Ava Max On “Sweet But Psycho” & Making Pop Fun Again: Interview

Jason & Ava's 'Make Up'
Jason Derulo and Ava Max join forces on Vice's new banger, 'Make Up.'

Ava Max caught lightning in a bottle with “Sweet But Psycho.” A ruthlessly catchy, deeply relatable bop about embracing all facets of your personality, the Cirkut-produced single has racked up more than 54 million Spotify streams since arriving in August. It also cracked the top 50 on iTunes worldwide and topped the charts in several European countries. Those stats are staggering when you consider that Ava is a total newcomer, who has only just started promoting the song in earnest.

I recently had a chat with the rising star about her breakthrough hit and “overnight” success… after seven years of hard grind in Los Angeles. Ava also opened up about her feature on David Guetta’s “Let It Be Me” (a highlight of the French producer’s 7 LP) and her just-released collaboration with Jason Derulo & Vice. Other topics of conversation included her big break, putting the fun back into pop music and future singles. Get to know pop’s new It Girl in our Q&A below.

Congratulations on the success of “Sweet But Psycho.”

Thank you. I still can’t believe it.

Did you have a feeling that the song would blow up like this?

Kind of, but not really because it happened in a month. It just started booming and it’s insane because I never thought it would happen this fast. We knew the song was special but not this.

What inspired the song? A lot of people find it very relatable.

I think for me personally, I have a lot sides to me. I think everybody has a lot of sides to them and it’s basically about a girl who’s not afraid to show all of her sides and her dualities, and about a guy loving all those sides. She’s a girl who’s misunderstood in the relationship, and she’s basically being told she’s psycho and she’s out of her mind when she’s feeling it, but really she’s an outspoken girl and she’s speaking her mind. And that’s how I am in real life.

You dressed up as different “psychos” on Instagram. Who’s your favorite?

Well, I love all of those movies, but I think definitely Pulp Fiction. Uma Thurman is amazing. She’s just great. Also Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted.

What was it like working with Cirkut on “Sweet But Psycho”? He has produced so many big songs.

Cirkut basically took me under his wing about three years ago. He has just been incredible and taught me so much. He has really helped my production sound really, really just up front and in your face where before it was kind of in the background. It brought all the songs to life and all the writing to life. He is incredible.

How did you first get your start in the music industry?

I mean, Cirkut being in the picture basically changed my life. I used to go to the studio in the past and people wouldn’t give me — producers and songwriters — wouldn’t give me back my demos. It was really hard to get my stuff back from producers. So meeting him really turned things around. I mean, the first song we put on SoundCloud got so much traction that I ended up getting a record deal through email. It happened so fast, but it wasn’t instant leading up to that. I had to struggle for years. It was really hard. But, yeah, Cirkut opened up a lot of doors for me.

When did you move to LA?

I moved to LA when I was 17, so about seven years ago. I lived in LA when I was 14 for a year as well. Just kind of chasing the dream.

How does it feel now that all of the hard work is starting to pay off?

I’m always calling my family and I’m like, “I can’t wait to pay you guys back.” They have been my true supporters since I was eight years old. And my mom sang a lot growing up, so she really saw it in me first. I just can’t wait to repay everybody who has helped me along the way. Again, I can’t believe it because all those years of disappointment and now seeing fans react and relate, it just makes me feel happy. I don’t take anything for granted, that’s for sure.

Is “Sweet But Psycho” part of an EP? What’s the next step?

The next step is definitely releasing more singles, and maybe a couple more features, but an album is definitely in the works.

Is there more promotion planned for “Sweet But Psycho”?

Oh yes, most definitely. Again, it has happened very fast. We’re all pretty excited, but also shocked. We’re all working very hard and my team is working very hard. I have the best team and the best label.

How did your collaboration with Jason Derulo come about?

They actually reached out to me. I heard the song and I loved it. The song has amazing energy. They liked my sound.

What about the song with David Guetta?

I actually started writing it on piano and with also a friend of mine from the Netherlands. He’s super talented and he came to LA one night and we pretty much finished the song that night. I sent it to my label and they sent it to David Guetta. After that, Guetta, Cirkut and I were in the studio finishing the song. Guetta is amazing to work with. It was meant to be for sure.

Your sound and visuals are so fun. Is that something you’re trying to bring back to pop?

Yeah. For me, it’s all about uplifting my fans and friends and family. I feel like, when they play my song, I want them to have a boost of confidence, if that makes sense. I definitely want my music to make people happy. I mean, I get messages from fans and they say, “Oh, I’ve been bullied at school today and I put on your song and all of a sudden I feel so much more confident and happy.” That is the best. That’s the best reward, hearing people’s reaction to how it helps them.

Thank you. Good luck with “Sweet But Psycho”!

Thank you so much.

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