LA musician Max Frost has steadily been creating a buzz within the industry with his genre-bending sound, one that infuses blues with pop, rock and hip hop. Born and raised in Austin, TX, a city with a diverse music scene, Frost spent his younger years surrounded by a supportive community of artists. Although he started out as a blues player, he later sang hooks and created beats for many of the local hip hop artists. The exposure to so many different genres of music helped to shape Frost’s musical tastes from an early age, leading to his blending of many different genres into his own unique and cohesive sound. In the Fall of 2011, Frost took a slight detour from music to attend the University of Texas-Austin. He didn’t care for the college experience and spent most of his time focusing on music. He left college as his sophomore year was starting and pursued a solo career. In 2013, the blog Pigeons & Planes started streaming his song “White Lies”, which became an overnight hit, giving his music career the jump start it needed and leading Atlantic Records to seek him out. Frost, who is now signed with Atlantic Records, has released 2 EPs, 2013’s Low High Low and 2015’s Intoxication, and his debut full-length album GOLD RUSH was released today. GOLD RUSH allowed Frost to work with his friend and fellow label mate Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick (of Fitz and The Tantrums) and has produced his wildly popular single “Good Morning”. The song appeared in the debut advertising campaign for Pepsi’s bubly Sparkling Water, as well as in commercials for ESPN morning show Get Up! Frost will be setting out starting out on October 16th as support for the Twenty One Pilots Bandito Tour. I think it’s safe to say that Max Frost future is looking bright! Staff writer Emily May recently spoke with Frost by phone about the new album, his move to LA for a fresh start and his upcoming tour with Twenty One Pilots. You can check out the interview and video for “Good Morning” below. You can stay up-to-date with Frost, stream and purchase his music and watch his videos via the following links: Website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud, YouTube, Amazon Music, Apple Music/iTunes. Photo credit: Guerin Blask
You learned drums at the age of 4 and guitar at the age of 8, so it sounds like music has always been a part of your life. Did you grow up in a musical family and what do you think has sustained your love of music throughout your life so far?
I didn’t exactly grow up in a musical family. It was more just the family of the Austin music scene. Everyone that I grew up with was a great musician and we had a lot of great mentors who lived in Austin. That’s just what everyone did. I think a lot of people grow up playing sports, or something like that, but Austin was just a music town. I started playing drums at 4 but I didn’t really start focusing on it until I was 14. The guitar was my first real instrument. It’s funny-I was always playing music but I was playing in bands in the early 2000s, when I was a teenager. That’s when all I was hearing about the music business was that it was going downhill, that it was all over. I can always remember talking about wanting to play music with adults and they were like “Yeah, but make sure you go to college and have a back up career because it’s probably not going to work out’. So I never really thought it was going to be something that I wanted to do, but I stayed passionate about it because music was something I always loved. It almost became the thing on accident that I was doing for a living more then on purpose.
You started playing shows in Austin when you were 12. Is that correct?
Yeah, I was pretty young. I think I remember the first real gig I ever had. It was at a place called, like, Austin’s Pizza. It was off of South Lamar. They had a little PA in the corner and you could just call them and be like “Hey, I wanna come play” and they would say ok. I just set a day…I might have been 11 or 12 or 10…and I just went in there and set up my guitar and just played for people, you know?
What was the music scene like in Austin when you were growing up?
It was really diverse and still is. It’s definitely a very de-catagorized scene. It’s not only blues or rock or hip hop. On the same street there’s The Pink Flamingo where there’s a really awesome reggae thing happening and there’s Antone’s and Emo’s and hip hop clubs. There’s a very diverse scene. I think the really cool thing about it is that it doesn’t feel very competitive. Everyone in the scene kind-of knows and hangs out with each other. It was a very open experience.
You developed a very eclectic style of music at an early age, blending blues inspired stylings with hip hop. What was it that interested you in combining modern rhythms with classic vintage tones?
I grew up listening to old music and as a guitar player starting as a blues player, that’s just the stuff that had kind-of soaked into my bones, as a musician and a singer, you know? At the same time, when I was a kid, I was obsessed with Eminem when he came out and Outkast. To me at that time it seemed like it was on another planet that I could never reach. I guess the gap was sort-of bridged when I got a little older and some of the guys who were making hip hop in Austin started asking me to sing hooks on their songs and I started making beats and getting into that world. I guess it was sort-of a natural combination of all of those things. I feel like as an artist, it’s most satisfying when you can find ways to connect everything that you are into and a part of into one sound without it being confusing.
It sounds like everything has happened really quickly for you! Your song “White Lies” was featured on a podcast and just blew up overnight, and then you signed with Atlantic Records and have released two EPs. How has that transition been for you, having such a rapid rise in success in such a short period of time? How do you keep perspective and stay grounded?
I feel like I’ve just stayed focused on writing. The thing about being in the music business as an artist is that what you put out today is much more important then what you put out last year. I feel like it’s the one industry where you pretty much have a six month to one year window to really continue writing momentum of anything. If I was a film director or actor, I could be in one great movie and that would be my calling card for 10 years or something. In music, my focus is always on what I’m going to write or do today that’s going to be better then that and raise the bar. That’s always been my focus.
