“The five songs on Everything in Winter are part of a larger group that I’ve been working on,” Max Garcia Conover explains. “All inspired, at least in part,” he admits, “by a suitcase full of letters I came across last year. The letters were from my grandfather to my grandmother, and they’d been sitting untouched for 70 years or so. He wrote them in the late 1940s while my grandmother was quarantined in a hospital for the consumptive poor.
He was 16, and for two years he poured all his love and frustration and hope for the future into those letters. By reading and transcribing them, I’ve learned so much about who he was and what he believed in… It’s kind of taken over my songwriting imagination,” Max admits, “and I think it’s fair to say that, even though each of these new songs is mostly set in the present, and each is about many things, the ideas in his letters are what unifies them.”
The E.P., Everything in Winter, released on the 21st February, contains 5 wonderfully melancholy tracks in the mould of a Drake, or a reminiscent Cave, but each with its own particularly unique twist on an emotional and sometimes wrenching spin; 5 To 4, the title track Every in Winter, Yeye Won’t Wait, the hauntingly emotive The Wedding Line and the rather seductive but somewhat sad, Caw, each with their searing vocals embellished and coloured by Paula Prieto always in perfect harmony.
Originally from New York but now hailing from Maine, Max writes and records his music whilst tucked away within the seclusion of his attic, when he’s not teaching at nearby schools, or carefully weaving together rather unique stories that have featured heavily on both The Moth Radio Hour and Stories From The Stage.
“The Moth Radio Hour is a podcast and a touring live show,” Max explains. “Stories From The Stage is a T.V. show, and I think maybe also a podcast?” So, what’s his main love? “I’m mostly working on my songs, but it’s all just storytelling,” he quickly adds.
“I started telling stories during my shows, mostly just to fill the space in between songs. I would make them up on the spot and then they’d evolve as the tour went on.”
Releasing his songs independently, or through the Barcelona label Son Canciones, Conover’s songs can be both political as well as extremely personal, as with the new E.P., and he has performed them throughout the States and all across Europe, sharing the stage with acts such as Cat Power, and Canadian folk band, The Weather Station.
So, apart from his grandfather’s long-lost letters, where does Max Garcia Conover take inspiration from?
“I find myself wanting to write about nature a lot,” he told me. “If I’m stuck I’ll either go outside or read stuff by people who like to go outside.”
And as for his new release?
“I wrote 5 to 4 after reading about a moment in U.S. Supreme Court history where they almost made poor people a protected class, which could have changed who we are as a country. I do write pretty much everything in winter,” he adds, explaining the E.P’s title. “Yeye was one of my grandfather’s nicknames, although the story in the song isn’t his story in any literal way,” he is quick to point out.
“I wrote The Wedding Line over a decade ago. And Caw came from a Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey joke that I loved as a kid.”
So where does his teaching fit in with the songwriting and his touring?
“I teach multilingual students at a few public schools,” he tells me. “I also work with their families to help them put down roots here in Maine, which is not always the easiest place to move to,” he reveals.
And what about the future? What are his plans and aspirations?
“More songs, more writing. Hopefully someday I’ll start playing shows again, but that may be a ways off yet.” Perhaps not surprising really, given everything else that Max seems to have on his plate at the moment.
The E.P., Everything In Winter, is released on the 21st February.
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Find 5 to 4 on our Lazy Indie Morning playlist on Spotify