New pop star Ava Max is taking over the charts these days with her song "Sweet but Psycho."
She's already compared to Lady Gaga with the single and video that is at the top of the charts in over a dozen countries worldwide. Before the Cirkut produced single, she sang on tracks with David Guetta and Jason Derulo.
Coming from immigrant parents, Max had a bit of a musical background with her mother being an opera singer, a piano playing dad and her uncles were in bands.
She stands poised to be the next big thing with a debut album that she recorded over this past Christmas. Her latest single "So Am I" tells listeners it's okay to be a misfit because she is one also. Max talked about her meteoric rise to success at her hotel room during a Chicago visit.
Windy City Times: You have been exploding in the music scene the past few weeks.
Ava Max: I don't even understand what's happening.
WCT: Is it overwhelming?
AM: It is! I am excited, but it is a lot to take in.
WCT: You are from Milwaukee?
AM: I was born in Milwaukee and raised in Virginia. I'm a little bit of a mutt.
WCT: You have Albanian parents? There are a lot of Albanian pop singers out right now.
AM: Yes. Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa and Rita Ora. Apparently Albanian girls are taking over!
WCT: Where are the guys?
AM: [laughs] I don't know where they are…
WCT: What would you tell people about you as an artist?
AM: I am straight up, unapologetically pop. The album that is coming out this year is straight on what you expect with more "Psychos." If you are not expecting more "Psychos" then I don't know. [laughs]
It's definitely more sonically the same. The message is very strong and empowering pop songs. There will be songs that are a little bit more emotional. Most of it is all upbeat, pop anthems. They all stand for something. I don't have one song about partying.
WCT: The gay bars have been playing your music a lot.
AM: Yes! I love my gay fans and have gotten so much support. I played at a gay club called Redline in Los Angeles on Halloween and it was so much fun. I think I'm playing at G-A-Y in London.
WCT: Your song blew up in Europe. What are the challenges with the United States?
AM: I didn't know how fast this would take off because it went first in Sweden and went number one. It was released the same day globally. It first was big in Europe in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Now it is rising in the United States and Australia.
I feel globally it's been a remarkable success story. People are relating to it.
WCT: Did you always want to be a singer?
AM: Oh yeah, since I was seven years old.
WCT: Your mom is an opera singer?
AM: Yes, but not professionally. She's incredible. She's so loud that she can break glass with her voice.
WCT: Was she singing around the house?
AM: She would wake me up for school like that. I would say, "Mom, I don't want to get up" and she would sing, "You need to get up!"
WCT: Did you like musicals growing up?
AM: I did actually. I was Mrs. Claus in the school play. It was pretty funny. My favorite musical is Phantom of the Opera. I saw it in LA.
WCT: Do you have a name that you call your fans?
AM: They call themselves Avatars. It was funny because I called them Aviators, but they preferred Avatars. I love my Avatars so much now and they love the name so…
WCT: Ava is your real name?
AM: Ava is my middle name. My first name is Amanda. Amanda didn't fit me. I haven't been Amanda since I was 13. I changed my name legally then.
WCT: Were you a big Tom's Diner fan? Your song with David Guetta "Let It Be Me" features the sample from it.
AM: Of course. David Guetta and I were in the studio when we put it in there. We didn't need to add it. The song was already great, but he suggested we add it. I loved the song so thought it was a good idea.
WCT: How was it working with him?
AM: He's so humble, amazing and down to earth. I was starstruck at first because he's a legend.
WCT: Let's talk hair.
AM: This is called the Max cut. I plan on keeping it for a long time, well at least three albums. I don't feel like myself with the same length haircut. I put on a wig the other day with the sides being both the same length. It just didn't feel right. This is me now!
WCT: What makes you different than other pop stars? I know you are compared to Lady Gaga a lot.
AM: Everyone is so individual. I think for me personally, I definitely want to give the fans an experience that hasn't been done before. I'm excited to start touring and do something out of the box.
WCT: Do you have backup dancers?
AM: I do and they are amazing.
WCT: So plans are for a big tour?
AM: Huge and we will announce it soon.
WCT: You are on the fast track.
AM: This song is on the fast track. If this wasn't doing so well around the world then we would have gone slower. I am not kidding you, we were not expecting this!
WCT: Are you ever home?
AM: No. I am traveling all year. My schedule is completely full. I live in LA and when I go back it's usually a day or two. It's kind of insane!