The actor (the Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy,” Broadway musical “13”), is going by MAX for his incarnation as pop star, a transformation that kicked into high gear when he toured with Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa on the Boys of Zummer Tour. MTV named him a 2015 Artist to Watch.
We caught up with MAX while he was getting ready for a show in Toronto to talk about musical influences — and keeping his head on straight.
You’ve been performing most of your life. What’s it like blowing up like this for your music?
It’s been incredible. … It’s been a wild journey. Doing it for the right reasons is always so much better; when you do it because you love it. And music has always been the thing that I love the most. Performing live, writing [songs], it’s my favorite thing in the world. I’ve been really lucky to get the acting projects I’ve been involved in, but it’s therapeutic to get out of your comfort zone.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s so pop. Growing up I listened to Prince, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Michael Jackson. But at the same time I’ve always looked up to Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars. I love any musician where you can tell in their music they gave everything they had to it. When you can hear it in their recordings and see it live. Those are the artists I’m inspired by.
You can clearly dance, too, like in the “Gibberish” video. How long did it take to make that?
The video was a big risk, we didn’t know if we could pull it off, doing this one-take concept. We spent about a month on that video and there were times where all of us, everybody involved, was like, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” But we really wanted to pull it off.
How are you keeping yourself grounded with all this attention?
It’s just surrounding yourself with people who love you for you. It’s so important to not get your head too much in it. I’ve been really lucky to have friends who keep it real with me, tell me to never get a big head — because it’s really easy to get lost. You put yourself out there, you do all these promo things, you do TV, and there are all these people up your butt and you’re like, “oh man, this is awesome.” But you have to realize, you’re such a small grain of sand on such a vast beach. You need friends around who remind you of that.
What MAX is listening to:
Schneider shouts out a few of his friends making good music right now: “Phony Ppl, I think they’re the next group. They performed with Fetty Wap on ‘Jimmy Kimmel.’ I went to camp with the drummer so I’ve known him a long time, we’ve done some collaborations. And Travie McCoy. A really good friend of mine, Sirah, she’s featured on my new EP, ‘Ms. Anonymous,’ she’s this sick female rapper. She’s amazing.”
See him live:
MAX plays a sold-out show at Cafe 939 in Boston on Sunday, Oct. 25. He performs at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Monday, Oct. 26, and the Marlin Room at Webster Hall in New York on Wednesday, Oct. 28.