Kevin Max is well aware of the cost of his chosen artistic path.
Since his days as one third of Christian music’s biggest band ever in dc Talk, Max has watched his former band mates continue to climb Christian charts either as solo artists (TobyMac) or frontmen for other bands (Michael Tait). All the while, Max has charted his own course, planting solo seeds for a blossoming catalog that shows off an impressive array of influences and command of material. While it’s a bit left-of-center from typical radio fodder, Max has nonetheless stayed true to his sonic vision—a dedication that even brought him into and away from a two-year stint in Audio Adrenaline.
“Obviously being in dc Talk for years and years as arguably one of the most successful bands in the industry to being an artist that nobody really understands is frustrating for sure,” says Max. “But along the way I’ve also found an audience who understands what I do, so there are two sides to that coin.“I’m in the place I’m at right now because I chose to make that decision. It was a road I chose to go down. It was a series of records that were largely alternative rock records that didn’t really fit the times. It was just what I wanted to create. I wasn’t following the radio formula or trying to figure out how to get back into the CCM [market]. But it did have its consequences.
“That larger dc Talk crowd that Toby has continue to cultivate and so has Mike through the Newsboys, a lot of those people were lost on what I was trying to do. Then again I’ve picked up a whole new crowd who not only picked up what I’ve tried to do but are passionate about it.”
AWOL is the latest solo release for Max, a deep dive into his obvious new wave influences and the latest in a string of consecutive releases that expand the sonic palette and speak to a myriad of topics from a faith-filled perspective. It’s not lost on Max that he’s traded a bit some commercial success for creative freedom, but it was necessary to obey the internal impulse toward more alt-rock and experimental pop constructs. AWOL is the ideal example, a substantive release filled with one compelling track after another that will find a smaller audience than it deserves.
From his next project, however, Max is changing course, moving more toward satiating long-term fans from his dc Talk days while remaining true to the vision that’s carried him as a solo artist.
“I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done to date, but I am changing it now,” he says. “There’s a group of people out there, I think, who need to hear music and lyrics that aren’t formula but yet talk about my faith, what I’m passionate about and what I believe in. I think it can also relate to the greater Christian music crowd. I just haven’t done it since dc Talk or Audio Adrenaline.
“Because of the majority of what I’ve done is in the independent world, a lot of people outside that realm haven’t gotten to see or hear what I’m doing. We’re changing our approach for this next album that I’m working on, and I want to get that out there so that peple can really hear what I’m doing and subsequently pick up what I’ve been doing over these last 15 years. That’s the goal.”