Maxwell Young is a teenage singer, songwriter, and producer building musical worlds from his bedroom in Wellington, New Zealand. He's calling his new project Daydreamer a "personal diary" and the intimacy of the gentle, DIY pop songs is part of their appeal—we're following along as Maxwell finds his voice and experiences all the emotions that come with growing up.
Inspired by movies like 10 Things I Hate About You & (500) Days of Summer as well as Kevin Abstract's American Boyfriend, Maxwell Young has evolved from the warm hip-hop beat tapes that he started releasing in 2016. Maxwell collaborated with Clairo, Instupendo, and Lontalius via the internet for Daydreamer, and next up he wants to start collaborating in person, as well as performing more and making music videos. "Working with others is absolutely going to be part of that as I've come to realize I'm more concerned with execution than the age old fantasy of being self made," he explains.
Read an interview with Maxwell Young below and listen to the full project at the bottom of the page or via your preferred streaming service here.
What does the Daydreamer album mean to you?
I’ve been labeling Daydreamer as of much of a personal diary as an "album." I don’t really see it as a debut album but those songs totally make sense together in that order as a concept and had to be released as such. The thing is, I’m still only 18, developing my sound and taste a lot with very little external help so it's up to me for anything to happen for me right now. It's a project about teenage heartbreak and anxiety that I learnt a lot from making.
What can you share about the process of putting this album together? How long has it taken, where did you write and record
This was fully made in my bedroom. Some production and voice memos would've been made here and there at music rooms at school or at local cafes but just by myself. I really decided to create a body of work titled Daydreamer after hearing Kevin Abstract's album American Boyfriend as I was caught up with the world he created. However the title track was something I wrote when I was only 14. I've been talking about this project most days since December 2016. It was my first time working with collaborators, unfortunately all online thus far but I couldn't be happier with the roster of people I had helping me with it.
I think this is the third project you've released on streaming services—how do you feel like you've grown as an artist since you started releasing music?
Last year I started implementing pop structure in my songwriting which when I was young I shrugged off as played out and boring but once I made "1999" and "Bianca" I fell in love with the form of a chorus. I also learnt how to write as myself more. When I started writing songs at 8 or 9 I was upset that I didn't have a love life to write about like John Mayer sang about or didn't go to a preppy college in New York like Vampire Weekend so I wrote from the perspective of characters in movies. Daydreamer's first inspirations were the movies 10 Things I Hate About You & (500) Days of Summer which helped me find my voice a lot. Throughout the year as I felt more teenage anxiety and heartbreak I began to put that personal experience in my music rather than experiences of fictional characters.
You record your music in your bedroom so I'm curious what your take on the idea of "bedroom pop" as a scene or genre is.
Big topic! Pretty much every “bedroom pop” artist I know hates the term. Personally I find it kind of funny and a sign of the times so don’t mind being labeled whatever I’m labeled. My problem stems from when it’s like a trend that artists or labels exploit. But that box excites me to subvert expectations. Some really talented people are being put under that box right now and it'll be really interesting to see who's timeless enough to withstand the trend.
How has the internet and platforms like SoundCloud helped you as an artist?
They’re essential. I mean, it’s cool to discredit SoundCloud now as its dying but really it was integral to building my audience. Being aware of the streaming era and social media as much as possible is something I really value. I think Instagram is the center of the universe for a lot of people in a way and recognizing it as a key way to build your brand sets people apart. Being vulnerable online is something that really seems to stand out and connect with people which makes sense because it's what all my favorite artists today do too.
What do you have planned next? You mentioned wanting to work in person with more artists around the world...
I want to make a really great record. I recently felt like I really found my voice and want to focus on making something that really feels bold and modern. Working with others is absolutely going to be part of that as I've come to realize I'm more concerned with execution than the age old fantasy of being self made. Everything is pretty up in the air right now but I'm excited. I'll be doing music videos, merch, and shows for Daydreamer for the rest of the year while working on new music. Having Daydreamer out is making music so fun again.