Singer Max Schneider, known in music as MAX, started performing at the age of three and didn't look back. He was a swing understudy in the musical 13, covering four roles, back in 2008.
He also modeled with Madonna for an international Dolce and Gabbana campaign, then wrote a song for the Disney Channel. He starred in the Nickelodeon film Rags as Charlie Prince, before focusing mainly on music, as well.
Schneider's 2016 album Hell's Kitchen Angel spawned a major radio hit with "Light Down Low" with a number of celebrity cameos in the video, including Lin-Manuel Miranda and The Chainsmokers. He has a new song with the Swedish dance act Galantis called "Satisfied," and another one with Noah Cyrus called "Team."
Proceeds from his recent single "Still New York," with Joey Bada$$, are being donated to New York public schools and to an animal shelter where he adopted his dog, Wink. Schneider performs the song at animal shelters around the country, including the CACC ( Chicago Animal Care and Control ) in Chicago on Aug. 5.
Max Schneider: We met last year at Lollapalooza, didn't we?
Windy City Times: Yes. I am heading to the festival today.
MS: I will see you in the press tent, then. I am here and playing with Galantis. We have a song that just came out together, so I am hopping onto their set tonight.
I will be hanging out again tomorrow. There is a group called Party Pupils and we are doing an after party tomorrow night for our new single called "Sax on the Beach." I will then head out. I couldn't miss Lolla. This is the best. It is one of my favorite festivals ever.
WCT: You have a musical background?
MS: Yes. I grew up in Hell's Kitchen, New York City. I lived right near all of the Broadway shows. I was the little kid that went to The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. I would reenact the entire show on my living room table in my underwear. I caught the bug and never stopped.
I did my first show, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when I was five years old. I performed musical theater as a youth, but my first real gig was when I was 16. I did a musical called 13 on Broadway. That was with Ariana Grande and a bunch of other fun people. That was my upbringing.
That has so influenced my show. It is very theatrical. I always try to bring that energy that comes from musicals to my own live MAX show.
WCT: What is Ariana like in person?
MS: She is fabulous, of course. It is always funny to look back and see how she was even in that show. She is still the same person in so many ways. She always had that voice. She was driven to be famous.
With the last name, her family always said, "We do things Grande!"
WCT: What is your favorite musical of all time?
MS: West Side Story is, because it is so near and dear to the city I grew up in. Tony was always my dream role.
The only other performer in my family is my cousin who was the original Baby John in the movie and the show. His name is Eliot Feld. That show holds the closest place in my heart.
WCT: How has the ride been for the massive single "Turn the Lights Down Low?"
MS: It has been amazing and crazy. I have always been in little boxes, whether is was being a "Nickelodeon kid," or the "musical theater kid," or the "YouTube cover kid." It is a whole other world to be the "Lights Down Low guy."
It is a new box, but the one I have always dreamed of. The story behind it is that I wrote it for my wife and I proposed to her with it. It is so special to me and in our life. It will never get old to sing it or have people know that song, because it is so special to me.
WCT: I bet it gets played at weddings.
MS: It is an interesting thing. I am excited to play at Market Days and have played at so many Pride festivals. No matter where I am in the world, there is a beautiful acceptance and diversity. I went to a performing arts high school. Everybody is whomever they want to be, and there is an acceptance of that.
Before I play the song, I say, "This is a song comes from a place of love, so it stands for love, whether you are gay, straight, bisexual or transgender. It doesn't matter who you are, but you should love yourself, whoever you want to love, and support each other in doing that."
It has been so beautiful to say that in places like Alabama, where we played Hangout Fest. Alabama is a way more progressive place than people realize. Sometimes I will say that speech and it is met with applause and roaring of agreement. Sometimes it is met with silence. At Hangout it was met with silence. In the middle of the song, one beautiful woman got down on her knee and proposed to her girlfriend. We brought them up onstage. Those are the moments I do music [for]. The fact that the music meant that much to them, and they proposed to the person they loved, never stops being so special.
WCT: You have so many young fans that you can reach with the important messages like that.
MS: It is scary too with the things I wear and the way I am; there are plenty of people who think I am too much or don't like me for who I am. As you get older, you start to accept yourself more and it's okay if people don't like you. When I was younger, I was so much more insecure and I wouldn't wear the things I wear now because I was afraid of people judging it. I think it is important to let people know that they can be encouraged to be their freaky, weird, wonderful selves, because that is who they are and they will attract those same people to be their friends. We should all encourage that.
WCT: How did you get involved with Market Days?
MS: I have been doing a bunch of Pride festivals across the country from Kansas City to DC Pride. It is a few people who have put 120 of them together in a year, which is crazy. I met with them.
Pride festivals are just incredible and the best. The energy is unbelievable and people are living their best life. My wife lived in Chicago for seven years and I proposed to her here in Chicago. She tells me Market Days is the one where everyone has the most insane time.
WCT: Is she coming with you to Market Days?
MS: Yes, she will be there with me. All of our best friends will be there, so I am hoping for a very exciting time.
WCT: You have a new song with Louis the Child?
MS: Yes, the Chicago boys. I am excited for it to come out. It has been beautiful to see just how they have grown, even from a friend level. I met them five years ago.
We put out a song with Whethan, who is part of the Chicago clique community. Whethan was 15 years old, and they were 17 at the time. Eight of them used to all share a 20' x 20' studio.
Now they sell out the Aragon Ballroom and have never changed their style of music. They just keep taking more risks. It is an honor to put out this record with them and keep cheering them on.
WCT: I interviewed them at Lollapalooza and they were so young.
MS: It is wild that neither of them are named Louis!
WCT: How was it working with Noah Cyrus on the song "Team?"
MS: Noah is great. With "Lights Down Low," I asked my friend gnash to be part of the song because I just heard his voice and I told him my story.
With Noah, the same thing happened. She reached out to me and it got to be a duet. Two years into my marriage, being a team with the person you love and the petty fights, it is important to let those things go. If you are lucky to have someone love you so much, you can be on a team forever. When Noah sent me that song I just responded to that message. We got to hang and eat In-N-Out Burger.
WCT: Do you have more acting planned?
MS: I don't have any more acting planned, except for all of my music videos. I always want to bring that element to my videos, like with the "Lights Down Low" videoit has the story of us growing old.
I am always scared to spread myself too thin, but one day I would like to pull a Lenny Kravitz and pop up in The Hunger Games with some glitter eyes. That would be amazing!
Look for Max at Market Days Sunday, Aug. 12, at 9 p.m. on the Bud Light North Stage. Find more information about Market Days at NorthHalsted.com and visit MaxHellsKitchen.com for more Max.