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  • Gemma James

Max Leonard Discusses New EP “JUDO!”

Up-and-coming indie artist Max Leonard just released his first solo project, titled “JUDO!”, on April 5th. Leonard is most commonly known for his work with his band, Biking with Francis, and collaborations with other artists, amassing over 5 million streams on Spotify. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Leonard about his time in the music industry and “JUDO!”

Leonard grew up surrounded by music, thanks to his parents’ and grandparents’ influence. He grew up listening to a wide range of artists, including Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Jack Johnson, Tyler the Creator, and Frank Ocean. These artists went on to become inspirations for Leonard and his music.

“I love The Beach Boys,” Leonard said. “The way that they use harmony in their music I think influences me a lot.”

Leonard started playing piano in his childhood, but quickly switched his interests to guitar. It wasn’t until the end of high school, however, that he started getting interested in music production. When he met Garrett Sparrow, who would go on to become one of his Biking with Francis bandmates, Leonard began to learn more about producing music and the rest is history.

As his first solo EP, “JUDO!” is a very personal project. It became both a confidence booster and a personal accomplishment, marking Leonard’s growth in his musicianship and production skills.

“I just graduated college and I was like, ‘let me make music all on my own’ to kind of prove to myself I could,” Leonard said. “Like, I'm better than I was like four years ago.”

“JUDO!” features five different songs: “JET FLUX”, “COLD SHOULDER”, “LOVE SICK!”, “YOU N I”, and “BALLAD”. The five songs explore themes such as love, acceptance, and overthinking, however, they each have a unique sound. Leonard expertly blends his indie sound with pop, alternative hip-hop, and R&B elements.

“I try to use textures and little weird sounds and stuff to keep it interesting,” Leonard said. “For me, my favorite music is stuff that is linear, but there's little changing elements.”

While each of these songs has a slightly different feel and brings something unique to the table, Leonard expressed a particular fondness for “BALLAD”.

“It feels like the most me out of all the songs,” Leonard said.

Leonard admitted that working alone came with some different challenges. Most notably, he remarked, is the lack of another person, or people, to bounce ideas off of and encourage you or provide new ideas when the process gets difficult.

“When it's [just] yourself, you kind of have to do that all on your own,” Leonard said.

In the end, this was a beneficial experience for Leonard. He got into the mindset of being willing to constantly try new things out, which allowed him to discover new sounds that he liked and piece together all the best elements.

Leonard takes this practice to heart when it comes to his creative process. He takes time out of every day to be creative and make music. Even when he has days where he feels like everything he produces is bad, Leonard still finds value in that work because it creates space for the next thing.

“If it's good, I'll run with it,” Leonard said, “If it's not good, I'll just start a new thing. And I’ll start a new thing and start a new thing until I have something that latches on.”

Leonard shared the best advice he had ever received, which came from his dad: “Life's about who you know, not what you know”. For Leonard, this means that finding the right people to work with creatively is of utmost importance.

“The people around you will help shape and mold you into someone,” Leonard said. “Trying to make sure I'm around… people who are similar enough where we don't argue all the time, but different enough where we challenge each other, I think is important.”

Alongside this advice, Leonard also shared his own advice for aspiring artists: just do it.

“If you look at everything as an opportunity to learn, life is great,” Leonard said. “If something works out, awesome. If it doesn't work out, you learned a new skill or you learned something new about yourself that you can take into the next attempt.”

As a fun bonus, I asked Leonard who his dream collaboration would be with. While he thought about working with Playboi Carti or Frank Ocean, he ultimately decided that he would want to work with Tyler the Creator. For Leonard, working with Tyler the Creator would be a dream opportunity to learn and ask questions.

Leonard expressed gratitude for the kind reception that his music has received. At the end of the day, he hopes that people just enjoy his music.

“I hope people get some enjoyment out of [my music],” Leonard said. “Because, it's enjoyable for me to make, so I hope that passes on.”

In the near future, Leonard will be working with Biking with Francis bandmates Joshua Raw and Garrett Sparrow on various projects. He also plans on making an effort to make some music every day to continue his growth and create new music.

Stream “JUDO!” HERE



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