Max Norton teams up with producer Mindy Watts, gives us a peek at new solo material

The Tampa boy is a globetrotter now

click to enlarge Tampa's own Max Norton, who released new solo material this week and is set to play River Rock Festival on November 5. - Stephanie Westerman
Stephanie Westerman
Tampa's own Max Norton, who released new solo material this week and is set to play River Rock Festival on November 5.

UPDATE: Max Norton has announced a hometown release show for his new LP, Blood Moon. It's happening on March 31 at Crowbar in Ybor City, Florida. Rebekah Pulley and Shawn Kyle with play support and more information is available via

Working with renowned Nashville producer Mindy Watts is a privilege, but once Tampa-based songwriter Max Norton says there's something even cooler about being in the booth under the guidance of ears that've collaborated with Neil Young, Jack White and Beck.


"She has three rescue dogs and two rescue cats that just hang out in the control room," Norton, 27, told CL in an email. "I look forward to working with her again."

Pets aside, things are looking bright for his forthcoming solo release, due later this year or early 2017. Norton, of course, has been trotting across the globe as the drummer for Benjamin Booker, another Tampa boy done good.

That last two years have seen Norton & the band touch two continents, go on tour with Jack White, and even jam with Paul Shaffer on Letterman. They played Jay-Z's Tidal show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and were recently featured in a Pitchfork photo spread alongside two new band members, bassist Mikki Itzigsohn (who also sang vocals on Kate Nash's 2013 LP Girl Talk) and guitarist Matt Zuk.

A new Benjamin Booker record should start tracking next year, but for now Norton is sharing the fruits of the musical seeds he sowed late last year. A new, upbeat EP released this week features a lot of that mandolin we love to hear Norton play and updates the lo-fi stuff we heard previously.

"It’s definitely shocking to my ears hearing them with full production," Norton wrote. "It’s the way I’ve always heard them in my head, much like a large orchestra performing in a small room." He adds that friends have also been surprised because most of them see Max as a guy that writes songs in a cabin. Truth is, he literally did write these songs at his old home, which is a cabin in Nashville.

Watts, 36, helped him venture out of the house to get Blood Moon to tape, though, even sneaking Norton & other musicians into Fork's Drum Closet in Nashville to mess around on the store's bells, chimes and concert bass drum.

"Max is a true artist who is sensitive to and inspired by the world around him which I think really comes through in his songwriting," Watts told CL. "It was really fun to collaborate with him to express that through arrangements."

The results are especially gorgeous on "The One You Love" where violin and cello hold up a string arrangement while Norton sings, "we tried out different lives, just to realize what's real...just brings us to tears." Norton says those arrangements were as important as tracking drums for the record.

"I always had them in my head as counter melodies to my guitar and lyrics. Again, I love orchestral arrangements and wanted that for my songs."

Listen to the songs below, and make plans to see Norton when he returns to play Tampa's River Rock Festival on November 5

More information on the show is available at Buy/download the tracks on Bandcamp.