anothermaxwell -- photo courtesy Haze Media Group
anothermaxwell is Shenita Hughley, a multitalented singer-songwriter, producer and instrumentalist whose music combines hip-hop, R&B and synthpop elements into an engaging whole. She recorded and produced her latest EP, Masterpiece, entirely by herself, right down to the artwork, a process she describes as "a difficult task." We're fortunate to share an interview with Hughley about her creative process, her inspirations and what's ahead for her in 2018.
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
I am anothermaxwell, singer-songwriter and producer. My music is eclectic; a wave of mellow melodies with reverb. I dabble in multiple genres such as alternative R&B and atmospheric pop, chill-wave, nu jazz/soul. My music is pretty chill and dark sensual, in a sort of "new silk sheets" kind of way.
Talk about your musical journey from 2016’s .wav EP to last year’s Masterpiece. What did you learn from that first EP that you brought to the new one?
It took me almost two years to complete .wav in 2016, some songs I had been working on since 2014. The intention for .wav was to introduce myself as anothermaxwell (I had previously gone by Bel Lequeen, a name I eventually grew out of). The whole idea of the EP started with my single "Solitude" a song, that till this day, is one of my favorite songs I've created. "Solitude" was the beginning of my journey into alternative R&B and hip-hop. I built the project around it; I wanted .wav to be showcase of what I've learned and how far as a producer and songwriter I've become. Then came Masterpiece, which is the follow up to .wav. I actually started working on Masterpiece right after I finished .wav. Masterpiece was the soundtrack to my life during 2017. I wanted to share the different areas of my life: My sobriety, love, identity, spirituality and rising above all my pain. Masterpiece is really about healing and redemption. I grew so much as songwriter and producer from .wav to Masterpiece. I learned how to express myself in more poetic way, a style of writing I've always admired. I started and finished both of these projects in almost complete isolation with no outside noise, and while I can wave my pride flag and say I did everything myself, the process was quite lonely. I don't have to be alone anymore and I can ask for help-that was a major lesson at the end of Masterpiece.
How did you set out learning what you need to know to make and produce your music?
I was an observer. I was in band as a teen and observed the other instruments around me and then tried to imitate them, first through piano, and then through synths and simulations. I studied music in school and out. I have tons of self help books on music and production. I watch a lot of videos, documentaries and interviews of various artist of different genres. The skills I've gained over the years have been due to many trials and error and by playing with different sounds and testing different waters. I'm very introspective and isolated when I create, which is a blessing and a curse, I've just always been a self taught learner but I have to know when to go "inside" and when to get away from my ego.
What was the recording process like for Masterpiece? How did you work through any unforeseen challenges?
I created all of Masterpiece in my room by myself: the production, recording, editing, even the artwork. I honestly was afraid of being so honest in front of other people, vulnerability is a difficult task. The worst part about doing everything yourself, is doing everything yourself. I'm such a perfectionist and it was hard for me to leave things alone; in my mind I can always do it better. I sometimes would sit for an hour recording the same phrase over and over desperate to get it right. I don't advise anyone do this because it'll drive you mad. Resting and taking breaks was also apart of the process. It's important not to push to hard because the result will feel strained. I worked when I felt inspired, and when I wasn't I would be doing "inspirational downloading" where I do nothing but watch creative videos or read or indulge in some other medium where I can digest creative information. My typical workflow looks like this: Make a beat, write to it, record, edit and finalize. However as I'm growing as an creator, how that looks exactly is starting to shift
What’s ahead for you in 2018?
I'm super excited for what I'm working on now. I'm getting out of my comfort zone and collaborating with some amazing local producers who are not only making my music better, but are sharing their knowledge and helping me to advance as creator, in which I'm beyond grateful for. I'm doing my music homework. I'm exploring new sounds such as synth pop, and disco. I think this next project will be my best thus far and the quality will be noticeably improved.
anothermaxwell -- photo courtesy Haze Media Group
What inspires you most about music in Kansas City?
Kansas city music is very diverse and free from boundaries. I've gone to shows where performers showcased various styles flawlessly. There's a lot of energy within the music of Kansas city, a charm of fearlessness. I've never not seen a show in the city and left feeling uninspired, that I can wholeheartedly say.