwell Sch­nei­der made head­lines work­ing as a model while pos­ing with Madonna for a Dolce & Gab­bana cam­paign.

“It was sur­real,” he told Ge­or­gia Voice by phone. “Ev­ery time I tell the story, it doesn’t feel like a real day in my life. I’ll never for­get that head­line my dad saw in the news­pa­per the next day and that pa­parazzi shot say­ing ‘Who’s Madonna’s new fetus boyfriend?’”

Sch­nei­der, 25, is now mak­ing his own head­lines with­out the Ma­te­rial Girl on his shoul­ders.

Known sim­ply as MAX to his fans, this young, gor­geous sen­sa­tion with a crisp tenor is now storm­ing the air­waves with a re­fresh­ing hyp­notic sound, one that blends dub­step, al­ter­na­tive R&B and a splash of pop. Songs like “Gib­ber­ish” and “Wrong” firmly plant him in the realm of Nick Jonas and The Weeknd. Mean­while, a cor­nu­copia of mu­si­cal in­flu­ences — James Brown, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, Prince, even 21st cen­tury ti­tans like Bruno Mars and Justin Tim­ber­lake — keep him rooted in the lane of soul.

But it’s the sul­try, melodic bal­lad “Lights Down Low” fea­tur­ing gnash, the lead sin­gle off his de­but stu­dio al­bum “Hell’s Kitchen An­gel,” that has MAX sail­ing to­wards pop star sta­tus. Weeks af­ter crack­ing the Bill­board Top 40, the song was cer­ti­fied gold in late Septem­ber and was even used dur­ing Drew Scott’s rumba on this sea­son of “Danc­ing with the Stars.”

“It’s been so in­cred­i­ble,” he said. “A lot of peo­ple in my realm of mu­sic thought it was ca­reer sui­cide to put this song out and to say I wrote it about my wife. And so the fact that this has been the one that has trav­eled to more ears than any other mu­sic of mine is so hum­bling.”

To his credit, MAX has latched onto a host of ca­reers, from act­ing in tele­vi­sion

Oc­to­ber 13, 2017

MAX is scor­ing with his hit sin­gle ‘Lights Down Low,’ fea­tur­ing gnash. (Pho­tos courtesy Crush Man­age­ment) and movies (Nick­elodeon’s “How to Rock,” “Law and Or­der: SVU”) to Broad­way (he worked with Ari­ana Grande while on the mu­si­cal “13”). But he said mu­sic is where he be­longs and where he in­tends to stay.

“I’m com­pletely com­mit­ted to it,” he af­firmed. “This is all I wanna do. I’m hav­ing the time of my life hon­estly.”

Raised in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and sur­rounded by an en­vi­ron­ment of tol­er­ance and sex­ual flu­id­ity, MAX is proudly stand­ing up as an ally for the LGBT com­mu­nity. And yes, he’s quite aware that such a move can still some­times be risky for younger artists. But this straight ally isn’t con­cerned over any back­lash that may rise from the fringe far-right or the loud­est crit­ics.

“You know … there’s def­i­nitely a fear of peo­ple in gen­eral [with that], es­pe­cially in mu­sic as a solo pop male act,” MAX re­called. “Peo­ple think there’s a stigma, which I think is re­ally sad. It’s so wrong. We should be an ally with ev­ery­thing that we be­lieve in, re­gard­less of the fears that come with it.”

MAX ad­mits that his own ex­pe­ri­ence of open­ing up about his mar­riage while still in the in­fancy of his ca­reer helped him to face any qualms. And yes, even Madge proved to be a valu­able in­spi­ra­tion. “[Madonna’s] been such a pow­er­ful voice to the LGBTQ com­mu­nity for so long,” he added.

‘Danc­ing, lots of high en­ergy mu­sic’ at Pride

MAX will per­form at At­lanta Pride on the Coca-Cola Stage in Pied­mont Park on Oct. 14. And although the North Amer­i­can leg of his Me­teor Tour has the tal­ented heart­throb re­turn­ing to At­lanta’s Aisle 5 later this month, he prom­ises to bring the max­i­mum ex­pe­ri­ence to Pride.

“There’s go­ing to be danc­ing, lots of high en­ergy mu­sic,” MAX said. “We’ll go from per­form­ing like we’re in a sta­dium and then switch­ing it right away like you’re in a small room of a hun­dred peo­ple.” And ex­pect some cov­ers of pop­u­lar hits, even a few peppy syn­th­funk jams from his side project Party Pupils.

“We’re def­i­nitely play­ing the Party Pupils jams in At­lanta as well,” he said.

This won’t be MAX’s first per­for­mance at a Pride fes­ti­val.

“Ac­tu­ally I just had a Pride event in Ken­tucky [Louisville Pride] about a week and a half ago,” he said. “There were a cou­ple of ag­gres­sive drag queens who were very touchy, but they were awe­some.”

Then, a jovial laugh per­me­ates the room right be­fore MAX de­scribes the beauty of Pride events.

“They are so won­der­ful,” he said. “I love see­ing the peo­ple ex­press­ing the en­ergy and see­ing them­selves in their most true way. There’s noth­ing more beau­ti­ful.”

Of course, se­cu­rity will once again be a top pri­or­ity at At­lanta Pride as the na­tion pro­cesses yet an­other tragedy — the mass shoot­ing at a Ja­son Aldean con­cert in Las Ve­gas on Oct. 1 that led to 59 deaths and over 500 in­jured. Months prior, the Manch­ester ter­ror­ist bomb­ing at an Ari­ana Grande con­cert dom­i­nated the news cy­cle. And this year in June marked the one-year an­niver­sary of the Pulse mas­sacre. Still, MAX be­lieves we must not wal­low in fear.

“I would say it’s heart­break­ing; it’s ter­ri­ble, be­cause mu­sic fes­ti­vals and con­certs should be the safest place in the world,” he said. “We should feel lost [there]. We should be able to find in­spi­ra­tion and feel our safest at shows. I think our only re­sponse is to show up more, to show peo­ple that we don’t fear. And I think Pride is a great ex­am­ple of [us] com­ing to­gether, to show love and to not be afraid. It’s a beau­ti­ful thing to be com­fort­able with who you are.”


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