(photo courtesy of Gwyneth Navey)
Max Jenks-Gilbert is a junior business major and soccer player at Greensboro College. He does not just find success on our campus, though. At only 20, Max released his first solo EP, The Lemon Tree EP, on August 15 of this year. He is known throughout the U.K. as an upandcoming Blues/Rock prodigy, proving his skills in concerts, festivals, and other events in Wales and the U.S. Guitar and Bass Magazine mentioned Max in a May 2015 article about BB King saying, “To hear [Max] laying down his BB chops on his Epiphone Casino is like listening to ‘The Master’ live at The Regal.” I had the privilege of working with Max earlier this year on his new EP and the even greater privilege of interviewing him for you, our faithful Collegian readers.
When did you start playing guitar and why did you stick with it?
“I started playing guitar at ten years old. My friend got a big blue guitar for his tenth birthday and I was hooked. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was selftaught until 14, when I started taking lessons for the first time in school. I kept taking lessons until I was 18. I stuck with it because I enjoyed it and I had a passion for guitarbased music. I’m sure I was influenced by my dad’s love of rock music. My first concert was Bon Jovi and I thought they were the coolest band I’d ever seen.”
When did you start writing and producing your own music?
“I’ve always been writing. I used to write daft little songs when I was younger that no one would ever hear, but I wrote them anyway and thought they were going to be big hits. The first time I wrote and produced music was for myInside Horizonalbum. Inside Horizon was my high school band. It was just me and my friend Nay Flint. We released the album Black and White
Sunlight, a ten track original album, on iTunes and everything. We had interest from a record label in Sheffield, but I decided to come to America instead.”
Why did you decide to come to America for University?
“There are more music opportunities for the type of music I play here in America and I wanted to explore that. I think America’s really the home of music. There was also the opportunity for me to continue playing football whilst getting an education in a new culture. And to be honest, I needed that individual freedom because I knew that was what was going to make me mature. I had to learn to stand on my own and living 4000 miles away from home forces you to do that; trust me. It was exciting and promising and scary all at the same time I like things that scare me.”
“I came to Francis Marion University in Florence, SC first. There I met Dr. Brandon Goff, associate director of the music industry program, and was instantly drawn to his course and all the other opportunities the university had to offer. I became a part of the Music Industry Ensemble there and had the opportunity to write, produce, and perform my own music as well as covers. That studio, in fact, became the studio that I recorded my new EP in.”
How has your style of music developed over the years?
“It’s definitely become more mature technically and stylistically. I feel like a have a more refined touch. My ears have become more mature as well. I’ve become more appreciative of different styles of music, which has had a direct impact on my playing. I’ve learned to explore different styles that I wouldn’t have even considered five years ago. I feel as though I’ve developed my own style, which has become a combination of blues and rock. As you mature you become more openminded, and I think that’s important. It’s important to challenge yourself and explore other avenues of guitar playing.”
How would you describe your style now in your new EP?
“There’s a blues tone in every song, for sure. That’s part of who I am. That doesn’t mean that every song is a blues song, though. There are elements of rock, country, and even pop. I’d say every album has a little bit of everything. That’s what musicians do. We all share different ideas and put them together in albums that we connect with best.”
What were some inspirations for the new minialbum?
“‘The Lemon Tree’ symbolizes the idea is that lemons can be very sweet, or very sour. And that’s what life is, isn’t it? Some days are sweet, some days are sour. All the songs are stories of real life, like things I [and others] have seen and been through. They’re songs about love, relationships, growing up, and finding truth. The songs all have a main theme of maturity. They’re just stories of how I interpret the world now that I’m older.”
Where would you like to be in 10 years, regarding your music?
“From a job perspective, I’d like to use my business degree to work within the music industry either in event management, venue ownership, or working within marketing at a label. From a performance perspective, I’d like to be a wellknown, respected, touring musician. I’d like to be playing famous venues either with or without a band. The goal is really to be successful enough to live comfortably while travelling the world sharing my music.”
You can find The Lemon Tree EP on all popular digital music distributors such as Itunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, and more. You can also obtain a physical copy just by adding Max on Facebook and letting him know. Max’s music has already received awesome reviews from BBC Radio Merseyside and the Spenser Leigh Show, British radio shows. So get your own copy today! In fact, get an autograph so you can say you knew him before he got big.