RIOT Introducing #16: Joey Maxwell

Joey Maxwell is doing it unapologetically on his own. Having spent time in his own band, at university, and at the BRIT School, the south-London native decided all that wasn’t for him, and retreated to his bedroom studio. From there he developed his evasive, ambiguous bedroom pop style. His influences are varied, and that comes through in his music, which has obvious tinges of everything from electronic, to hip-hop, to Northern Soul.

To celebrate the release of the video for his latest single ‘My Self’, we caught up with him to discuss all things authenticity, positivity, creativity, and Chelsea FC.

Your influences are clearly very broad, and your music is a synthesis of a lot of stuff. But is there any one artist or several artists that have had the biggest influence on your own sound?

Honestly, probably Slick Rick. He’s one of my favourite storytellers and his songs can make you simultaneously laugh and cry, the subject matter can be deep but the tone can be humorous and vice versa. I think having that versatility in music is so unique. I want my music to cater to every emotion, I want to be cohesive but I also want to be versatile and I think Slick Rick has that perfect balance.

The subject matter in your current single, ‘My Self’, is pretty serious, but the music is more upbeat. Do songs like that help to normalise conversations around issues like men’s mental health and body positivity? Was that part of the thinking when you wrote the song?

I hope so. Usually when I write something it’s quite an organic process, so I have to untangle the meaning of the song myself after I’ve written most of it. Thematically it definitely became clear to me that I was reflecting my problems with insecurity in the song and I decided not to shy away from that.

In terms of the melody being bright I think that the juxtaposition between music and lyrics is healthy and something I try to achieve a lot in my music. I don’t think it dilutes the message, and I think some of the saddest songs are ones that still make you want to dance. In terms of a wider conversation about men’s mental health and body positivity, I’m very thankful those conversations are happening. And if the song contributes to those conversations in any way then that would be amazing.

Is the conversation around insecurities and introspection something you see continuing in music? Will younger generations of artists like yourself continue to emerge and highlight it for discussion?

I hope it continues, but in a healthy way. As a generation I think it’s great that we’re becoming more honest but it’s also important that we don’t trivialise these conversations. For me, there are elements of my own mental health that I don’t feel ready to talk about yet, but hopefully as my confidence grows as an artist I’ll be able to share with people in the appropriate way.

What other issues do you think aren’t getting talked about enough – in music or in society at large?

This year has been super delicate and it’s important to educate yourself, which is something that I’ve been doing. It’s good to see more conversations happening and it’s important to be vocal in society. It’s encouraging to have more frank conversations with my friends and people that I work with. Educating myself will be an important takeaway this year personally. I also understand that having a bit of a platform is an important resource and I try to utilise it in the best way possible. Hopefully as my platform grows I’ll be able to be more useful and able to spread some positivity.

You’re a Rex Orange County contemporary; is there anyone else of your generation whose music you’ve heard and that you’re particularly excited about? Who should fans of Joey Maxwell also be listening to?

I listen to a lot of music so this is a hard question! Recently I’ve been listening to Jim-E Stack’s new record, I think that’s incredible. I think Maya Delilah is super talented, and also Orion Sun I’ve been listening to a lot. Also I just got super into Yung Lean. I never used to like it but I can’t stop playing it now. It’s crazy how your brain kind of phases in and out of different musical styles.

You spent time in a band before going solo – how is writing music alone different to collaborating on something? Are you more nervous or hesitant about what goes into your music now than you were before?

The creative process has definitely changed, but to be fair the creative process kind of changes all the time. I have 4 or 5 methods of writing music now, which alternate at random depending on how I’m feeling. Initially I was definitely more nervous, but I’m very lucky that music has become my job and that’s given me the confidence not to limit myself or feel hesitant about what I create. In a band the music is a lot more metaphorical. It’s easier to disguise the meaning of songs through obscure lyrics. Whereas now I’m a lot more matter of fact, which initially took some getting used to. But I prefer the music I make now so it feels worth it to be more honest.

It seems like a running theme throughout your work and your life is authenticity and honesty. Do you think that’s something that’s missing in the music industry? Or in society at large?

I think doing this job and sharing a lot more of your life than you would if you had another profession has definitely shown me that it’s best to be authentic and be yourself. It weighs too heavy on you if you try and live up to some bullshit expectation or try and be someone you’re not. It’s not worth it.

What’s next? Can you tell us whether you’re working on another project?

Yeah! I’m super excited to be working on a web series which features lots of upcoming artists and gives an insight into their creative processes. The first episode is out soon. All will be revealed but the series is called ‘trying not to deep it’ and I’m super excited to share it with the world!

Finally, judging by your twitter, it’s clear you’re a Chelsea fan. Are you happy with the way the season’s gone so far? Who do you see finishing in the top four?

We’re going straight to the top, that trophy is coming back to Stamford Bridge!

Author avatar
Ben Kitto

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