This year, Pride in London celebrated 50 years since the city’s first ever Pride march in 1972, which was attended by about 2,000 people. Including a parade and a line-up of artists performing across four stages around central London, this year’s Pride was hailed as the “biggest and most inclusive event in history” by its organisers.
For chart-topping popstar Ava Max, it was a “no brainer” when asked to headline the UK capital’s main stage event in Trafalger Square. The artist has previously teamed up with Drag Race sensation and BRICKS digital coverstar Bimini Bon Boulash for the performance video of her smash-hit ‘My Head & My Heart’, with the pair signposting their fans to support Mermaids, a UK-wide charity working to support transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people, and their families. “Pride is all about love,” she said from the stage, “and no one can dictate love.”
As an artist who has fiercely defended and advocated for equality, Ava enthralled audiences with her performances of ‘Kings & Queens’ and ‘Sweet but Psycho’ accompanied by rainbow-themed backing dancers. Her signature dance-pop sound electrified the streets of central London and soundtracked an evening of queer joy for more than one million attendees.
So what’s next for the Albanian-American star? Fans were excited to hear a teaser of what’s to come via ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’, her last single release. Her most impressive vocal performance of the evening, the angsty track is infused with snappy beats and biting lyrics that suggest a new unapologetic era for her music. “I was in the studio and I was just really annoyed at a situation that was happening to me personally, and it was all about the lyrics in the moment,” she explains.
The day following her Pride performance, we catch up with Ava about her chosen family, the importance of supporting Pride events and what’s to come in her new music.
MR: Firstly, congratulations on your Pride set and thanks so much for sharing your photo diary with us. Was this your first Pride in London, and how did you find it?
AM: It was so incredible. The moment I got to London I felt such a warm welcome, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced and the crowd was so much fun. Everyone was singing every word, it was just a moment to remember for sure.
In your own words, why is Pride so important for you to be there and support?
Because I believe that everyone should be able to love who they love, be who they are and do what they want to do. I truly believe that and I think it’s super important to be an advocate for that.
How can fans of your music be good allies during Pride month and beyond?
I think it’s just important to continue talking openly and being supportive to one another. I want my fans to be supportive of everyone – I think that’s my number one message, like if I see someone being rude whether it’s online or in person, I don’t want to ever feed into that.
A big part of Pride season is celebrating our chosen families. Who is in your chosen family when you’re on tour?
I travel with my best friend Tasha, she is with me for pretty much everything with my day-to-day touring and my manager, she is amazing as well, so I have two incredible ladies next to me at all times. It’s an even bigger team that I can go on and on… I have a lot of people on tour with me that support me and help me through.
Now talking of music, congratulations also on your latest single ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’. How has the response been to the new music so far?
It’s been incredible. I mean, the song is definitely a little different than anything I’ve released. It’s also a little bit different than everything else on the album, that’s why I wanted it to be first so people can actually hear something a little bit different, and it’s really personal to me. But the rest of the music is maybe a bit more like ‘Kings and Queens’ production-wise, while ‘Maybe You’re The Problem’ is a bit more punk-rock.
You’ve shared that your new music is more personal than past releases. How did you find the confidence to share more of yourself through your music?
Just life experiences. I think as we go through relationships, and especially me, I mean, I’ve been through a couple of relationships where I’ve been heartbroken in the past couple of years where I had a lot to pull from for the second album, and as much as I don’t like getting my heart broken, it definitely helps with the music.
Was there any particular interactions with fans or experience in your own life that made you think actually no, this is worth sharing your story with others?
I think that it was just that it had finally happened to me – I’d never felt heartbreak the way that I did then and it just got me feeling super down, and like everything I thought was real wasn’t real. Looking back, and seeing what I thought was real with new eyes, it really messes with your mind.
Totally. What has been healing in your heartbreak for you?
Working out, hanging out with my girlfriends and with friends and family. And you know, taking time for me, going for walks and just kind of physically and emotionally and mentally working on myself.
Your debut album had a number of delays through the pandemic, so perhaps it doesn’t feel as recent to you as it is for us. When you finished writing Heaven & Hell, did you take a break or had you already started thinking about Diamonds & Dancefloors?
I actually started writing the album in 2021. It was in the second part of the year that I really dove into the second album.
A debut album release is usually accompanied by lavish parties, world tours and festival appearances across the globe, but obviously due to the pandemic that couldn’t be possible for you. What did you learn in this unorthodox time period of unexpected rest that you’ve taken forward into the new album?
Definitely taking things one step at a time – I was always going at 100 miles an hour during the pandemic, it really flooded all of those boundaries. But for me, I took away that looking at things day by day, it really helps with not stressing too much ahead of myself. And with COVID-19, obviously we couldn’t really think about the future because we didn’t know what was to come, so it taught me to be more present and focused in the moment, I think.
You’ve worked on a number of exciting collaborations in your music, from world-renowned DJs to drag stars. Can you tease any details about any upcoming collaborations from your new music? Have you had the chance to work with anyone new on this album?
There will be collaborations on the album that I can’t really speak about yet, but I’m literally so excited about it all and to be able to share it with everyone.
Your style is as iconic as your voice. Through this era of new music, have you been exploring a new era in your personal style?
My personal style has definitely gotten ‘more fashionable’. I’ve had time out of the studio finally to focus on fashion and I’m really enjoying exploring different styles. I do like a little bit of a grunge style even still but it really depends on my mood.
What about your upcoming music will surprise fans the most, and why?
I think that every song is a little bit different than the other – one is 90s house, another is a little more pop disco – so I think people will not get bored with the album. I think that might be surprising because Heaven & Hell was kind of in the same genre, all the songs, but I wanted this album to have something for everybody.
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