Meet Maxximo, the gay Mexican artist inspiring change with his everchanging sound | Shifter Fest Q+A
Maxximo released his new EP “Live at Home” across streaming platforms on Oct. 16. Created during quarantine, the EP includes live acoustic performances of his original music and P!nk, Selena and RBD covers. Photo by Matthew Dean Stuart.
This is an installment of exclusive Q+As with our Shifter Fest Vol. II performers. Be sure to check out their performances on our IGTV channel!
It’s a crucial time to be aware in America. On Nov. 3, breaking news and election updates ultimately became background noise at Shifter HQ. Most polls for the 2020 presidential election had closed the night before I met 29-year-old Maxximo Villagomez, our next Shifter Fest performer.
A Mexican immigrant located in New York City, Maxximo immediately asked how I was feeling before I even had a chance to ask him. He expressed that the energy this week had shifted and that it was a “weird time” to be living in.
In 2019, pop singer-songwriter Maxximo released his high-energy debut album “I’MPOSSIBLE” and his “BLESSED WITH A BROKEN HEART” EP later that same year. The latter served as an ode to the storytelling commonly laced in country music. Maxximo is currently in the early stages of working on his second LP, which he hopes to release sometime next spring.
Maxximo released his “Live at Home” EP on Oct. 16. Created during quarantine, the project includes live acoustic performances of his original music and covers of songs like Selena’s “Si Una Vez.”
“This year has been hard for all of us, but I truly believe that music and art bring light and that’s the main intention of this EP. I know things will get better in the world, and if my work helps bring some hope to the listener, I’ll be more than pleased,” Maxximo said.
On the EP is a cover of P!nk's 2006 track "Dear Mr. President," a song that initially served as an open letter to President George W. Bush. The lyrics criticize Bush's administration, including the Iraq War, the No Child Left Behind Act, opposition to gay rights and his lack of acknowledgment for poor and middle-class citizens. It was a bold move for P!nk to pen the song in 2006, and 14 years later, Maxximo — who isn't eligible to vote — found it fitting to perform being that it's an election year.
In the midst of the highly anticipated presidential election — and the uncertainties that have come along with it — let’s take a quick break and come together through music. We proudly introduce our next Shifter Fest Vol. II performer, Maxximo!
Shifter Mag: You’re originally from Mexico. What was your upbringing like and in what ways does it impact your music and creativity?
Maxximo: I was fortunate enough to be born in Mexico. I think that’s such a blessing because it’s such a rich and vast country with culture, sounds, music, food, colors and everything. I grew up in Mexico City, which is another big city like New York. I think growing up with that and the rich culture of sounds and music definitely impacted me creatively. I try to project that into all of my songs and everything I do because it’s something I’m very proud of that I want to share with the world.
SM: When and why did you move to the U.S.? Was your heart always set on New York, or did you live somewhere else before touching down there?
Maxximo: I’ve been here almost seven years… almost eight. It’s a mix of adventure and luck and ambition. I had the opportunity to be part of Lava, a dance company in Brooklyn. It was an opportunity and I took it. I love dancing, but music has made a greater impact on my life. I’m Latino, so you know dancing is just part of life. I actually haven’t gone out to an audition in six years. Music took over.
SM: When did you know you were going to pursue music?
Maxximo: I think I’ve always just loved music. Growing up in Mexico with all the culture, it’s like growing up in a music box. There’s always music playing somewhere. I guess I was lucky enough to grow up in a time where the music played on the radio was really diverse — not only Latin music and Mexican music but American music and old rock and roll. So, I always kind of knew that it was what I wanted to pursue. It took a while for me to decide to do it because it takes a lot of guts and bravery to pursue this career. It’s not easy; it’s time-consuming and it’s really competitive. It’s a complicated road even if you’re not hugely famous.
SM: What is your creative process like? How would you describe your musical style/genre?
Maxximo: I do produce and write in a pop structure. Like I have verses, a chorus and hooks. I like to make sounds, and I think my first album “I’MPOSSIBLE” was about my fighting spirit — to work hard because anything’s possible — and I think every song has that sentiment.
