Max Merseny is Everlasting (exclusive interview)

Max Merseny – whom calls Starnberg, Germany home, is not your typical jazz saxophone player where he takes inspiration and infuses all of it into all areas of his work. One cannot help hear his huge influences such as hip-hop, soul, and funk placed into all of his lively endeavors within his music career. It truly makes a fresh and global appeal to listeners whom might not have had jazz on the radar to revisit or even check it out for the first time.

For a younger generation this new branding of jazz awakens the listener to not simply sit in a dimply lit bar but to actually get up and move. Max being only in his mid 20’s has had already an impressive career with his brand new album; “Everlasting” being widely released (with high praise), performing engagements, touring, great musical collaborations, along with his successful previously released 2 albums. The brand new album released from ENJA Records. This new album showcases Max at his level best where he is allowed to test boundaries and showcase his musical evolution to his fans without compromise of his artist integrity. His music does not falter such as many artists in his age category who simply jump onto the band wagon of what is the next big thing and will compromise the artistry.

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Max, let me first mention it is a true pleasure for you to take time out of your busy recording sessions and projects to do this interview. I have been making myself more acquainted to your music and must say it is terrific quality of material you release. I truly love how you have taken your passion of jazz and breath new life into it, love the sound! Please tell us the journey it was on deciding the conception of this album; "Everlasting"

Max: After the first two records I just wanted to make the next step to the music, which is in me, and I want play. I recorded a lot of ideas in the beginning, and after a while I picked my fifteen favorites. Then I spend a lot of time especially with my guitar player Ferdinand Kirner and Alex Han (Marcus Miller Band) to bring the songs in a form. After listening to the demos every day I made the decision, which songs will make it on the record. The cover of the record should just show the people who I am. Maybe it looks not like a average jazz record, but why it has too? Since my childhood I listen to many different styles of music. From jazz to hip hop. That is what I want, when die listeners see and listen to the record. On “Everlasting” you can hear some really funky lines, but it definitely has it's moments full of jazz and soul.

I love that you perform original beloved tracks and bridge them with your own fresh material,
what did you envision when starting to work on this current album? Did it meet or go a total
different direction from your initial vision and how so?

Max: My primary goal was in the beginning making a record, which has one vibe, and not many different styles like on the first CD. I tried my best and I'm really happy with the result, but already now I have some ideas what I would change or do different. It's a process which will never end, and that's the beautiful thing on making music.

You work many great musicians whether it is performing live or in your recording sessions,
were there any specific musicians that were part of “a must have” list and for what reason?

Max: Nowadays many musicians hire great special guests for their records, getting more attention for their music. For me it is more living the dream and sharing my stuff with extraordinary people, friends, artists. I'm a big of everybody who took part on this current record, whether it is Ferdi's guitar playing or this great sing, rap-part of Illa J. And for that reason I'm glad releasing my CD's on ENJA records, because they always took my records, like I gave it to them. So I don't have any “must have” musicians on any of my records.

When listening to all three of your albums (one being a live album which was also a great
listen) do you like to keep a select amount of musicians that you have connected with
together? I am sure it is like anything else that once you have pin pointed other musicians that are on the same musical vision as yourself it becomes a family and a must to stay

Max: That's true!! Especially with Ferdi (guitar) and Roger (turntables, raps) I have this relationship. We're not just in a band, we're friends and also talk about many other things. Also Matthias (keyboards) is from day one the group, and I'm really happy about that. Without them and their great ideas, playin' the project wouldn't be there where it is today...

Keeping on the subject of your recording sessions, how do you find works best for you upon
going into the studio to record? Meaning I love that Tony Bennett still goes the route of
recording with all the artists in the same studio with the musicians playing. Where oppose to
now it is typically something that most or if not all of the instrumentals are recorded ahead of
time and when it comes to the vocalist or head artist they record with that already done and
mechanically played in the background and other artists simply sending their sessions
onward as well. It seems to be a very segmented approach which of course has a cost benefit but I truly would think that you lose those recordings say the old school route where
something was never planned and just happened and winds up being a whole new track or
the piece of the puzzle bridging the song.