There have been so many advances in technology in recent years. How do you feel that technology and social media and the various streaming platforms have helped you in the music business?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. I’ve been thinking about how immensely possible my life only is through technology. If it wasn’t for the advancements and the way people make music, I never would have had a career because I wouldn’t have been able to record my own music. If it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t have been able to get my music to people and be discovered, I guess. At the same time, the loss of providence and information that we’ve allowed with the internet has been a dangerous thing and has affected my life in a negative way, and I think all artists in a negative way. As far as what it’s like to be a musician with social media, it’s kind-of bizarre because it’s almost like now your, and I hate to call it this, but your price tag is now like this three dimensional thing. And what I mean by that is that you’re measured basically by how big your social media following is, how many streams you have on your songs and how many tickets you sell to your shows. There are artists that only sell tickets but have none of the other things, there are artists who only have streaming but don’t sell many tickets and there are lots of artists who only have Instagram and nothing else. Obviously you want all three but it’s interesting how social media, as much as it’s a great way to connect with fans, is almost like a really specific metric to find out on a daily basis how much you are connecting or not with your fans. I think that can be a dangerous thing because I think an artist’s career is much more about the bigger picture then how many likes your photos get on any given day.
You’ll be releasing your debut full-length album, GOLD RUSH, on October 5th. What was the writing and recording process like for the album and what was it like to work with Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick on the album?
Fitz came into the picture around the time of the Grammy Awards of 2016…or 2017? He and I had known each other because I had toured with him and we had done some writing together and were friends. I had been playing him some songs I had been working on and I remember he just turned to me and said he wanted to jump on board, which was amazing because I had been looking for a creative partner and mentor in what I was doing for a long time. Being a solo artist is kind-of a lonely walk. That was the final nudge that I needed to move from Austin to LA. I had been thinking about it for a long time and had been feeling stuck creatively in Austin. I remember I had been spending a lot of long nights in studios by myself, working but just…there’s nothing worse then that weird kind-of feeling where you just know that you’re not nailing it. It’s not that I wasn’t functioning or had writer’s block, I just knew I wasn’t getting the best of what I could do. So I went to LA and I restarted my whole process and re-approached what I was doing. I threw away years worth of music to start over, and working with Fitz was like having a sports coach or boxing coach. He’s someone who still does it, who has done it, who speaks the language and understands the technical aspects of writing and how to challenge what you are doing. He was also coming from a place of knowing me as a person and asking me “Is this really honest and authentic to you?”. He helped me to push the album to be the best that it could.
What can you tell me about your latest single “Good Morning” as well as the idea behind the video and the filming of it? It looks like it was a really fun video to make!
It’s funny because that song was the first song I made after I got to LA and was just inspired by this attempt to restart my life and kick things into another gear. I guess I just wanted the video to feel like an explosion of positive energy that kept you glued to it because you didn’t know where it was going next. Ironically the video was shot in Austin even though the song was almost, in an indirect way, made about me leaving Austin. I went back there to shoot the video for a number of reasons. It was cool to shoot a video in my hometown and it was easier to get access to a marching band. I used Westlake High School’s marching band and used a lot of friends of mine as extras and more space. It’s hard to shoot stuff in LA sometimes. It was definitely one of my favorite videos I have ever made, as well.
With your latest album, as well as with your second EP, you worked with an outside producer and outside writers for the first time. What was that experience like for you and what do you feel like you learned from the process?
I’ve gotten better and better at that the more I’ve done it. It’s kind-of the way I like to work now. It was struggle for me in the beginning-partially from a place of ego and partially from a place of insecurity because I wasn’t sure if by working with people I was going to lose authenticity in what I was doing. I think the big advantage of it and the reason I like it that you don’t always have the clearest perspective of what’s good and what’s right in the moment. You can follow your gut and you can have ideas but you don’t know for sure. I wrote a song that Elton John cut last year and I had this short moment of time with him where I was asking him a bunch of questions about this stuff. I asked him if he knew which songs of his were going to connect and he said no, that that’s why you have to rely on the team around you and trust those people because you are too close to it as the artist. I kind-of think that’s why co-creation is really important because that takes place not only after the fact of making something but in the process, as well.
What was that like for you to work with Elton John? He’s such a legend!
Yeah, it was such a miracle. I don’t know if the song will ever some out. It’s a song that DJ Mustard was working up as a single that they then had Elton John cut. I went to London to be in the room while he was cutting the vocals and it was amazing. It was an unreal moment and I hope that something comes of it eventually.
I read that you have developed a one-man show over the years, with various instrument stations set up across the stage and you visit each one. What made you decide to develop a one-man show rather then performing with a band?
It was kind-of a dream I had always had, especially because that’s the way I make a lot of the music. I play all the parts and there was never a way to really transparently show that with a band. As far as the way to do it and the way to execute it, I was never really sure and it seemed impossible until I came to a point in my touring career years ago where I realized I had to either figure that out or that the financial reality of touring was going to be impossible. It was sort-of a dream that became a reality through necessity and is now ironically the go-to…definitely one of the things I feel like if I hadn’t done I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.
What was it like for you to see one of your songs featured on a Pepsi campaign?
It was amazing. It was kind-of the springboard I needed to really start getting momentum with “Good Morning” and get momentum on the album. It had been a while since I had released music so it was this perfect way to knock on Atlantic’s door and the world’s door and say “Ok, I have new songs and I’m ready to go!”.
What’s next for you? What do you have coming up? Do you have any specific goals going forward?
Right now, I’m a week away from leaving to do this tour with Twenty-One Pilots, which has been a super insane dream come true and came out of nowhere. I was right in the middle of preparing to leave on my own solo tour, but the moment I was offered this tour it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It killed me to cancel my tour, but it had to be done. Now my goal is just to deliver the best short, opening set that I can and try to soak up as much of that experience as I possibly can because it’s definitely going to go by fast. I’m still kind-of at a loss for words that it’s even happening.
It sounds like a dream tour! Do you have any other artists going forward that you’d love to tour with?
Yeah, I mean there’s so many. I would love to do collaborations with a lot more people in hip hop. I feel like so much of my career has been in the eclectic pop stuff as a solo artist, but I hope that one day I can reach across the board. I’d love to do something with Logic, Kanye or someone in that realm…anyone really that I listen to and respect as a hip hop artist, which is a lot of people.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!