Nowadays, it’s hard to stand out — but Ava Max does so effortlessly. The singer-songwriter truly enjoys making anthemic music, creating timeless records that will stand the test of time for generations to come. Boasting 1.6 million followers on Instagram alone, the multi-Platinum pop sensation exudes pure beauty and charm, reminding fans to both be themselves and love themselves.
It was her 2018 smash “Sweet but Psycho” that catapulted her name into the mainstream light, charting Top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and dominating pop radio airwaves all across the world. The song’s official music video currently hails over 603 million views and counting, showcasing Ava in her prime pairing cinematic visuals with equally powerful songs.
Last year, she released “So Am I” which reminded females all around that it’s okay to be different, because so is she. Fast forward to 2020, she releases her new single titled “Kings & Queens,” which has since gone viral on TikTok. The record holds fans over until Ava’s forthcoming project titled Heaven & Hell, releasing on September 18th.
Flaunt caught up with Ava via Zoom, who was located in Los Angeles. Read below as we chat about her upbringing, the success of “Sweet but Psycho,” favorite things to cook, the meaning behind Heaven & Hell, favorite artists in rotation, and more!
You moved around a lot as a kid, where did you grow up?
I’m from all over. I was born in Wisconsin, don’t remember much in Milwaukee. I grew up in Virginia until I was 14 and lived in South Carolina. I came to Los Angeles for a year when I was 14 too, so I feel like a mut from all over. I was homeschooled a bunch, it was tough. It was hard to make friends moving around a lot, it was hard on me.
I’m guessing you found music early on?
Oh my God, yes. I started entering competitions at 7 years old. I knew I wanted to be a singer the moment I started performing at 8.
Did you think you’d be this pop star that you are now?
Literally, no. [laughs] What’s hilarious is I never would’ve thought. I thought “I’ll release an album, maybe two albums. Let it take its course with albums.” Right after “Sweet but Psycho,” I was on the road right away. Every single country. I don’t know what “Psycho” did that was such a phenomenon, but I felt so grateful that people could connect to my music.
Greatest memories from that record? Being that it was so big for your career.
Traveling right away. The first 30 days it went out, it started going #1 everywhere. The first place I traveled to was Sweden, my first time in Europe. It was insane for me. I got to Sweden, it went #1. I got to Norway, it went #1. Everywhere I went, it went #1. I’m like “what is happening? Everywhere I’m going it’s going #1.” It was a really weird theme happening. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the fans.
And it was completely organic?
No [laughs]. I was just beginning to go promote it as it all started happening.
Were you ready for all the attention and fame?
I’ve never been one for fame. Even for social media and TikTok, it’s hard for me. I want to talk to my fans but when the spotlight’s on me, I feel awkward. I’m an awkward person, so I try to make it the best I can. I like performing more, because it’s more intimate.
Obviously with COVID, how much are you missing the stage?
I miss it so much. That’s the #1 thing I’m really itching to do. The beginning of quarantine was like Christmas break in a way. [laughs] ”Okay we’re going to eat and watch movies, stay in the house.” The third month hits and you’re like “hmm, why’s this still going on?” I’m trying not to get crazy depressed or sad, then fear starts taking over of course. It’s more so about your mental health, we all really have to figure out how to stay happy during this quarantine.
Have you picked up any new hobbies or interests during this time?
Cooking. I’ve become a really good cook honestly.
What do you like to cook?
Everything. I love Mexican food: tacos, quesadillas, carnitas. Also pasta: penne with marinara sauce and garlic. Comfort food.
Who or what inspired “Kings & Queens”?
Growing up, I’d see so many men in positions of power and I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand why women weren’t in positions of power, women should be equal. One of the first songs I wrote was called “Treat Me Like a Lady,” I was 14. I didn’t know anything about relationships, it was what I saw with my relatives and their relationships. I’ve always been writing these anthems because I really want women to be treated with respect and to be treated equally. We’re all queens, we can handle it. We give birth, hello? Why does that even happen to us? Because we can multitask.
Right? I can’t even imagine squeezing a baby out.
The only thing I’m doing is drinking coffee every morning, I can’t live without coffee. I can’t even imagine taking care of somebody. My mom says the giving birth part you think is the hardest, but it’s actually when the baby’s out. You have to care for the baby all the time, the world revolves around that. That’s a superpower for women and moms all over on its own.
How’s it feel to have your songs go up on TikTok?
It’s weird to me because “Not Your Barbie Girl” got over 2.4 billion videos before even ‘‘Sweet But Psycho” got on TikTok. TikTok has been such a driving force with my music, so I’m also grateful for TikTok.
Are you super active on the platform?
As much as I can be. Oh my goodness when I first got on Tik Tok, I cracked up at myself because I looked ridiculous. But I think people like them.
What can we expect from your new project Heaven & HellI?
