We're big fans of the creative process, especially when it comes to songwriting. And this time of year always brings us the warm-and-fuzzies when Americanafest rolls into town. To celebrate and indulge in our curiosity, we asked songwriter Max Gomez some questions on his songwriting process, musical heroes, how to cure the "writer's block" blues and recording with famed producer, Jim Scott, on his new EP, "Me & Joe."
Max's new EP, "Me & Joe," comes out next week, September 22 via Brigadoon Records. If you want to preorder a copy, you can get one here. You can find Max's music wherever you listen online. We like Spotify.
When did you pick up the guitar? What inspired you to play?
I first got my guitar when I was ten years old, before that, I played my older brother Zach’s guitar. Back then, if Zach was jumping off cliffs, I’d have tried it.
Is there a song or record that turned you on to playing music?
[Zach and I] were obsessed with BB King’s live records, Live At The Regal and Cook County. I later re-connected with the John Prine records my parents played me, particularly, The Missing Years.
When did you decide that music was going to be your career?
I still haven’t quite decided this. All my brothers are professionals in their various trades and we all think that the grass is greener. I guess that when I first got a song I wrote recorded on a real record, I thought to myself, “I can do this.” That was when I was twenty-two or twenty-three.
How long did it take you to write and record your newest EP?
Writing can sometimes take minutes and other times take more than months. The songs on this EP, with the exception of “Joe” written by my pal Jed Zimmerman, were more of the minute kind. Not to say they were rushed, just easy. Recording this EP was even faster. Jim Scott, our producer, would often say, “You know how long it takes to make a hit record, don’t ya?! Three minutes!” In working with him, I’ve become a big fan of his.
Did you experiment with any new recording techniques? Instrumentation? Sounds?
The “new” recording techniques I picked up during this record are actually all old. We made this record the way people made records in the '60s and '70s. Within our analog approach, there were still no limits to what we could do. If it sounded good, we recorded it.
What was it like collaborating with producer Jim Scott and musicians Doug Pettibone and Greg Leisz?
Jim and I became friends after meeting and discussing recording. Jim explained how anything was possible and we could record however we wanted. No rules. I knew then that I wanted us to work together. And the cast of characters we called to play on the record made life in the studio a dream. I’m talking about Greg and Doug, Patrick Warren, who always amazes me, Jim Christy and Taras, Phil Parlapiano. The A-Team.
Of your musical heroes, who do you wish was still around making records?
Bob Marley comes to mind. Though I never really play his style of music, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what was going on that shaped that sound. Those records will stand as recording milestones that I don’t think we’ll ever pass. Though worlds apart, a few others that come to mind are Guy Clark & Townes.
If you could have anyone in the world produce your next record, who would it be?
I’ve learned so much from the handful of producers I’ve worked with, but I’m excited to make another record with Jim Scott.
What’s your go-to guitar to write songs on?
My old Martin guitar goes everywhere I do. It’s a ‘53, 00-18. It’s always ready for a new song. That said, I’ve got an old Gibson I like to write with and Preston Thompson makes a guitar that could put any songwriter in the mood.
As a songwriter, do you write the melody or lyrics first? Where do you find inspiration? Are you always writing?
I write lyrics and melody at the same time. I try to write them for one another, like the tone of voice you’d imagine speaking the lyric. I’m inspired by people and the situations they wind up in. That’s a pretty endless bowl to draw from. I write when I’m alone and have little to distract me. A little distraction might be better than none. If I’m alone with nothing to do then I’m writing.
How do you motivate yourself creatively? What do you do if you’re in a slump or feeling writer’s block?
Going outside is a common cure for that. I think “writers block” might be a symptom of another problem altogether. Nature can get rid of a lot of problems. Go outside. Go for a walk.
What’s one venue you hope to play one day?
There are many holy grail venues out there. I don’t imagine I’ll be playing Madison Square Garden or Royal Albert Hall anytime soon. I’d be happy with a gig at the KiMo Theater in downtown Albuquerque, or maybe the Lensic in Santa Fe. Or, maybe, a nice theater in Kansas City so my Ma could come see me in a place where the bottles weren’t clanking too much.
What’s on your turntable right now?
Paul Clayton. He’s been my new Hank Williams for a year or two now. Home-Made Songs And Ballads is my favorite. He’s got the original “Don’t Think Twice” on there.
What do you have coming up, anything you’re looking forward to?
I work with some friends to put on the Red River Folk Festival. This happens in Red River, NM in late September. I’ve got a bunch of friends coming to that and we love to stay up late and make up songs. You know, get the whole hotel singing along. I’m looking forward to that and maybe a little rest after.
Max Gomez's newest EP "Me & Joe" comes out on 9/22 via Brigadoon Records. You can preorder a copy in his online store. See Max when he comes to your town next! Find this fall's tour dates, here.