Maxwell takes time to live, rather than promote his celebrity

Maxwell is looking forward to returning to the Bay Area this week. “I have a lot of history with San Francisco, and it was a big part of why so much that happened in my life actually happened,” says the Grammy-winning neo-soul stylist. Local radio station KMEL was crucial in launching his 1996 debut, “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite,” and the New Yorker has several close tech-industry friends he loves visiting in town when he’s not recording. He recently has resurfaced with “BlackSUMMER’Snight,” the seven-years-in-the making sequel to 2009’s “BLACKsummer’snight,” which also took seven years. It’s all part of a projected trilogy that he says he actually has completed, so fans won’t have to wait so long again.

How did you sign off from the industry for two such lengthy periods?

I’m just lazy, bro! No, I’m not really preoccupied with celebrity. And when I look back now — I’m 43 — I wish that I had kept the momentum going. But I just like to live, and I like to experience life, and I like to shut away that whole thing of having to make records to release them. So I’m always writing something. But it’s not necessarily because I have to release it. And then sometimes the fear of being forgotten shuts me down, because nothing should be written or done out of fear. So I would say that for the 14 years that I’ve taken these seven-year breaks, I kind of really just lived. And it gave me stuff to write about.

What amazing adventures did you experience?

Going to Africa, going to Namibia, Nigeria, Saudi, Arabia. Going to Miami, Kazakhstan, South Korea. Going to my fridge to get my bottle of whiskey. It was just living, living, living. And sometimes I’ve been afraid to release stuff. But Columbia Records is probably the freest company — records just get delivered, and that’s that. There’s no one guiding me, saying, “You need to sound more like this,” or “You need to reflect on what’s happening in the world.” I get complete creative freedom, and it’s amazing.

Any scary experiences?

Oh, yeah. When you’re in this position and starting out, you don’t really know why people like you. And your reality is totally different from the one that your friends who are going to college have. Most people don’t wake up and see themselves on TV, or happen to be on the radio when they turn the dial. So I’ve had experiences where friends that I’ve had did not have my best interests — it was about something else, maybe using you a little. But I’ve come to terms with that.


Where: Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga
When: 7:30 p.m. June 21
Tickets: $55.50 to $185.50
Contact: (408) 741-2822,

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