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Q&A with musician and actor MAX/Max Schneider

Max Schneider

In the past, he’s modeled with Madonna for Dolce and Gabbana, and starred alongside Keke Palmer in the Nickelodeon film “Rags.” But 2015 is shaping up to be Max Schneider’s biggest year yet.    Schneider, known in the music world as “MAX,” is a Jewish pop-soul singer, actor, dancer and model from New York City.   Just within the past year, the 23-year-old has been named a 2015 MTV Artist to Watch, Z100’s June Artist of the Month by Elvis Duran, and his single “Gibberish” — in which he collaborated with Jewish rapper Hoodie Allen – was featured for the 2015 YouTube Music Awards.   Currently, Schneider is a member of the new band Wichita, and is also on the “Boys of Zummer” tour with music superstars Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa, and Hoodie Allen. The band was slated to play in St. Louis Tuesday, July 14.

How is the Boys of Zummer tour going, and what has it been like to work with Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa, and Hoodie Allen?

Amazing. It’s definitely the most insane lineup I’ve ever been a part of, and it’s a really special show; they’re all such awesome acts in different ways. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of because I think the audience is really receptive to the different styles of music and the collaborations between all of them, which is definitely something special to look forward to. 

 Who have you really enjoyed collaborating with, and who would be your dream person to work/collaborate with?

Hoodie [Allen] is a wonderful collaborator, and it’s always great working with him. I got to work with Pharrell Williams on the album I’ve been working on. He’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to for so long, and it’s been an incredible gift to work with him. I have a long list of people I’d like to collaborate with…Prince would be incredible, Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dog… I just love people who have a different style and they just don’t quit. Even with Snoop Dog – I appreciate that he didn’t make something just for the sake of being successful or mainstream. He wanted to do something that’s fun — that’s Snoop Dog — and I love artists who do that.

What music/artists/musical influences did you have growing up?

I listened to a lot of old music growing up. I love James Brown and Michael Jackson and Prince, of course, and Stevie Wonder. On the flip side, I love Billy Joel, and Justin Timberlake, and lots of old school N’Sync. I just love music that gets into you and really makes you feel good, makes you dance, and makes you feel something. That’s something I aspire to do with my own music.

What encouraged you to sing/dance/act/etc.?

I grew up in New York City, so I went to a lot of musical things growing up. I saw my first show when I was four; it was “Beauty and the Beast.” I got home and reenacted the whole show for my family. I think that they could tell at that point I loved music, and I started doing theater shows from there. I’ve always loved performing. I feel really comfortable on stage; it’s always been a second home for me. I kinda caught the bug early and didn’t stop. 

Was there a strong religious presence growing up?

I didn’t have a bar mitzvah – I had an African coming-of-age ceremony. But I grew up Jewish, my dad is Jewish… we celebrated the High Holidays and had huge Passover seders. I love my huge Jewish family in New York. Hoodie [Allen] and I have a line in the song “Won’t Mind” on his album where we’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s get it bar mitzvah poppin!’ We love our roots, and I’ll always love my people.

Does your religion still influence you today?

Yeah, totally. The community that I grew up in…it was very beautiful how people would accept you. I moved out to L.A. when I was in my late teens. When I got there, there was a temple that was there. We didn’t really have a lot of friends or family, and [the rabbi] ended up letting us come over for Passover and to hang out at their house. The rabbi was amazing… we had a beautiful seder and people were so kind. It’s a really beautiful thing, that everyone just accepts each other and it certainly meant a lot to me. [In L.A.], there were no friends or family really there, but we already felt like we had a family because of our ties. That’s always a beautiful thing about being Jewish.

What’s been your favorite travel destination?

It’s always special being in New York – that’s my home. We had an amazing show in St. Louis a couple months ago on the tour I did with Hoodie [Allen]. Every city is different – that’s what my favorite thing about touring is. Cultures and people in different parts of the country and world have different vibes and shows. It’s really cool to experience what their vibe is at one show in comparison to another city across the country.

 Does your social media presence and success ever feel really overwhelming sometimes?

It’s one of those things where I try to remember that every number is a specific person — that’s a person you can go up to on the street and talk to. When I realize that, it makes it less overwhelming. It makes it more personal. I try to remember that every tweet is hopefully connecting with somebody personally; that anything I do online is connecting with individual people.

Is there anything that you’re looking forward to in the future? 

I have this movie out right now called “Love and Mercy,” about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and I got to be a small part of that. I play Van Dyke Parks, which was a really incredible experience to play a real person. I’m mostly focusing on finishing up this album. I want to have it be the best thing I can make, so I’ve been putting a lot of focus and energy into that. 

Schneider’s debut album will be released by DCD2 Records in the fall.