Max: Oh yeah I'm definitely with you. For me it really depends on what I want. That's the reason I love and released the LIVE “incontri” EP. It's raw and live, and just happened on that night. On the two studio records, it's a mixture of everything, but the basic band just happened in the studio. But I also love produced records. You just gotta choose the right CD's, whether it is Hip Hop, Jazz, R&B...

Walk us through the process for you when getting into “the writing zone” for songwriting?
Max: It not really happens so often that I sit down, and say to myself: “Today I'm writing a song.” Sometimes I'm just playing around with the sax or on the piano, and have a good idea for maybe four bars. Then I record it, with the phone, computer or write it down. And if these four bars not going out of my head, I come back to that track and try add some more to it. If Ferdi has time, he plays some guitars over it. Then slowly I can see where the song goes, but every song is different. Some I write in fifteen minutes, and for example “Try” really became a song after two years. In the beginning it was jam, and after playing this song on every concert, I decided to add a bridge to it. So in my case it's from song to song different...

Do you have one special song on your new album that for whatever reason speaks to you and your core the most?
 Max: Every single song is very special to me. I spent a lot of time with each, hearing and writing them. Some I just did by myself, some in different locations like Munich, New York or Milan, and some I had a great time hanging with Alex, Ferdi or Matthias...

What got you to determine that the saxophone was the instrument for you?
Max: After I realized what beautiful things you can make with this instrument. For me
especially the sax is a instrument, which comes in the near of a human voice, where you can express yourself without words, but with a lot of feeling. A important record for me was “Pearls” by David Sanborn.
What is one of your favorite all time songs that you think truly showcases the saxophone like no other? Why?
 Max: Oh, I think I have too much... Different question for me, because I love so many styles. Nowadays I hear in house music a sax, or in a Kendrick Lamar Hip Hop track. That's great, because that shows saxophone is a timeless instrument in a time where most of the music is electronic...



How would you describe Max Merseny music?

Max: Powerful, Soulful, and definitely from the heart!!

Your debut album was “Thank Y’All” which I am currently listening to and enjoying as well. What have you seen in terms of your musical evolution from your first album released and your current “Everlasting?” Have you done an evolution musically, personally etc. that has brought you to where you are now opposed to a few years ago (I hear David Sanborn is a huge musical influence for you). What draws you to David Sanborn's music?
  Max: Like I said a few questions before “Pearls” by David Sanborn was a important record for me, because there you hear this beautiful orchestra and David is doing his
thing over it. It's not a typical Sanborn record, and especially because of that I really love it. That was for me a sign, that no matter what style of music somebody is playing, you need your own voice, sound. Since that time, I think I was about fourteen, I really listened a lot to David Sanborn!! But after a while I discovered other great players, but he was from the beginning. 
You have taken your musical career very seriously such as attending college for your artistry, how was that experience and being in the United States? Did it prove to be very productive and eye opening, if so why or why not?

Max: For me it was always inspiring to have a new environment around me. I think a big difference to my college time here and visiting the states was, that in Germany a lot of things happened in school, and in my New York time it was more going out and meeting new people, and jammin' at the clubs. But I see every day as a productive day, even if I just have an idea for four bars, or work on new material.
By the way, as a side note we would LOVE to see you back in the states doing many gigs and touring! Any plans for you and your band to head back to the states for some special shows?

Max: We played now a lot here in Germany, and the next step is to play more in Europe. That is was I see realistic right now. I really hope to come back to the states soon, but it's unfortunately not so easy for festivals and promoters to bring a band from Germany to the states. I already had some offers from Asia and the states, but it not came together yet. Hopefully in the near future!!
What are your thoughts of the current musical landscape? I truly think we need artists like yourself and more of you getting your music and messages spread throughout the globe. It is time for more creative music and not simply tuning into a Top 40 list which in my book has you miss out on some of the best artists and music right now. Enough of me you tell me your thoughts on this.
Max: On one side you have creative music, artists, and on the other a machine, wich is just about the consume for the listeners. But that is something we also had ten or twenty years ago. As long we have this creative people, musicians and artists I'm not worried...

