MAX JURY may not yet be a familiar name to music fans but make no mistake, it is only a matter of time before this American singer-songwriter is widely known and admired.
Jury plays the Róisín Dubh on Saturday October 4 at 8pm as part of his inaugural European tour and his debut Galway gig is a definite ‘must see’ event.
Aged 21, and a native of Des Moines, Iowa, Jury cites the great Gram Parsons as a formative influence; one of his songs even includes the line “I’ll sing just like Gram Parsons” and he does indeed possess an affecting voice.
His early musical experiences came via his father’s old bluegrass and new wave records and his mother’s mixtapes. “I would find them and play them in my room,” he tells me. “It was stuff like The Beatles and Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello. My parents just listened to music, I’m pretty much the only one in family who played it.”
Through Lucinda Williams he discovered The Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. Other key influences were Ryan Adams and Wilco. “I had always liked country music but there was always a certain corniness, or it was dated, but Ryan Adams in my mind made it cool,” he says. “Here he was singing about life in Jacksonville, North Carolina.”
Recording at friends’ home studios throughout his teens, he went on to attend Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, but dropped out. Twice.
“I don’t know how much good it did me,” he explains. “I wanted to learn by doing it, as opposed to being in the classroom. It drained me of my creativity outside of the classroom – you go home and the last thing you want to do is pick up your guitar or play the piano after you’ve been doing it all day.”
I remark to Max that I saw a short movie about Iowa in which one of the character’s described the state as consisting of “corn, corn, corn, overpass, corn, corn, overpass”.
“Some parts of Iowa is farming,” he replies. “Des Moines has a population of 250,000 but for the most part it is corn and overpasses! There was a good music scene in Des Moines, I was playing in different bands, playing gigs and going to gigs. There are a couple of music festivals that happen every year.”
Max started playing piano at six and wrote his first song at 13 though his early songs no longer feature in his repertoire.
“I don’t play those, I buried them as deep as I could as they’re not very good,” he admits candidly. Following the inclusion of the barrelling Bright Eyes style swagger of ‘Day Drunk’ on the Rough Trade Shops: Counter Culture 13 collection, came his EP, Something In The Air. Made up of songs composed on late night drives and walks to the cigarette store, the three track release includes the sumptuous ‘Christian Eyes’, about falling for a pastor’s daughter who won’t look at you twice.“People ask me if it’s a religious song, but it’s more about wishing you were a better person,” says Max. “I lived out my desire through the song.” It’s rounded off by the acoustic guitar led ‘Crooked Time’, which began as a Neil Young parody and ended up as a delicate, mournful duet laced with a distant brass section.
Jury made his professional performing debut at a sold-out, 2,000 capacity venue supporting Lana Del Rey, after being flown out to Chicago personally by Tom Windish of The Windish Agency.
“It took all the nerves out of performing ever again!” remembers Max. “It was like pulling a band-aid off really fast. It was a baptism of fire, playing our first gig with her was crazy, it was really cool.”
Max’s one previous Irish appearance was also supporting Lana Del Rey at a gig in Cork and his set list includes his cover of her song ‘West Coast’.
“I do ‘Helpless’ by Neil Young sometimes as well,” he says. “When I played in Cork with Lana it was a really cool show, the audience were really great so I am looking forward to coming back to Ireland.”
Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG Zhivago, Shop Street, and The Róisín Dubh.