After a seven-year wait, R&B master Maxwell is back with blackSUMMERS’night, the second of an album trilogy. The Grammy winner, 43, opens up about his absence, the ultimate baby-making music, and late nights on the town, in a new interview below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you plan to take a seven-year break between albums?
MAXWELL: It’s funny. It’s not like I was sitting around saying, “I’m going to make people wait.” I know it was frustrating. Believe me, it was just as frustrating for me as for those who were waiting for it.
What was going on in your life?
So many things. I started traveling, and I lost a very, very important family member of mine about two years ago. [His first cousin, a close friend, died in 2014.] And sonically, I was evolving. I had anxiety about having to meet that challenge of [recording] a sequel to 2009’s BLACKsummers’night. That’s why I took the time I took. I’m sorry, though. [Laughs]
During that time, you also celebrated a milestone.
Ask any guy about how they feel when they turn 40. They’ll understand. You feel a little crazy. You feel like, “This is it. I’m a full-on grown man. What do I do? Who am I going to be now?”
What’s the story behind the single “Lake by the Ocean“?
For me it’s about being satisfied in the smallest body of water next to someone you love. It also just deals with being in a situation where you’ve been in a lot of bad relationships and you finally get somewhere and you’re happy—finding a soul mate and needing nothing else. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. [Laughs]
When you sing it, are you thinking of someone in particular?
I’m in a situation that’s long-distance. It’s about waiting for the right time for me to be finished with my responsibility to my career and music. I’ve always tried to figure out how to construct the proper relationship. I’ve had some things that I thought were going to be great not be great. That sucks because you go through all this rough stuff to make people happy. It’s bizarre. It’s like Chinese water torture.
How far along are you with the third part of your trilogy?
We’ll be done as I begin my arena run in the fall. I do not want to be 50 years old releasing the same-titled album. I don’t want to oversaturate the market and be out there all the time. I like knowing that I’ve taken time on each song. The songs are actually easy for me to make. They’re not much of a problem—it’s just the whole process of celebrity. That’s not that exciting for me.
What’s the overall vibe of part 3?
It will be on the darker side, but it will have a political edge that I don’t think I’ve ever touched on before. With all the traveling I’ve had to do over the years, I’ve gotten to see places in Nigeria, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic where people need help. Those types of experiences have [led] me to cherry-pick certain songs [for the album]. But I’m always a lover at the end of the day. There’ll be a love aspect, but there will be these hidden messages that sort of hint at something else.
Do fans often admit your music was the soundtrack to which their own children were conceived?
Yeah! I apparently have been in the room while not knowing I was in the room. [Laughs] It’s amazing to be involved with so much lovemaking and life-making.
What’s your ultimate baby-making record?
Anything from the Isley Brothers. And, of course, Sade. It’s a no-brainer. But she’s someone I kind of know, so that takes the funk out of it for me.
Any artists you’re obsessed with at the moment?
I like Sizza, and I like Desiigner, who has that song “Panda.” I love Yo Gotti. I’m not so sophisticated that I can’t get lit in the club with everybody else.
Lit in the club?
I go out! I like to have a good time. I just don’t want to get into a Michael Jackson zone where everything was for the music and you didn’t live a life. Then you kind of get super eccentric, and you just can never musically be the same as you wanted to. So that’s kind of why I take my breaks. I shouldn’t take them as long as I do, but I’m starting to realize that now.