INTERVIEW: Music PEI’s “Entertainer of the Year” Lawrence Maxwell Discusses His Artistry, Benefit Fund for Touring PEI Musicians and Upcoming Ontario Tour

Calling the small province of PEI home is award-winning singer-songwriter, Lawrence Maxwell.

For those who are unfamiliar with Maxwell and his artistry, his lyrical style is self-described as “blue-collar poetry,” paired with an instrumental blend and sound that draws upon bluegrass, folk, Canadiana and neotraditional country. His latest album, Ballad of the Miles, earned 7 nominations at the 2023 Music PEI Awards. This year, he took home the title of Music PEI’s “Entertainer of the Year”. In addition, his music has received support from both Canadian and UK country radio.

His pursuit of music began in high school, where he would write raps. After graduating, he served in the Canadian Royal Navy, which led to his first public performances. Sharing,

“I never sang until I left PEI and was on the Naval reserve. For part of our training, we went to Victoria, BC. There’s a little bar outside the base called Tutor House that offered karaoke– I would sing Cash and Conway Twitty songs there, away from everyone I knew” (Maxwell).

After leaving the Navy in 2014, he moved back to PEI. Sharing, “I started playing open mics. I got hooked on the experience of performing songs” (Maxwell).

Last August, a overseas full band tour gone awry resulted in Lawrence losing 17 grand CAD due to an issue with Air Canada’s flights. Turning devastation into something positive, he started a benefit fund for touring PEI musicians. Providing more insight into the events that unfolded and how the idea for the benefit fund came to be, he shares,

The initial conception of the idea came to me in Denmark. We were trying to fly back home when we first got the news that we had to find new tickets home. I spoke to an Air Canada customer service agent on the phone- we missed a connecting flight from Denmark to Frankfurt, so I explained the situation to her. She didn’t notify the people who should keep the returning flight tickets.” He continues, “I thought this would be the end of music career– How was I going to get the band back home? I ended up paying for the new flights on credit”. Adding,”I called my mom for moral support- She encouraged me to turn it into something good/positive- I took what she said to heart” (Maxwell).

Speaking more about the fund and his goals for the future of it, he shares,

“I started a fundraiser for the 17K to recoup the loss (from the trip). So many people have donated, that I decided that the leftover will go to supporting a PEI foundation for musicians going through similar.” He continues, “I’m partnering with Music PEI to give artists retroactive grants, per artist, per cycle (Ex: Extra airline fees, broken vehicles, stolen instruments). It’s a safety net for PEI artists for unexpected costs”. Adding, “I hope the foundation continues to grow for years to come” (Maxwell).

On a related note, being an indie artist comes with its own set of challenges. Speaking about some of the ways he wishes the industry would better support independent talents, he shares,

“Anyone I have interacted with, be it at an award ceremony or showcase, I expect honesty from anyone I am talking to- Nobody wants anyone to waste their time” (Maxwell).

Shaing a piece of advice he’d give to an indie artist who is just starting out, he says,

“Any artists who are starting out, there are a lot of great people out there who are honest, trustworthy and really care about artists. Of course, there are also people with different motivations and ulterior motives- you have to learn to navigate the different types of personalities. Adding, “Find your circle” (Maxwell).

Sage advice, as surrounding yourself with people who are in alignment with you can directly impact your career and the journey. 

Lawrence recently took another trip to Nashville, where he had the opportunity to co-write with fellow artists and songwriters. Reflecting back on his first trip to Music City, he shares,

“Nashville has been a place I’ve been coming back to, specifically for songwriting. Back in 2020, Ben Chase reached out to me to write a song together. I was a little hesitant to co-write, but it ended up being a great opportunity to write and learn someone else’s processes.” He continues, “Ben is the one who introduced me to other artists– Drew Gregory being one of them. We all wrote ‘Saltwater Cowboy’ on that trip–  I was so happy to be a part of a song for someone else. My song, ‘Better You’ was also written with Ben” (Maxwell).