But I don’t like to put boundaries in music because I think it’s so vast and so diverse and so beautiful. I do like to write in a pop structure so it’ll be catchy and easy to understand, but I also like to branch out and experiment with my sound. My EP “BLESSED WITH A BROKEN HEART” was a little more country and less electronic.
SM: You delivered a powerful performance of P!nk’s “Dear Mr. President” on your EP along with a digital protest through social media. Many people in this country don’t resonate with its 45th president for a multitude of reasons. What drove you to create this and what message were you hoping to get across?
Maxximo: It’s really important to me to be political and a voice for what I believe in. I don’t mean to bash anyone, but a lot of pop music these days lacks meaning. It’s kind of sad that a lot of people don’t really care anymore, especially when they have the voice and spotlight to do so.
This song was written almost 15 years ago and it still hits home. I think more now than when Bush was president. I wanted to share it for those who usually don’t have a voice or are afraid to say what they believe. A lot of people who follow me live in very conservative areas and they tell me “You know, I can’t really be myself.” To me, it was very important to perform this song. Especially now. I’m an immigrant, so I can’t vote. For me, it was a way to speak my mind about it and hopefully, people will connect.
SM: We randomly met on Instagram last summer. Artists, including us here at Shifter, love to use the platform to connect with their audience and support system. Do you have a favorite memory or connection you’ve made through social media?
Maxximo's Instagram page is flooded with photos of his supporters in protest of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States. Source: Maxximo/Instagram
Maxximo: I think that’s what I love most about the time we’re living in. I don’t know if you remember, but when you and I met, I sent you a voice note. To me, it’s a way to let people know they’re not just a number. Sometimes, we just focus so much on our follower count — it’s just a number. That’s not something I want. To me, connecting with people is sending a voice note and letting them know that I care that they connected with me.
I’ve connected with people, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, which is so diverse and supportive. I do have a few people who have reached out to me saying that my songs really moved them. There’s a song called “Song for a Cowboy,” and this kid in Canada told me that it inspired him. I work to inspire people and if I get to do that, even just a little bit, I’m super happy.
SM: You just dropped your new EP, “Live at Home,” on Oct. 16. It’s a quarantine project full of stripped-down performances, including some covers. Why these songs in particular?
Maxximo: When I was recording all this, I was trying to put something out there. I was at home, I wasn’t doing anything, so I recorded these songs to share with the world. The first [cover] I did was “I Can’t Get Over You” by Linda Ronstadt. She has a really, really special place in my heart as an inspiration but also because she did everything. She did pop, she did rock, she did mariachi, she did all these things I resonate with as an artist. I was just playing around on the piano with it and I did it with my friend Jude Theriot. He plays piano and sings, but he’s really shy so I said “Okay, let’s do this together.”
As for the Selena cover of “Si Una Vez,” I’m a huge fan of Selena. Every Mexican, every Latino loves her. I was just playing my guitar and I was like, “I think I can do this.” I cannot sing like her at all, but I did it.
The RBD song, “Sálvame,” I did it because they had just released their discography on streaming platforms during the summer. They weren’t on streaming platforms for many, many years. I grew up with RBD and that song was always my favorite and a friend of mine in Mexico kind of dared me to cover it. I had all the other songs [for the EP] finished and that was the last one I recorded.
SM: What is something you’d hope people recognize you for aside from your musical projects?
Maxximo: I think more than anything, if I get to inspire people to be better not only with my music but with my actions. And being bold. I like to think of myself as a bold and daring person and that’s something that I’d like people to remember me by. To inspire them to be better — especially in situations like this.
My background taught me a lot about empathy and what’s important. A lot of people get into this business because of the flashing lights or the money or the fame. All these things, they can be cool, but at the end of the day, I will die happy knowing that I made somebody else’s life more inspiring and that I gave them a little more light with my work. If I get to teach people to be brave and enjoy life and to be bold, that’s all I want.
In the meantime, catch Maxximo’s acoustic cover of P!nk’s “Dear Mr. President” in our next installment of Shifter Fest Vol. II on our IGTV channel: