Max Lockwood: Digging Deep to Find 'Diamonds'

Grand Rapids singer and songwriter Max Lockwood has a problem with the old expression that a diamond is just coal that did well under pressure. Not just because it’s a cliché, but because it’s not even accurate. 

Discovering that diamonds are formed much deeper in the Earth, in a way that’s much harder to describe, Lockwood took that new metaphor and applied it to the internal turmoil he underwent as an artist during the pandemic.

“The pandemic and being in lockdown did provide sort of a forced introspection,” Lockwood told Revue about the origins of his upcoming new album, Diamonds, due out May 12. 

“There was so little social contact in a normal way for me and other people who weren’t working, whose livelihoods were just totally interrupted. There was a lot of confronting the way your identity is built around the work that you do, which is a real flimsy thing because that can come and go and you’re still there and like, ‘Well, what is this? What am I? What is this life that I’m experiencing?’”

Staring down those lofty questions, Lockwood gradually found a way to continue the recording sessions he first began with drummer Mike Shimmin and bassist PJ George in February 2020 at Third Coast Recording in Grand Haven. Initially laying down three tracks for what he had thought would be an EP, he continued to write more songs as he recorded safely and remotely throughout lockdown. 

“Most of my work comes from performing – gigging out, doing shows,” Lockwood said. “And we were planning on a really busy summer that year, and then it all went to zero, basically. So it was incredibly stressful and disorienting. And then at the same time, it provided a lot of opportunity for looking inward and taking some time to like learn about myself and go through some difficult times that were fruitful for growth and creativity and writing. 

“So it was super challenging, and there were certainly some dark times and mental health challenges at the time, like many people experienced. But there were a lot of positives and blessings through that time period for me personally.”

The most shining moment in all of that dark time came in the form of the new album’s powerful title track, “Diamonds.” 

“There’s always one song where I’m like, ‘Oh, now I see it – it’s an album,” Lockwood said. “This idea of digging deeper inside to uncover those, what I refer to as diamonds in the song, of true wisdom that can guide and enrich our lives, that each one of us has, that are unique to us. That can really connect us with what we’re here to do.”

His third solo album, Diamonds best encapsulates every facet of Lockwood’s music career so far, one that also stretches back five albums with his GR rock band Big Dudee Roo.

“With the previous two solo records that I did, it was very much, ‘I wrote these songs that are different than what Big Dudee Roo does, so I’m going to do a solo record because I wanted to do a different treatment with them, and work with different people,” Lockwood said. “And now I feel like this album represents a more holistic version of myself as a songwriter and creative person, where I think those elements are more blended together, the solo singer songwriter thing with like the rock edge of Big Dudee Roo.”

Diamonds also pulls direct inspiration from Lockwood’s regular gigging as frontman for the nationally touring Tom Petty tribute band The Insiders.

“Doing The Insiders and doing all the Petty stuff has been a huge influence,” Lockwood said. “His songs are so good and so clear and concise. So I think that can’t help but bleed into what I’m doing with my own songwriting.”

Playing over 100 shows with The Insiders pushed Lockwood as a vocalist, leading him to take voice lessons for the first time, and gaining more confidence in his voice as an instrument over the last three years. 

On Diamonds, Lockwood recorded guitar, bass, piano, synths, and cello himself. He also worked closely with his friend/musician/engineer Joe Hettinga at both his home studio, and Second Story Sound in Grand Rapids. They were joined by members of The Insiders, Big Dudee Roo drummer Daine Hammerle and guitarist Justin Dore, as well as pedal steel guitarist Drew Howard, vocalist Samantha Cooper, and Eric O’Daly, who will open the album’s release show May 12 at The Midtown in Grand Rapids. 

“It’s just a beautiful venue with a great crew and beautiful stage,” Lockwood said of the space formerly known as The Listening Room. “It sounds great in there. It’s a fantastic place to be able to debut a new record where people can really take it in; where I feel like I can really present this music, in a really intentional, thoughtful manner.”

After the release of Diamonds, Max Lockwood will also play the Robin Theatre in Lansing May 24 with Eric O’Daly opening, Buttermilk Jamboree June 16-18, The Ark in Ann Arbor July 27, and the Shagbark Festival Aug. 3-5.

Max Lockwood Diamonds Album Release
Wsg. Eric O’Daly
The Midtown, 123 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
May 12, 7:30 p.m., $24-35,