Interviews

Exclusive Interview: Ava Max Tells All On Her New Album ‘Heaven & Hell’

October 15, 2020

Ava Max is one of the top female artists of 2020. The "Sweet but Psycho" singer has been streamed over a billion times and has gone three times platinum in the U.S., not to mention topping most charts worldwide. The single was first released from her critically and commercially successful pop album, Heaven & Hell, which has also gone on to top the charts worldwide. She also has made some very innovative music videos. "Kings & Queens" has over 244M views.

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Often compared to an early Lady Gaga, Ava Max, with her platinum blonde hair, has struck a tune of her own over the past few years. Ava Max is bringing extravagance back into pop music from her iconic haircut (one side is cut short, while the other is styled long) to her eye-catching and colorful fashion choices.

We spoke to Ava about her early career, inspiration, fashion sense, and breakout success with Heaven & Hell. Having initially recorded over one hundred songs for her debut album, Ava is no stranger to hard work and the grind. As she recounts in the following exclusive interview with RAIN, Ava knew at a young age that she wanted to be in music and has been fighting for her place in the industry ever since.

Ava Max by Charlotte Rutherford

Ava Max beginnings

Mark Benjamin: Thanks for speaking with us today. I want to ask you about your early forays into music growing up. I found your early beginnings very interesting. Your parents emigrated to the U.S. when you were young.

Ava Max: Yeah, I moved around a lot growing up. My parents were Albanian immigrants who came to The United States with no money. They didn't know the language. It was hard for them, but I learned a lot from them.

Seeing my parents work from nothing helped me realize my dreams were possible. So, it was easier for my mind to grasp wanting to do something at a young age. From eight years old, I knew what I wanted to do. It was kind of a blessing and a curse knowing so young.

MB: How did you get in touch with the producer, Cirkut?

AM: I met Cirkut at his birthday party. My brother wasn't there, but later on, he told me he had known Cirkut for a couple of years. I was like, 'wait, this is such a small world.'

Heaven & Hell

MB: Talk to me about making your new album Heaven & Hell. It seemed like you came out of nowhere, but I'm sure you've been working hard on it for quite some time. When did the first idea for this album come to you?  

AM: Heaven & Hell means a lot of things to me. It doesn't mean religion. A lot of people ask me that. It's more about the ups and downs, the yin and the yang, the feeling that you have an angel on your shoulder but also a devil every time you make a decision. Heaven (side A), I wanted to be light and bright, sonically produced. Then Hell (Side B), I wanted to feel darker with my single Torn living between both Heaven & Hell in Purgatory.

It started when I was on my way to the VMAs last year. I thought, 'Oh my God, I want to call it Heaven & Hell.' It was an epiphany. I was on the way to perform at the pre-show because I was singing "Torn," and some of the lyrics of "Torn" are torn between heaven and hell. And I'm like, "Oh my God, this album needs to be called Heaven & Hell.

The MTV VMAs

MB: I'm sure the experience of performing at the VMAs is also a kind of heaven and hell.

AM: Oh my gosh, yeah.

MB: I always think of all the award shows that the VMAs are the most fun.

AM: It is, but at the same time, I'm not a big party person. It's a lot of effort.

MB: Are you more of a homebody? 

AM: Yeah, I don't love the red carpet. That's something I don't like. It's tough for me, but I love to dress up but don't like all the attention. 

MB: That's funny. I want to ask you about duality because it seems to be such a prominent theme in your music, image, and haircut. I read how you came up with the name Ava Max – Ava is feminine, and Max is masculine. Why is duality so vital to you? I'm sure the fans will go crazy because there are a lot of Illuminati references in there, too.

AM: I feel we are made up of dualities all the time. If we want something, there's always something good coming our way, and there will always be something terrible. We have to be prepared for the bad. Growing up, I had a lot of friends who would say, 'Be super positive. Don't think about the bad.' My parents always taught me to stay positive, but I must be prepared if anything terrible happens. So, it's a double-edged sword. You're not always going to be happy all of the time, and that's okay.

I think the thing about fashion is it's like anything you have to learn about, and learn what you love and don't love.

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Sweet but psycho

MB: Your big hit "Sweet but Psycho" just hit a billion streams. I think the song's topic is something everyone can relate to, and that's partly why it's such a huge success. So, I was curious whether there were any specific moments or memories that you have that were either sweet or psychotic memories.

AM: I've had sweet memories talking to my fans – having gatherings with fans worldwide. That's been incredible! When I went to travel, I learned so much about every country and that I have fans in every country. So, that makes me feel closer to my fans.

For psycho memories, I had a stalker come to my parent's house last year while on tour. I was on tour, and this guy flew from France to look for me; it was so creepy. He had flowers, and he insisted that I take a picture in front of the door at my house. That it was my house. My mom was so funny. She messed up my name like, 'Pava? No, we don't know her.'

MB: And did he buy it? 

AM: No, he didn't. He stayed around all day. My dad didn't call the cops because he felt terrible for the person. He's a lovely person. My dad will give people fifty chances. 

MB: Wow. Yeah, that is a little psycho. 

Ava Max by Charlotte Rutherford

Forever a trend

MB: Your fashion sense is unique. We're a fashion magazine first, so I was thrilled when I saw you were wearing Margiela boots on stage.

AM: Thank you. Oh my God. I have three more Margiela shoes I haven't even worn because we've been in a pandemic. Where am I going to go?

Am I going to the grocery store with my Margiela boots and Burberry bag to buy some black beans?

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MB: Do you have any favorite designers? I saw Christian Cowan is constantly commenting on your Instagram.

AM: Oh my God. I love him. He D.M.'d me to do a charity event with him recently. It was so much fun. He is such a sweetheart, and I just loved him. I'm a huge Louis Vuitton fan. I love their suits. Like, I'm obsessed with Louis Vuitton suits. I don't know why.

MB: Oh, yeah. Nicholas Ghesquière at Vuitton is a true visionary.

AM: I'm obsessed, and also, who doesn't love Chanel? If you don't love Chanel, you're crazy. 

It's strange. I got into fashion when I was a little girl but never really got into all the designers until I was twenty. Then I started loving it so much. I think the thing about fashion is it's like anything you have to learn about, and learn what you love and don't love. 

Ava Max by Charlotte Rutherford

Fashion

MB: Totally. I always tell everyone to love fashion; you must hate it. 

AM: You also have to play. Many people say, 'Oh, I would never wear that.' It could be crazy, but fashion is all about wearing something you feel, and something that maybe is not on trend, you know? 

MB: Yeah, you're setting the trends that way.

AM: Exactly. If you want to wear something crazy, fashion is how you do it.

MB: What's next for you? What do you want to accomplish with your following, whether it's an album, a new single, or whenever the tour resumes...

AM: Yeah, I have a lot more music coming. I have a specialty surprise for Christmas which I'm excited about. This is the first person I've told that I have a surprise for Christmas! People probably think it's only a baby album, but I'm finishing my deluxe album.

Instagram: @avamax
Stream Heaven & Hell below.