Max Gomez is a young musician with an old soul who grew up listening to LPs by singer-songwriters and blues greats while other kids his age were listening to Top 40.
Last year, he released a record of his own that is indicative of his Americana influences, while also fitting in with modern chart-toppers. As his star is on the rise, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center has invited him March 29 for the theater’s Breakout Artist series.
“We were brought up in somewhat of a musical household,” Gomez says. “My parents have great taste in music and always play great records, like John Prine and Neil Young.”
His older brother listened to nothing but old solo albums and blues, especially B.B. King. ”We’re kind of like blues brothers in a sense,” he says. Eventually, his brother got a guitar, and Gomez soon tried it and ended up playing more than his brother did.
“When I was 9 years old, I got my own guitar and I never really put it down,” he says.
Gomez, now 26 years old, has been performing for audiences since his early teens.
He is from a small touristy town, a beautiful little place, he says. It is named Taos, located in a remote area of New Mexico. ”In order to make a buck as a teenager, it seemed everyone worked in a fancy restaurant,” he recalls. After trying that out for a while, he was hired to play music at a country saloon, honky tonk bar.
It was there that he was exposed to country music and numerous singer-songwriters who passed through. They showed him that it wasn’t enough to play other artists’ songs; he had to write his own.
He began to perform at numerous bars semiprofessionally and make a living at it, he says.
Blues was his first passion. ”I believe that’s where Americana music came from and where it all started.”
He counts among his influences bluesmen Snooks Eaglin and Robert Johnson. Gomez gives Johnson a lot of credit for establishing American music and songwriting. ”To this day, I can put on a Robert Johnson song and it pretty much floors me,” he says.
Today, he vies to maintain his place at the table with the artists he shares a record label with, New West Records. “There’s a lot of guys on the label who I really look up to—aspire to,” he says, naming Buddy Miller, John Hiatt and Steve Earle. ”They’re pretty much the best and I’m exposed to them on a regular basis.”
Gomez says he tours almost constantly, and currently he is on the road with his musical collaborator Shawn Mullins, who co-wrote the songs “Love Will Find a Way” and “Never Say Never” on Gomez’s debut album, Rule the World. ”Love Will Find a Way” was also included on Mullins’ album Light You Up, as were two others Gomez helped write.
“Shawn’s been at it a lot longer than I have and he’s done really well,” Gomez says.
They first met in Nashville in 2009 when they were paired up to work on songs together, and have continued collaborating since.
Another influencer and collaborator for Gomez has been Jeff Trott, who produced Rule the World. They worked at Trott’s Manhattan Beach, CA, recording studio to write songs and make demos.
“After we wrote ‘Run from You,’ Jeff was really adamant about encouraging me to make an album,” Gomez says. It was about that time that New West Records came into the scene and signed him.
“Run from You” became the album’s first single, and Kiefer Sutherland directed the music video. Esquire declared the single one the best new songs of January 2013.
In between opening for Mullins, Gomez puts on solo shows, including his upcoming performance in Westhampton Beach. He says the performing arts center is the perfect place for him. “I really enjoy telling stories on stage, and when you’re in a theater setting, everyone’s really into it and hooked in.”
He says he would tell people considering coming to his show, “Come out and not only hear a song, but hear where a song came from … and hear my music and some old folk songs they might not ever hear otherwise.”
Max Gomez performs Saturday, March 29, at 8 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. Tickets are $20. Call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.