Editor’s note: Some answers were edited for length and clarity.
Two years ago, at South By Southwest 2013, someone stole Austin singer-songwriter Max Frost’s backpack. The backpack contained Frost’s laptop and hard drive, which held every song he had ever made. All of his music was gone, and he was left questioning his decision to drop out of school to pursue his music career.
About three days after the theft, the blog Pigeons & Planes picked up “White Lies,” a song from Frost’s SoundCloud account. The blog post started a chain reaction that’s still going off today. Over the course of the last two years, Frost has signed with Atlantic Records, landed a spot on Rolling Stones’ list of “10 Artists You Need to Know” and been featured on a Beats commercial. With his first full-length album set to be released in early 2015, Frost is returning to SXSW to perform four official shows. The Daily Texan spoke with Frost about his music and experience at UT.
The Daily Texan: When was the first time you performed at SXSW?
Max Frost: Unofficially, I would play shows in a band called Blues Mafia when I was like 15 or 16. That’s probably the first time I was playing during the music festival. Then, as an official artist, it was two years ago that I first played as a solo act.
DT: How did you get into music?
MF: I’ve always been interested in it. I played drums and banged on things and made noises ever since I was a little kid. I started playing guitar when I was 8 and started playing other instruments when I was 13 or 14 and playing in bands. I just never stopped.
DT: How long did you attend UT? Were you playing in bands at the time?
MF: One whole year. That was the first year when I didn’t have a consistent live gig with another band going, so I spent a lot of time in my dorm room just making songs on a computer and recording them and writing stuff. That’s kind of where everything got started for my solo project. I was living in Towers — the frat battlefield.
DT: So you left school in 2012 after your first year at UT. Why did you choose to leave?
MF: I just kind of realized I didn’t want to do a half-ass job at school and music and that if I was ever going to take a chance on it, the time would be now. To me, [college] just felt like a further extension of high school in a way, and I felt trapped. I felt like I was going to let the better years of creativity and youth slip away.
DT: What did you do after you left?
MF: I went to [Los Angeles] and spent the summer there with a friend of mine who makes videos. I worked on a lot of music out there and was still super underground. I just stayed in my room and worked on records, but, you know, it’s a good kind of reality check to what the business is like and how big the world really is. Then I came back to Austin and signed back up for classes. I went back for one week I think. After sitting in class again, I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t do this.’ I pulled out, and I stayed in Austin. I kept working on more music.
DT: How would you describe your sound?
MF: I would say that it’s alternative pop. It’s sort of like my eclectic interpretation of a blend of Western music that I’ve been exposed to my whole life, and I’d say it’s sort of hip-hop influenced without being rap in any way. I would say that it’s also oddly — because of the acoustic guitar and how much Bob Dylan and Ryan Adams I listen to — kind of folk influenced, but I wouldn’t say that’s the closest genre.
DT: What are some of your favorite memories of UT? What was your favorite late-night study spot?
MF: I was always in the Towers seating group for the football games, and I’ve always been a football fan, so I’d say my fondest memories from when I was going to UT was just going to the games. That was always when the entire school was uniting to party in the stadium, and that was always a blast. I studied at the [Perry-Castañeda Library] or the Starbucks that’s right there by Fricano’s because it was close to Towers.