Q & A: Lawrence Maxwell Discusses his Artistry & 7x Music PEI Award-Nominated Album, Ballad of Miles

Hailing from the province of PEI is alt-country singer/songwriter, Lawrence Maxwell. His latest album comes in the form of Ballad Of Miles. Through poetic lyricism and a neo-traditional lens, the 13-track album highlights various stories inspired by Lawrence’s own life experiences. From lessons learned, to love, moments of sadness and sometimes comedic in-betweens, the relatable ballads earned him 7 Music PEI Award nominations and the album named “The first great Canadian alt-country album of 2022″ by Roots Music Canada.

Recently, I spoke with Lawrence about his artistry, the album and more.

Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with you and your music, can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an alt-country singer/songwriter?

Lawrence Maxwell: I served in the Navy for four years. During my trades training in British Columbia, I would sing karaoke at a nearby bar. It was the first time I had the confidence to sing in front of a crowd. The beer certainly helped my nerves, or so I believed.

After that, I was transferred to Halifax, Nova Scotia where I purchased two guitars, a Takamine G-series and a Fender Telecaster. I began teaching myself how to play, and when I left the military to move back home to Prince Edward Island, I met up with a crew of wonderful musicians. We would have late-night basement jams, hit up every open mic in Charlottetown and put on little underground shows from time to time.

I always loved to write and sing so that’s where I started to discover my voice and what wanted to be said. It seemed that no matter what style of music I played, my voice kept wanting to go back to country music. Sturgill Simpson was a big influence at the time, and he kind of reassured me that that was an okay thing to do.

 

Kyla Pearson: You are from PEI, the smallest province in Canada. How has being from such a small, tight-knit music scene impacted your career? How have your PEI roots impacted your artistry and the stories you tell through your music?

Lawrence Maxwell: The music scene in PEI is a very healthy one, with more and more voices and genres emerging all of the time. It’s a super supportive place and we have had so many great examples of wonderful musicians and songwriters like: Gene MacLellan, Al Tuck, The East Pointers and Lennie Gallant to name a few. The music industry with Music PEI is great at developing artists in all areas of the business, from Showcase PEI – which is an event that brings in delegates from around the world to listen to PEI music, to the Canadian Song Conference — Where last year I had the chance to co-write and record original songs that were presented to music publishers. 

For me, it took leaving the island and coming back to appreciate the way of life. I grew up on the North Shore around beautiful beaches and nature trails; it was a really magical place. I find myself going back there from time to time, whether physically or in my mind when I want to reconnect or if I find myself at a fork in the road and have a big question to ask the universe. I think there’s always a piece of PEI that finds its way into my music, whether through a literal reference, or some abstract idea that couldn’t have arrived from anywhere else.

Kyla Pearson: What message do you want to share through your music? Why is this message important to you?

Lawrence Maxwell: I don’t have a grand message. I tend to focus on the little things out in the world or the things that eat me up inside. I share them as best as I can, however they want to come out. All that’s important to me is that I pay attention to those little moments whether things are good or bad.

Kyla Pearson: Last year, you released your 13-track album, Ballad of Miles. Can you tell us a bit more about the album, as well as the songwriting and recording process behind it?

Lawrence Maxwell: It all feels like a bit of a blur. I had this feeling or voice that told me to complete an album, and once that intention was out there, I just put my head down and followed the breadcrumbs. The title track, “Ballad of Miles” was a song I wrote shortly after hearing of my friend Jake’s passing. It seemed easier for me to sing it through the lens of a character, “Miles.” So Miles became this cooler, more laid-back version of me, but not without his own pain or flaws. It’s a bit of a psychedelic folk journey which differs from the majority of the album which has an upbeat honkytonk feel. But that’s always something I want to let breathe; I never try to force anything in the box. I let the funny be funny, I let the sad be sad, and I let the story come out however it may. 

The recording process felt like a summer camp. My producer, Adam Gallant took all of his gear out to his cottage and we made a week of it– Recording by day and playing poker by night. We had some nature walks, badminton matches, BB gun target practice and old school JAMS. At times I forgot we were even making a record, which was actually kind of helpful in keeping some of the looseness when it came time to record. We weren’t all wound up and crammed. We were wild horses!

Kyla Pearson: According to you, what is the ideal setting to listen to the album in order to fully experience it?

Lawrence Maxwell: I’d say walking along the beach. And if you don’t have a beach, then driving aimlessly… Well, driving within the lines of the road, but without destination.

Kyla Pearson: You’re also a published poet and writer. How has your writing influenced your songwriting?

Lawrence Maxwell: The published poetry has been a new thing this year, though the writing goes back to around the same time I released my first record in 2018. I think it only helped my songwriting. I think they each come in their own seasons. I welcome them when one arrives and another leaves. They seem to keep coming back each year, like the geese.

Kyla Pearson: Moving forward in 2023, what is one goal you hope to achieve with your music by the end of the year?

Lawrence Maxwell: I hope to release a new song this Spring! Wherever that takes me is fine by me, but big stages and big cheques aren’t bad.

Kyla Pearson: Lastly, do you have any upcoming shows that fans can catch?

Lawrence Maxwell: I am performing twice for Music PEI week, March 9th and 12th in Charlottetown, PEI. I also have an upcoming tribute show to Merle Haggard I’ll be performing at Copper Bottom Brewing in Montague, PEI on April 15th. And a big show I’m excited for is playing at Tønder Festival in Denmark in August.

Listen to Ballad of Miles now:

 

Stay up to Date With Lawrence Maxwell:

Works Cited

Lawrence, Maxwell. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Feb. 15 2023.

 

Unknown. “Featured: Alt-country singer/songwriter, Lawrence Maxwell. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Maxwell Accessed Mar 03 2023.

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