Max Stalling may not be the tallest guy in the business but he sure is one of ’em! I’ve always been a fan of his, his music is unique…it certainly can not be branded as typical frat boy music, AND THAT MY FRIEND, IS A GREAT COMPLIMENT!
Katie: The fact that you didn’t even pick up a guitar till graduate school is fascinating to me! Tell us what it took to get you to realize that music was where you wanted to take your life.
Max: I have always loved music…as a consumer. I listened to music constantly and it was (and still is) an integral part of my life. I had also always written a little prose. Nothing serious, just a little journal with short stories and the occasional poem or rhyme in it. I had a roommate in college who had a guitar and some song books and I started picking around on it and learning a few chords and a few Eagles tunes (I only ever seemed to learn about half of any song though…not sure why?).
After I moved to Dallas for a day job in the early 90’s, I was struggling a bit. I didn’t know a lot of people in the Dallas area and I was pretty lonely. Top that off with I was terribly homesick for southwest Texas/Crystal City and such. The big city wasn’t sitting well with this small town boy. At any rate I finally put the prose writing and love of music together and decided to start creating rather than just being a consumer. Right about that time is when I found 89.3 KNON community radio station and that introduced to me to all the great singer/songwriters that I still revere today (Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Robert Keen, Steve Earle, et al) and that opened up a whole new world to me. Then I met Mark David Manders, Ed Burleson, Tommy Alverson, Larry Joe Taylor and a whole bunch of the North Texas music scene folks at a place called the Three Teardrops Tavern. And that was pretty much it for me…the die was cast.
Katie: Tell me about your songwriting process…Do you have a favorite spot to write songs?
Max: Ah, “THE PROCESS.” I love “THE PROCESS.” It’s so magical to me. Where do songs come from? I wish I knew for sure. Where there was nothing…a big empty space…suddenly there is “something.” A song is not really a tangible item like a chair or a clay pot or something else you might “create” but it exists just the same. It’s really magical to me. I love talking about the process, thinking about the process and I love writing songs. (You would think I would do it more often!)
I am “writing” all the time…driving down the road, walking through the grocery store, standing over the grill, typing out an email or even standing there talking to someone. My mind seems to constantly stay in a mode of seeking new ideas for songs and also sifting through lyrics and verse order and structure and such. But eventually, to make it come to reality, I have to find time where I can sit down with all my notes and journals and various scraps of paper where I have jotted things down and assemble all the ideas into something that makes sense. For this, I prefer complete immersion and seclusion is best. Two or three straight days are best. But carving out that kind of time is harder and harder these days. When I do go on one of these “sabbaticals” I have a friend who lets me use his lake house outside of College Station. Or I go visit my mom in Crystal City and lock myself in the “guest house” (aka 1970’s trailer house out back). I take multiple guitars, dictionaries, thesauruses, multiple colored pens pencils and piles of notes and notebooks and start the process of assembling ideas into something useful.
Then, when I emerge with one or two or hopefully three “songs” I have to live with them for a while. Play them over and over and over and make sure they hang together lyrically and musically, reordering things, cutting words, adding words, changing subtle things. That last step is the editing stage and it is by far the hardest.
So, as far as I can tell, there are three major components to “The Process:” 1) the Flash of Inspiration, step 2) The Assembly step and 3) the Editing step.
I know, I know…this is more information than you asked for. I TOLD you I like talking about the process!
Katie: Ha! What are you seeing out there on the scene as being the next BIG thing that we might not know about?
Max: Hmmmh…that is a tricky question. Not sure if it’s the “next BIG thing” but it does seem that there is kind of a trend of the music fans are wanting to hear the songs a bit more. In other words, more shows at smaller, slightly more intimate rooms where the songwriters are able to talk about the songs and the history behind them. Places like The Mucky Duck/Houston, Dosey Doe/Conroe & The Woodlands, Kessler Theatre/Dallas, Poor David’s Pub/Dallas, The Cactus Theatre/Lubbock, etc. Or maybe it’s just me?
Katie: No, you’re definitely on to something. People appreciate the music more. It’s been a few years since you released a new album, when can we expect to hear something new?
Max: Well, as it so happens I have a new project that will be getting finished this month. I’m very excited about it. Eleven new songs that my band and I have recorded with Lloyd Maines as producer. There’s two songs on it I didn’t write which is kind of unusual for me but they turned out really great. And then there’s a song that I wrote with some help from Jason Boland and Mark David Manders. It’s a really groovy tune about keeping your feet on the ground. I’m not sure when this project will be released but it should be pretty much completely finished by the end of this month! A new baby in the family.
Katie: Yay!! Can’t wait! Now if you could pick one artist (living or dead) to perform with, who would it be and why?
Max: Man, that’s a tough one…there’s a lot of people out there that I look up to…alive and not. Could I do a four way song swap with Guy Clark, Dean Dillon, Townes Van Zandt and me? Is that too much to ask?
Find out more about Max, his new CD and where you can see him playing here: http://www.maxstalling.com/.