Max Gomez: Full plate, forks a-plenty

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Max Gomez learned to sing listening to Johnny Cash, and as a teenager adopted Big Bill Broonzy as his blues master. In his hometown of Taos, New Mexico—situated between Colorado and Texas on both sonic and Google maps—troubadours like Michael Martin Murphey and Ray Wylie Hubbard helped foster his sound: cosmic cowboy.

Gomez’s youth was music: “The school I went to was playing in a bar,” he says–specifically the Old Blinking Light, a well-known hangout. “The guy who managed the place, it’s all his fault that I wound up doing music. He said, ‘You need to put your name on these billboards and banners, get your picture taken and put it in the paper. You got to be like a walking, talking advertisement for yourself.’ I was like 16 17 years old.” Gomez did exactly that. At 18 he bounced between Los Angeles and New York to pursue his music career, and began writing and performing songs, including writing with Shawn Mullins, who later recorded some of their works. “That’s when I began taking it all a little more seriously and turned my music into a job,” Gomez said.

The job went well. He began working with veteran New York producer David Kahne (Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, the Strokes, Sugar Ray, the Bangles, Kelly Clarkson, etc.), and the two planned a debut album. “That’s when record deals started coming my way,” Gomez said. But Kahne was a pro and Gomez was a teenager.

“David and I had a troubled relationship, like on and off again. It’s so strange to work so closely with someone on your songs and he’s trying to turn them into commerce. I was having trouble in letting go of some of the ways I envisioned some of the songs to grow up. I thought that they would be rootsy and natural sounding, and David thought they could be hits that the whole world would sing along with on Top 40 radio.”

One of the offers came from New West Records, home to Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, John Hiatt and Kris Kristofferson; Gomez thought “this is exactly what I want to do.” He signed with New West and was going to make a record with David Kahne, but “at the last minute I freaked out and pulled the plug from working with David,” Gomez told Elmore. “That was kind of a big deal.”

“The label must have hated me. They actually moved me and my six guitars—which are not that easy to travel with—to New York City to work with this great producer, and here’s this kid–like the day he’s supposed to start recording–he quits.” Ultimately, Gomez decided to make a record in the more relaxed environment of Los Angeles. “In retrospect, I can’t help but think about it, because I so often hear David Collins’ songs in the shopping malls. It was a big life fork in the road, but I am proud of what we made, and what we were able to accomplish.

“I still look up to David Kahne, respect him, I still consider him a friend, and talk to him often. We both had difficulties in trying to figure out how we were going to do it,” Gomez said, adding, “David’s normal budget is probably ten times what we had.”

His debut album, Rule the World, was released in 2013 by New West Records. Kiefer Sutherland directed the music video for the single “Run From You.” A good start, by anyone’s standards.

Gomez’s table wasn’t done with forks yet, however, and his next digression is a familiar to many musicians: personnel changes.

“I was signed to New West Records for that first album, but there was a regime change at the label and basically everyone that I worked with on my album left the company for different jobs, and the company moved from Los Angeles to Nashville.” Whether he stayed with New West or not, Gomez had to switch gears. “Miraculously, I had an opportunity to continue on with the folks that I started with, and I took it.”

Veteran A&R man Gary Briggs, who originally signed Gomez to New West, brought Gomez on to record his EP, as the first artist of the newly-formed Brigadoon Records. Briggs said of Gomez: “Max’s passion and pursuit for the perfectly written song has always inspired me. He’s always been a great singer.” Originally the two thought releasing the EP would be quick, and intended it to be a touring vehicle to help people realize that Gomez didn’t go away. “We thought could just get it out there,” Gomez said, “but it turned out we were wrong about that.”

The release date of September 22nd, planned to coincide with another Gomez project, the Red River (NM) Folk Festival, September 21-23, is a mixed blessing. Putting together a festival with national acts like Shawn Mullins, Chuck Prophet, Jim Lauderdale and James McMurtry in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is no small feat (Gomez plays the opening night with a full band), plus Gomez will appear at the Americana Music Association conference in Nashville the week before, and is doing ongoing promo for the EP.

“The rules have changed in the record industry,” Gomez said. “We’re promoting the EP as if it were a full album.” His goal is to follow up with a complete album, but the EP is not to be dismissed. One song, “Make It Me,” co-written with his friend Keith Sykes, is a simple love song that says it all in a new way. “That is really that is really a special song for me; I imagine I’m going to be singing for the rest of my life,” he told Elmore.

Next on Gomez’s adventure? “When the dust settles from this project, I’ll be back in the studio.” It probably won’t be that simple, but, if history repeats itself, it will be worth it.

—Suzanne Cadgène

To find out more about Max Gomez, click HERE

For more information about Red River, click HERE

Visit the Red River Folk Festival Facebook Page.

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