It feels incredible. I’m speechless, I’ve been working my entire life for this moment and it doesn’t feel real…”
As starts to a year go, sitting at the top of the UK singles chart while your breakthrough track continues to fly around the world is surely as good as it gets in the business of pop music. And that’s exactly where Music Week finds Ava Max, finishing her first coffee of the day in downtown Los Angeles. Real name Amanda Ava Koci, the 24-year-old is riding a wave powered by her single Sweet But Psycho, which has 533,996 sales, according to the Official Charts Company. Add that to 268 million Spotify plays and almost 90m YouTube views and you’ve got a monster hit. “I had no idea the song would spread like this. It’s a crazy feeling, having fans,” she says, sounding fully astounded. “When it first went to No.1 in Sweden, we thought maybe it was a one-time thing. We didn’t think it would happen over and over again.”
Max says her relationship with the song, which germinated from a piano motif from Norwegian songwriter Tigs, is stronger thanks to its success. “I turned it on yesterday and instantly it felt bigger. It feels like I’m more connected to everybody now,” she says. And connection is exactly what Max wants, what she’s been building towards since her family took her out of school at 14 and moved from Virginia to LA, after years of singing along to Shania Twain, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion CDs in her basement. “Being a role model is my number one goal,” she says, adding that her own teen idol was Gwen Stefani. “I want to be a good role model for people, for young women and girls. It’s important in this day and age, there aren’t a lot of good ones out there.”
Max moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream in time-honoured fashion, but quickly realised that things wouldn’t be that simple. “You think it’s the place where everything is going to come together right away but it takes a very long time,” she says. “You have to really want what you want, the city can tear you up.” Thrust into an unfamiliar environment and with “no friends” she focused solely on writing. “Back in the day I just thought about loving singing,” she says. “I still do, but it’s different now, it’s a bigger picture – ‘Why are you doing this? Who are you?’ That’s what I didn’t know back then, and I do now. It’s important to know who I want to help, what I want to do aside from music.”
With her debut album is coming together, she intends to maximise her chance. “It’s important for every woman to have a voice in the industry and this gives me a platform to empower other women,” she finishes. “It’s been a whole journey of chasing my dream, I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t chasing it."