Speaking about his second trip to Nashville and his experience co-writing with fellow Canadian artists there, he shares,

“The 2nd time, I reached out to Ben and other artists- being Mallory Johnson, Joey DaPaiva, Justine Blanchet and Shantaia. It was interesting to hear their ideas–each session seems to be a little bit different”. He continues, 
“In each session, we wrote something totally different– some songs will be for me and some for other artists. I also wrote a few songs by myself, which was great.” Adding,”The whole thing is about collaboration. Everyone has a certain strength and way of seeing things– co-writing allows different perspectives in the room and you have to decide which is best suited for the song” (Maxwell).

Evidently, fans will have some new music to look forward to in the near future.

Featured: Official cover art for Lawrence Maxwell's debut poetry book, Collection Plates & Slot Machines. Cover design by Hood+Searle. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Maxwell.

Last July, Lawrence released his debut poetry book, Collection Plates & Slot Machines. The collection of poems covers relatable themes and experiences that all link back to how “life’s a gamble”. Speaking more about the book as a whole and the process that went into making it a reality, he shares,

“I live in a place where across the street there’s a church. So when people gather, I see them– there’s all these different things happening there. I feel like an outsider looking in on all these things that are happening, observing community.” He continues, “Seeing these people at the church, it made me think of a collection plate versus slot machine– In both cases, people are investing in a better life but uncertain as to what will happen. It’s a bit of a gamble on both ends’. Adding, “In some ways, they are closely related– there also could be an overlap. For example, someone struggling with a gambling addiction might rely on the church” (Maxwell).

Lawrence also raises the point that the world needs more unity– now more than ever. He explains,

“Humanity is always so quick to judge. With my writing, I try to find what brings us closer together. All the division we see around us… there’s a lot of opposition and not a lot of unity. Groups need to come together” (Maxwell).

Providing more insight into the poems within the book and what readers can expect, he shares, “The book is a collection of poems from my observations as a kid growing up in PEI. I collected all my experiences into one, so people will get to enter into that world” (Maxwell).

Featured: Award-winning singer-songwriter, Lawrence Maxwell.

This July, Lawrence and his full band will be touring across Ontario. Speaking about the tour and what fans can expect from their live shows, he shares, 

“In many ways, the tour will be an introduction to Ontario for us and the band. We will be playing two headlining shows plus festivals. It’s also the first time I will be touring any section of Ontario with a full band– in the past, it was solo and duo.” He continues, “We lean more into a honkytonk, country kind of vibe. We’re more on the folk side of country. As far as set lists go, we’ll be introducing some really country ballads. There will also be som high energy songs like ‘Back To Cape Breton’ and “Hurry up & Hurt Me.” Adding, “We want to allow a space for audience members to feel permission to get out of their chairs” (Maxwell).

Be sure to follow Lawrence Maxwell on Bands In Town to stay in the know with all his upcoming Ontario shows.

Upcoming Ontario Tour Live Shows

July 3rd/Ottawa, ON

July 4th/Toronto, ON

July 5th/Mariposa Festival (solo show- morning)- Orillia, ON

July 5th/Mariposa Festival (full-band show- evening)- Orillia, ON

Discover Lawrence Maxwell's Music:

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Works Cited

Hood+Searle. “Featured: Official cover art for Lawrence Maxwell’s debut poetry book, Collection Plates & Slot Machines. Cover design by Hood+Searle. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Maxwell”. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Maxwell. May 22 2024.

Maxwell, Lawrence. “Air Canada cost me over $17,000…YouTube, uploaded by Lawrence Maxwell, Sept 5 2023, <https://youtu.be/Sjg7BfdDwyI?si=VImKHK1KOGP4XPdw>. Accessed May 15 2024.

Maxwell, Lawrence. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, May 22 2024.

Maxwell, Lawrence. @themaxwraptor. “I had a great time writing songs in Nashville this week…” Instagram, Apr 20 2024, <https://www.instagram.com/p/C5_F5EBrDkU/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==>.

Unknown. “Award-winning singer-songwriter, Lawrence Maxwell.”. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Maxwell. Accessed May 22 2024.

Unknown. “Award-winning singer-songwriter, Lawrence Maxwell.”. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Maxwell. Accessed May 22 2024.

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