It’s a journey of light and dark, highs to lows. The heaven side is very light and energetic. I really wanted the whole album to be really energetic and anthemic. It’s more so the melodies and the feeling you get from hearing Heaven (side A), then going to side B which is darker and moodier. It’s a bit sexier too, it’s a little revengeful in Hell. [laughs]
How’d you come up with that concept?
It came to me a year and a half ago when I was writing “Torn.” I put out “Torn” in between Heaven & Hell on the bridge, “Torn” now is purgatory on the album. We all go through these emotional rollercoasters and duality challenges in our lives. We’re never one thing. One day I wake up so happy and it feels heavenly, I’m so excited! Another day, I’m watching the news and feel super depressed, dark, and moody. I feel like moving away and living by myself for the rest of my life. My moods change, we’re all like that. Especially right now which is really ironic with the album called Heaven & Hell because in the booklet, the photos show heaven being space and hell being earth.
Are you religious?
I’m a lot of things. I’m very spiritual, I feel things a lot. I’m an empath, I feel things so much. I was watching a story on Facebook of this little girl getting adopted, I literally felt it so much I started crying. I feel people’s vibes.
No ballads, no features on the album. I really wanted my fans to connect and really get to know me. So for the debut album, no.
This is your debut? How excited are you?
I’m so excited. I’m trying to breathe and meditate on it. I want to see people’s reactions. I’m really excited to see what songs people gravitate towards, and what my fans like the most.
Why so long for your debut project?
We released “Sweet But Psycho,” but there wasn’t a lot of pop music at the time. I was nervous, I didn’t think anyone was going to like it. Right after the song came out, I was on tour the next 30 to 40 days. I didn’t even have much time to get in the studio afterwards. A year of touring, I got home that Christmas and I started writing for Heaven & Hell. It’s been a year for the album, people think it’s been longer. We’ve been writing over 100 songs and now finally, I wanted to put out the project. It’s all about that energy, I’m all about energy.
I saw your tweet addressing dumb comments. At this point, why even pay attention to them?
I know, I wanted to say something. Twitter’s for that, right? Twitter’s to speak your mind. I’m like “I’m going to talk about what’s really on my mind. I don’t want to be filtered.” In real life, my friends always joke that I’m so unfiltered. I’m goofy, I don’t care. Why am I not saying what I feel on Twitter? So I literally did. [laughs]
As someone with a platform, how do you continue to plan on using it for the greater good?
Speaking my mind, what I believe. Working with my fans and seeing what they want from me. It’s so important to know your audience. I miss my fans so much, it’s hard to connect with them virtually. I’m trying as much as I can because I’m not doing shows right now. I’m planning a lot of livestream shows, excited about that.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
It’s different everyday. It depends on my mood. Funky and out-of-the-box, something you probably wouldn’t see on the street. I like dressing really awkward and weird. I love trenchcoats. Even in 100 degree weather in LA, I’m literally wearing a long jean jacket trench coat. My girlfriend’s like “why are you wearing a trench coat in 100 degree weather?!” [laughs] I’m actually obsessed with trench coats, that’s one thing I can’t do without.
Top 5 artists in rotation?
Definitely Collie Buddz, he’s a reggae artist I’ve been listening to since I was 14. I cannot stop listening to his album, every day. Every shoot I’m on, my managers always put it on and it puts me in a good mood. Collie, I freaking love you I’m your #1 fan. Who else I really like right now? 24kGoldn. “Mood” is so fucking good. Of course, I love Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift. Their albums are very calming, especially during this time. I love very anthemic music, their music brings me into a very calming state. Last but not least, Beyonce always. Literally every day of my life. [laughs] I put on her live performances: Coachella, Superbowl. Can’t get me started on Beyonce.
Favorite Beyonce song?
[starts singing “If I Were A Boy”] So good. I did a cover of it on my Instagram recently. I love that song, the lyrics are so meaningful. Every generation should hear that song.
One thing fans may not know about you?
I’m 5’2”. I wear crazy platforms all the time because I am 5’2”. I got me some platforms, oh my gosh. My girlfriend’s really tall, I always tell her to wear platforms but she doesn’t want to because she’ll be 6 feet. I don’t know that struggle. I actually think it’d be cool to be 6 feet, but she doesn’t think so.
Do you wear platforms during quarantine? I feel like we’re not getting dressed.
Around my home, I have my favorite platforms. They’re new Simon Miller, it’s a Canadian brand. These platforms are like slide-ins, I wear them everyday.
Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
As artists, we’re always setting new goals in our heads. All artists are picky. The #1 goal is to start performing soon, in-person. I’m trying to figure out different ways right now. Another goal is to release as many albums as I can as an artist. I want to release projects in a row, back to back.
I feel like your debut project is your baby.
I know! Once it’s out in the world, I need to start making a new one. [laughs]