With your musical career in high gear right now what is the biggest achievement thus far? It would be that “A-HA!” moment that your eyes are wide open and you know from this period on things will be different for one’s self musically for the right reasons.
Max: The biggest achievement is definitely to have the opportunity making my own music, and share it with the world. On top of that with really great musicians and friends!!
 Since you seem to always like to experiment with sounds and making them part of you, is there a genre you would love to venture into and bring it into your sound? From getting to know you and your music this seems to be an area that you are constantly educating yourself on which only makes listening to your music that much more delightful.

Max: Since I began I play the music I feel and love, and I definitely will keep up with that. You never know what's going to happen in the future, but I'm always open minded to any music I hear. I don't make plans where the journey goes, sometimes it just happens...

What came first for your musical career, the composing or playing the saxophone? When did you know that you had a gift in the arts and wanted to venture to all of these areas?
Max: In my young age I also played really good basketball and I was a good swimmer, but I had the feeling to go with music at this time. With the age of sixteen the musical college here in Munich accepted me as a student, so the decision was made. For me playing saxophone always came first. After years of studying here in Munich my teacher Gregor Huebner (famous violin and piano player, lives in New York) gave me the task to write two songs for a concert, although I never have written something before... That was the beginning of my composing.


What are your mission and vision with you and your musical journey?

Max: To make a lot of good music!!

I cannot wait to hear about another album on the way from you and other projects, tell us about current & up-coming projects that you are working on.
Max: There are right now a lot of things in my head, and I'm already writing on new stuff. In the next couple of month I want to sort everything and go on with new material and projects. I'll keep you posted.
Do you have some touring under way, please tell us about where we can find you live and what should we expect for a live performance from you? Will the entire quintet be present on the touring as well?  
Max: Since the release of “Everlasting” we already touring since September 2013 with that record. The next big shows are from the 2nd of September until 6th of September at "Jazz club Unterfahrt" in Munich, Germany with the original record band from the CD.

Is there anyone that you would love to collaborate with musically (perhaps to either write with, sing with live or for an album) and why?
Max: Ohh too many... I work on that!!

Who inspires you in both your personal and professional life?

Max: My family, which is supporting me since day one, and be there for me every day!!Especially my dad helped me a lot in the beginning, and still today he gives me great advice.


Music is a powerful tool, what does it mean to you as an artist?
Max: Music can heal pain, music can makes you happy, music can make a lot of things with you. That is something what people can hear, when they listen to my music, because the band and I put a lot of feelings in it. For me as an instrumentalist it also means that I can express myself without any words.

What made you get into the music industry?

Max: It was a slinking process. Never had the plan, I just got into it. And some little success always helps to be positive and stay in this business.

What was your first gig?
Max: My first gig under my name was with the age of sixteen in Starnberg, Germany in a restaurant. I'll never forget that. It was with musicians I started to study with in Munich and some of us never really played standards. And that for three hours! It was a funny night...Before that I played a lot with my dad, sometimes he took me on a cruise ship, and before they played with the Big Band a show they let me play a song ahead with a piano player, just to get a feeling to play in front of people.

What was your first milestone as a musical artist?

Max: Two really great moments were to sign the record deal with ENJA records and holding my first record “Thank Y'All” in my hands. At this time I had the feeling I'm arrived after a long journey of studying and practicing.
What is it like getting into the music industry?

Max: You need a long breath...

How do you choose cover tracks to sing/play?

Max: I have a lot of favorite songs, and when I have the feeling they would match good with sax I try them. Good opportunity is, when I have a gig at a small venue, I can try it with the band. That is what happened with “Can't Hide Love”. We played this song so often live, and finally it made it on two of my records.

When people listen to music from Max Merseny, what do you want them to remember about your music?
Max: That they want to hear it again, because it gives them a good feeling...

How would you want someone to describe a Max Merseny concert when seeing you live to others?
Max: Own style, not a typical Jazz Combo, soulful, great music and musicians.

How would you describe Max Merseny music?

Max: Powerful, Soulful, and definitely from the heart!!


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