His songs can be riff-heavy and bluesy, sounding like a collection of “Exile on Main Street” mid-tempo B-sides. His voice recalls the rough edges of Mick Jagger’s, minus the accent and much of the attitude.
But as much as Nathan Maxwell respects the Rolling Stones, don’t make the mistake of assuming they define his sound.
“I think that the Stones comparison is fair. But a lot of people are in the Stones camp or the Beatles camp, using those two as a broad example,” he said. “I appreciate [the Stones’] music. They allow for a lot of space in the music. Blues music has that quality, as does R&B music. I appreciate who influenced them.”
Maxwell, formerly of Arlington and now living in California, used R&B and country influences to craft the 10 songs on his first full-length album, “Happiness in Time,” which is scheduled for release by independent label Hoodoo Music this week. His soulful voice glides over the grooves from an accomplished backing band that helped bring his vision to fruition. He said artists like drummer Kelvin Dixon, who played with John Lee Hooker, and pianist Lorenzo Hawkins were able to “play less to play more,” allowing for spaces in the music for other instruments and Maxwell’s vocals.
“It has to weave in. What you play has to be stronger than just playing a lot,” said Maxwell, 31.
He said the key was to lead his diverse supporting cast in the right direction, even if it isn’t in their natural repertoire. Like, for example, getting the bluesy Hawkins to find his inner cowboy.
“If he’s not really much of a country guy, he can get there if you’re able to lead in that direction. He was like a church piano player, and he’s also in the blues scene out here.”
MAXWELL SPENT roughly four years as a teenager living in north Arlington, attending high school at Landon in Maryland before moving on in 2000. His parents and sister still live in the area, he said.
He’s been writing music for about eight years, and recorded his first EP “Undone” in 2004. The album was finished in a single day with the assistance of co-producer Bob Johnson, who previously worked with the likes of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
“Happiness in Time” was another marathon session, completed in just three days. Maxwell said the short time frame helps keep the project more organic. “It becomes less of an analytical sort of thing. Once you start laboring over it, it has a plastic quality,” he said.
The album was mixed by Anja Wodsak, who is also the president of Hoodoo Music. “It is rare to find 10 well-defined songs that each have their own distinct personality on an artist’s first full-length record, or any record for that matter,” she said in a release for the album, which is available for purchase on the label’s Web site, www.hoodoomusic.com.
The two tracks Maxwell said he’s connecting with these days on “Happiness in Time” are the title song, a gospel-tinged saxophone jam, and “It’s You Who I’ve Come Back To Find,” a heart-on-the-sleeve country track.
Now, his attention is turned towards when he might share those tracks with audiences — Maxwell said discussions about some live dates are under way — and how far “Happiness in Time” will take him.
“In truth, you would like to have record sales to try to allow you to continue to do it,” he said. “For a debut recording, I think we did a good job.”