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Interview:
Maxwell Enjoying Surprise Of Success
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Maxwell is openly and outspokenly surprised — as well as relieved — by the success he’s had with his latest album, “BLACKsummers’night.”

His first album after an eight-year break, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last July, went platinum and won two Grammy Awards. Maxwell also made history as the first male artist to score three consecutive No. 1 hits — “Pretty Wings,” “Bad Habits” and “Fistful of Tears” — on the Urban Adult airplay chart.

It’s not like he hasn’t had success before — he started on a double-platinum note with “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite” in 1996 — but this time he felt there were no guarantees.

“I mean, who wouldn’t be surprised, eight years after the fact?” Maxwell, 36, says now, as he winds into a spring tour with fellow R&B stalwart Jill Scott and prepares for the follow-up to “BLACKsummers’night.”

“I’d been so many years away from any of it, so it was almost like, ‘Wow, look at what’s happening again ... ’

“It was a lot of emotional moments — especially at the Grammys, where I sort of kept my glasses on. I think it’s still kind of whack to wear glasses when there is no sun out, but I was kind of tearing up and I couldn’t control my emotions ’cause I couldn’t believe that after all this time that all these voters and all these listeners and record buyers — CD buyers or MP3 buyers or whatever they are at this point — were there and willing to support what I did.

“I felt really blessed.”

These days Maxwell is also feeling really busy. In a good way.

He’s particularly excited about his 20-date run with Scott, which kicks off today in Cleveland. The two have met on a couple of occasions, including a 2008 BET Awards tribute to Al Green and this year’s NAACP Awards, but Maxwell is looking forward to getting better acquainted during the tour.

“I’m sure we’ll be hanging out and, y’know, she’ll probably teach me what to do on stage, vocally,” Maxwell notes. “I could probably benefit from her wisdom.”

He hopes some of that teaching will come while both singers are onstage together, too. “I think it would be great to create something special like that because she’s just so good, you know?” says Maxwell, who also performed in September at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s two different shows; she’s got her own look and her own thing she’s doing visually and stagewise, and I have my own thing. But hopefully we’ll be able to overlap the show, somehow. I think people deserve that, something special like that.”

And he’ll have some recording gear on the road with him, just in case. “Y’know, I work with very few (guests) on my albums, but it would be great. I just hope I can hold up, ’cause Jill is just a monster.”

Maxwell’s next formidable task is ramping up his next album, “BLACKsummers’night” — the second in a planned trilogy — for release. Though he thinks “BLACKsummers’night” may yield another couple of singles, with “Love You” and “Stop the World” as odds-on favorites, he already has his songs together for “BLACKsummers’night,” with “some overdubs” still left to record. He describes the set as “a hybrid of music ... a little bit of a rock element” influenced by groups such as the xx, Temper Trap, Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective.

“There’s a Coachella festival guy in me that loves all the indie rock stuff,” Maxwell says. “So I want to put that in there in a really subtle way — sprinkle it on there but keep the soul, keep the blues. That’s what I’m known for, so why go too far off the beaten path, y’know?”

As for when we’ll hear it, he predicts some time between September and February, though he intends to preview one of the new songs in his upcoming live shows.

“I don’t want to give an exact date,” he explains, “because I don’t want to have people wait and have it get pushed back. Then it looks like you’re nervous or something’s wrong when there’s nothing wrong. You’re just trying to make sure all the ducks are in a row.”



Maxwell and Jill Scott perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $101.50, $61.50 and $41.50. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.



Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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