The Grand Rapids multi-instrumentalist releases a new studio album Friday at Midtown in Grand Rapids. The Local Spins profile of Max Lockwood, along with his latest single.
SCROLL DOWN TO LISTEN TO SONGS FROM THE NEW ALBUM
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It’s spring in Heritage Hill.
Flowers blossom along pristine fence-lines in the Grand Rapids neighborhood. Denim-clad couples stroll along the sidewalk. Martha’s Vineyard is slinging morel mushrooms by the pound. Overnight, it seems, the world has gone from gray to technicolor.
Tucked behind one of the main roads is a hidden corridor crowded with colorful houses. Following the muffled sounds of a kick drum and rumbling bass, I arrive at a home nestled in a cozy urban alcove where Max Lockwood and his band are rehearsing.
The group is set to perform Friday at Midtown in downtown Grand Rapids in support of Lockwood’s new record, “Diamonds.” Eric O’Daly opens the show, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, $25-$35, are available online here.
Drummer Daine Hammerle steps out onto the front porch and shouts a few welcoming words from across the street as I approach the house. We shoot the breeze for a moment before making our way inside where Lockwood’s living room is converted into a rehearsal space.
It’s warm and inviting. An array of plants soak up the natural light from stately windows. Original paintings by Lockwood’s roommate, Dennis Nagelkirk, adorn the walls.
The band (consisting of Hammerle, O’Daly, Hannah Laine, Justin Dore, Phil Barry, Brandon Proch and Brandon Smith) is workshopping a song by volleying chords and vocalizing melodies, a process that Lockwood shapes and directs.
“He has a vision that he wants to execute. So as a person who’s been in a lot of bands where we’re all trying to make a vision together, this, in a good sense, isn’t that. I’m just part of the big machine,” says O’Daly.
“We’re all part of all the gears that are turning to make the songs happen. And that’s a really nice role. It’s all about the songs themselves. There’s no jockeying for individual creative vision. We’re all serving the song.”
The crew dives into a song from the record — most of which was recorded with Joe Hettinga — filling the room with resonant rock ‘n’ roll. After the last chords ring out, Lockwood makes a few notes over the microphone. Chemistry among the group is evident, the kind of camaraderie only achieved by long drives and late night loadouts.
“I love playing with this band not only because each individual is so talented and diligent and professional, and not only because they are all such great human beings to be around and share stages with, but also because they each bring a deep artistry to how they play and how they approach playing these songs,” says Lockwood.
“They support this music with a lot of intention and care and that really allows me to let go and abandon myself to the music in performance, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. And we all have a lot of fun in the process.”
LISTEN: Max Lockwood, “Nothing to Fight” (from “Diamonds”)
‘A HOLISTIC REPRESENTATION’ OF HIS SONGWRITING AND CREATIVITY
I first met Lockwood years ago at a recording session at Ben Zito’s Centennial Sound in Grand Rapids After that introduction, I would often spot Lockwood posted up playing solo tunes at any number of breweries, or backing artists such as May Erlewine on bass at summer festivals.
I take the opportunity to ask Lockwood how his artistry has evolved in that time.
“I have changed a lot in some ways. I think as far as my solo albums go, I’ve almost come full circle in that time. I feel like with this record, the fun thing about it is that the singer-songwriter and rock ‘n’ roll part of me has come together,” he says.
“So, it feels like more of a holistic representation of how I feel about my songwriting and creativity. I’ve also been working with a vocal coach for the first time in my life for the last three years. I was surprised how much more I’m able to express myself vocally. Also, I just learned a lot.
“And I’ve worked with so many different musicians and collaborated on so many different records and live performances over that time. I’ve just matured a lot. I feel more confident and grounded in my playing and ability. And I think that also allows me to have more fun doing it.”
As for Friday’s show, Lockwood says listeners can expect to hear the new record in its entirety, performed by an eight-piece band of stellar musicians. Beyond that, the evening is about connection.
“I just want people to feel love, feel connected and enjoy themselves for a night. I want them to feel the camaraderie onstage, and hopefully find some inspiration to feel more in touch with themselves.”
We conclude our interview with a photo session on the front porch amid a light breeze and whistling birds.
Lockwood, no stranger to being photographed, is relaxed in front of the lens with a sunburst hollow body across his lap. Not unlike the flowers that line his street, Lockwood has truly blossomed into a leading man, leaning into his craft as an engaging songwriter and performer.
When asked what compels him to keep making art, he pokes a little fun at his given career choice.
“I have to ask myself that all the time,” he quips. “Joking aside, it seems to me that I can’t really help it. I’ve tried other ways of getting by and eventually made the decision that this is the path for me, and committed myself fully to it.
“I think for me, to be true to myself and true to how I really felt in my heart about my life and my craft, at some point I realized that meant that being all in and letting this be my north star in everything I do.”
Lockwood adds: “Ebbs and flows are inherent in it because it’s such a direct reflection of the actualities of life as a human being, and that can feel a bit turbulent at times. But maybe that’s what is so engaging and mysterious about it — that direct connection to the source of it all, whatever it may be.
“It also doesn’t hurt that I mostly get to work with all of my favorite people very frequently, and the energy of those connections in the musical space is about as good as anything I’ve experienced in this life.”
LISTEN: Max Lockwood, “All Mine”
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