You’re a model, actor and a phenomenal musician. How do you find time to do it all? How do you keep your career, and self, balanced?
Thank you so much. It’s easy to find time to do things you love and, luckily, I love acting and music so much that it’s actually sort of therapeutic to jump from one to the other because they’re such different worlds that blend so well together.
It has been said that you refer to your fans as “Schneider Monkeys”. Any fun or crazy fan stories?
I had a great moment a few years ago when I was opening up for my friend, Victoria Justice. I’m on stage singing this song and out of nowhere, in the front row, this girl hands me this four foot long fake flower with a stuffed monkey hanging off of it. Well, I had to take the lovely gift mid-song, so I spent the rest of the song singing to that girl with this giant fake flower and monkey in hand. It was a sweet moment.
Not only a singer/songwriter, I read that you also play keyboard, guitar and ukulele. How involved are you in the writing and production process of your own album, and what is your greatest source of inspiration?
I’m very involved. I’m what most in the writing world would call a “top liner,” which means that my strength is lyrics and melodies. I mostly play the ukulele and a bit of keyboard, but I definitely work best when I co-write with someone who is a brilliant musician via instruments. Real life experience is always the greatest source of inspiration for me. If it’s true, it’s that much easier to write about and much more moving.
You just finished shooting your new music video “Streets of Gold”, can you tell us a little bit about this song and what fans can expect from the new album, “The Say Max EP”, overall?
The song is really about everlasting love and the afterlife, in a way. I think fans can definitely expect a taste of something very different, which I’m excited for. I think a lot of the music I’ve been working on recently has been coming from a very real place and has been hugely influenced by my favorite soul music, like James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Prince, and more.
Speaking of shooting on-set, you star in the NBC drama Crisis as Ian who is dealing with some dark subject matter. Can you tell us a little more about your character?
Ian is a very misunderstood guy. It’s funny because in the kidnapping, a lot of people really find themselves or find love, like with the president’s son and Ian’s best friend Beth. Ian, on the other hand, finds the darkest version of himself. It was such an adventure getting to explore that part of a character. The bravery and honesty of his personality really comes out within this poisoned experience.
What has been the biggest challenge of this role, and what about it has inspired the most growth in you as an actor?
The biggest challenge was definitely getting to the darkest place possible. The day I try and shank one of the guards in an episode was one of the hardest for me because I really wanted that to be real. I wanted to find that truthful moment in being ready to end someone’s life because of what they had done to you. That’s not something I could ever fathom in my own real life, so to find that in an honest way within Ian was extremely challenging but also very rewarding. This has definitely been one of the most challenging roles I’ve gotten to play and that in itself has been such a wonderful experience of growth as an actor.
You have modeled alongside the reigning queen of pop, Madonna, for Dolce and Gabbana. Do you have a favorite designer that you favor for events?
I wear a lot of clothes from Topman. They have great looks that fit really well and are definitely very much my style.
What about your casual weekend wear? And, what is your favorite go-to accessory? Are you an accessories kind of guy?
I love Alternative Apparel, and Urban Outfitters has lots of good stuff I wear for casual settings. I do a lot of thrift shopping, so most of that is my casual wear. I wear the same watch every day (given to me by one of my best friends) and I love necklaces (either a peace sign I’ve had forever, or this dog tag that has a quote from my grandma who passed away that my girlfriend made me). I’m a pretty simple guy in the accessory department.
Having been in the entertainment industry since a young age, what was your favorite way to spend summer break? Did you get a regular summer vacation?
Yeah, I totally got a regular summer vacation. I worked sometimes, but mostly went to this performing arts camp called Frenchwoods in upstate New York, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I definitely had some amazing, and life changing, summers at that camp.
Back to music for a moment, your video covers of “Say Something” with Victoria Justice and “All of Me” with Zendaya are beautiful renditions. Any more collaborative covers in your future?
Thank you so much. Yeah, we’re always doing new videos. Always something in the works.
You are about to embark on the “Say Max Tour” to promote your new EP. Are you excited for life on the road again? How does your daily life differ from set life to life on the road?
SO EXCITED! I love touring and performing live. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. Touring is a lot of driving and sleeping—if you can sleep in vans or on buses. You usually wake up around lunch, get to the venue, load in all of your stuff, sound check, get ready for the show, have the show, then jump in the bus and go to the next city. Set life is more like wake up at 4AM, go to set and be there for 12-16 hours, try to get some cat naps in-between scenes, and then go home.
You also have a new film coming out soon, Love and Mercy, can you tell us a little bit about that project?
I’m very excited about Love and Mercy. It’s the story of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. It’s such a powerful story and it documents Brian’s life and his brilliance in creating all of the music we all know and love by The Beach Boys. I got to portray Van Dyke Parks who wrote the Smile record with Brian. It was my first time playing a real person. It was really wonderful getting to research this awesome guy, trying to portray his story as truthfully as possible.
Any final words of love for your Schneider Monkeys, and where can new fans check you out?
My Schneider Monkeys: you already know what it is. You’re awesome and I have so much love and respect for all of you. New fans: Welcome to the fam. Let’s party.