The first-generation Albanian-American Los Angeles-based multiplatinum chart-breaking pop singer, songwriter and producer Ava Max has always carved her own path with unapologetic attitude, razor sharp songwriting and eye-catching fashion as jaw-dropping as her voice. She vaulted to the forefront of pop culture in 2018 with her hit single ‘Sweet But Psycho‘. Her latest album ‘Diamonds & Dancefoors’ was released earlier this year and she is currently on her first tour ‘On Tour (Finally)’ across Europe and North America.
Ava, what made you passionate about music?
Growing up with a mother and father who loved music, it almost felt like music was in my veins from the moment I was born. I never knew anything else. I started singing and performing on stage when I was 7 years old, but even younger with my mom around the house. The feeling I felt while singing was out of this world and it still is. I just knew from the jump that I had to pursue it.
Can you tell us more about the beginnings of your career and how you got to where you are today.
I can go on and on for days about the beginning. It feels like I’ve been working my entire life for this moment, for all the moments I am living right now. I was fearless growing up and I think that’s one thing I think back on and remind myself that’s why I am here today. I didn’t stop, I was relentlessly stubborn. I knew what I wanted to do and what I wanted to become.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences and why?
I would say Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion. I would sing all their songs in my basement all day and night, trying to be just like them when I grew up. They really shaped the way I sing today and I will never forget that.
We would love to hear more on how you chose your stage name and created your musical persona.
Albanians don’t usually give their kids middle names. At a young age, I was very jealous of my friends at school who had middle names. At 13, I played a prank on my brother and catfished him using the name Ava. It was quite hilarious. After laughing about it, I came to the conclusion that I really actually liked the name Ava and went to court to make it officially my middle name. This was the start. From that moment, I told everyone my name was Ava and now we are here.
Your second album ‘Diamonds & Dancefloors’ was released earlier this year and it is your most personal art of work to date. What inspired this album and what does it represent?
Getting over the heartbreak that ensued during the making of this album was a new experience for me because I never wrote about my personal relationships. I never felt heartbreak the way I did while writing this album and everything after. It represents a time in my life where I learned how to stand up for what I believe in and relearn how to love myself.
You’ve co-written and co-produced all 14 tracks on this LP. Tell us more about the whole process of making this album. How exciting and challenging was it?
I am so picky when it comes to music and the records I write and put out. Each song I make is a true story. When I’m in the studio, I want the lyrics to be as authentic as possible, so the fans can really feel what I’m going through in the moment. This also helps my soul express itself in a very therapeutic way. I love writing music and when I’m in the zone, no one can take me out of it. One thing I will never stop doing is making pop music, even through heartbreak.
You are currently on your first headlining tour across Europe and North America. The title ‘On Tour (Finally)’ says a lot about how excited you are to be on tour, but what makes being on stage, interacting with your fans the most worthwile?
Being with the fans, hearing them scream and sing every lyric brings the whole experience to life in my opinion. It is everything to me.
You’ve collaborated with many artists from many different genres, like David Guetta, Alan Walker, Jason Derulo, Thomas Rhett and Kane Brown. Which collaboration was the one that left the biggest mark and which one was the most out of your comfort zone, genre-wise?
Working with David Guetta definitely left the biggest mark for me. It was early in my career, before ‘Sweet But Psycho’ came out, and I was completely starstruck at the time. I remember being so elated and grateful to work with such a legend like him.
Regarding what put me out of my comfort zone, I would say my country record with Thomas Rhett and Kane Brown. I loved country, but never saw myself ever doing a country record. When the opportunity came to me, I didn’t want to look like I was reaching and for that reason it did put me out of my comfort zone.
You are very outspoken about female empowerment. Why is this something you are so passionate about? How could women empower women even more than they do?
I grew up in a family where I saw a lot of the women work incredibly hard to get to where they wanted to be and provide for a family. I was surrounded by very strong and independent women. It has truly shaped me as a person and an artist. I always believe that women can do little things in their everyday life to empower other women. Whether it be being a helping hand to rise up against discrimination or merely being there for one another, it’s important to stand together.
Ava, after the tour finishes, what’s up next for you?
I’m excited to get back in the studio. And although I am always going to find my way into the booth when I feel the need to write and record, it’s in my DNA to always want to get back into the studio and cut. I cannot wait to get back, draw inspiration from new aspects of my life and write new records. I am feeling a different energy than I was at the beginning of the last album cycle. It will for sure be a slightly different sound.
Talent: Ava Max
Photographer: Dana Trippe
Stylist: Danyul Brown
Make-up: Vittorio Masecchia using Vittorio Masecchia Beauty
Hair: Ricky Fraser
Hair assistant: Zach Birch
Set design: Eterna
Styling assistants: Adam Chia & Nick Van Dalen
Editor: Timi Letonja
This interview was done for Numéro Netherlands by Jana Letonja.