The truth is, we are all caught in a strange paradox. We strive so hard to be accepted by society that we end up forgetting that there’s actually only one approval that we must seek: ourselves.
In our desire to please other people, we choose to set aside what we truly feel and mask it with a well-curated feed that appears to have everything figured out. By doing so, we neglect an important part of ourselves that has been longing to be recognized, embraced, and understood.
Here, international singer-songwriter Maximilian gets personal and shares what it’s like to deal with flaws and insecurities—of dealing with panic attacks and finding comfort in music, lyrics, and his very own existence.
‘Write Down Your Thoughts’
The success of the 23-year-old Danish pop star, Maximillian, didn’t happen overnight. On the contrary, like most creatives, it took a lot of sleepless nights and nightmares to finally figure out how he could deal with all the random thoughts that have been constantly hovering around his head.
When he went to boarding school at the age of fourteen, one of his teachers suggested that he write down all of his thoughts. There he began writing everything – to vent, to let go, to get through and see the next day. Weird as it goes, he eventually realized that there were so many things that he could learn from his dreams. From simply writing the things that had been bugging him, Maximillian then started to creatively weave his words by looking for rhymes and adding some melodies to them. He then began writing lyrics and collaborating with friends.
What started as a way to channel his thoughts led to so many unexpected opportunities. From poems and lyrics, Maximillian’s thoughts and words have now comforted people around the world. After meeting a producer, going to a studio, and making songs that speak volumes on emotional topics that are often left unnavigated, he got a label, management – and before he knew it, the budding artist was already signed to a publishing company in London. It was actually on his second trip to Stockholm that he wrote the dearly beloved Beautiful Scars.
‘Acknowledge Your Flaws and Insecurities’
With the growing number of audio and video streams that his songs have been receiving, Maximillian eventually began to ponder his existence as an artist. From simply pouring out his heart, he began to ask deeper questions, such as: What is my purpose as an artist? What do I want? Yes, everyone wants to create lasting music but what’s my purpose with it?
This then left him thinking about his journey as a child, as a struggling teenager. “I was having a hard time. I was helped out by this guy who gave me, like tools to work with. So, if I was able to create something that could help other people, that would be amazing.”
With such insight, Maximillian finds new meaning in the songs that he creates—and in the way he processes his thoughts. Now, he wants to provide affirmation to others, to tell them that they are not alone. He believes that burdens become a lot easier to handle when there are people who can make you feel that you are not on your own, that it is okay to feel sad. “Kind of a pat on the shoulder; a shoulder to cry on.”
And this explains Beautiful Scars. A song that has been well received by millions of people because of how it makes them feel. “We all got flaws and insecurities. We can run from them or we can just accept them and live with them. Like, try and make them part of us because [they] are about me.”
‘Letting it Out is the First Step to Feel Better’
Since the dawn of time, music has always been a strong force, driving people to feel the burst of emotions within and express what lies deep down. Its effect on people goes beyond what is heard on the surface. That’s why it deeply humbles Maximillian when people approach him and tell him how their lives have changed because of the music he created. “I feel honored, of course. I’m 23 and sometimes I feel like, what is going on?”
But seeing how he affects people also made him think how truly important it is to talk to one another about our feelings. This does not only encourage people to do what they are so passionate about but also affirms that whatever it is that they are going through, they are not to bear it alone. Letting it out is the first step to feeling better. That’s why Maximillian is even more inspired to continue writing songs to get the message across and to reach out to more people. “Talking about it makes people actually do something about it. We always focus on the big things but it is equally important to talk about the little things. I write about things that everyone knows [no matter how mundane they may be], like lying in their bed at night, crying, and talking about love, because everyone tries it at least once in their lives.”
With the world more connected than ever, it has now come to a point where seeing other people’s progress makes us question our own. It makes us feel like we’re not doing what we want to do with our lives, which causes the pressure to slowly build up inside. But everyone is struggling—even those who seem to have everything figured out. That’s why Maximillian highly emphasized the importance of talking about these little things because, at some point, we will need help from someone else, especially when we go through anxiety and suddenly you no longer know what to do. “I recently had a what you would call I think like panic anxiety. I was just sitting there and I would just suddenly cry. I was doing a television program and this older man who was with John, who was in the program with me, saw it and [shared] some tricks [that I] could use. I was like, I feel really, really anxious right now. This is not fun. And then he helped me out.”
In the same way that he was helped, the young artist wants to bring the same comfort to others too. After receiving excellent feedback from his song Beautiful Scars, Maximillian finds validation in how he was able to help touch lives through the words that he has put together in his songs. “I think lyrics are the key to all great songs. Music [education] can teach you classical music but I feel like a good lyric can never die. If the lyrics are good, you can read it out loud without the music and it still can be heard.”
‘Live Your Life’
This fast-paced world has forced people to be in constant motion — to always be in a hurry to catch up with the trend. With so many social media platforms to take care of, it can totally be exhausting to multitask and navigate all through them. Amidst all this, Maximillian reminds us to not forget to have fun and live our lives the same way we did before digital media became the center of our lives. “Now, seven-year-old kids have more expensive phones than I do. When I was a kid, I wanted a phone and I was handed a Nokia. Now, you can go hammer nails with it, but it was where I could play Snake. I remember going to the park, playing football with my friends. That was super fun. I get to exercise, feel fizzy. I would much rather do that. Just have fun.”
Getting all consumed with the trend is not only exhausting, but you also slowly lose yourself along the way. You become an empty shell – someone whose reflection in the mirror you no longer recognize. In his new song release, Maximillian shares about the journey he went through after coming out of a relationship in which he has invested too much. I’m Not Me delves into the things he sacrificed and has done in the pursuance of what he thought would bring him happiness. But now, he’s realizing that happiness should not be sourced out from others; it should first and foremost come from you.
The song’s chorus goes: Baby, you tell me you’ll leave and next you want peace. And I just think maybe this love’s bittersweet. It’s not what I need. You’re happy when I’m not. Faking a smile to keep you up high. It’s killing me slowly and lately I’m not me.
If it makes you unhappy, why stay? As Maximillian puts it: “It’s time to focus a little bit more on myself. Not trying to strive for love. I’m trying to live my life a little bit. I’m going to have some fun.”
Photographed by Emerson Baun
Batik shirts by YeoMama Batik
Video by: Mary Jane Manglicmot
Video/Editor: Niccole Mendoza
Styling by: Joy del Rosario
Shot on location at In the Studio SG
Aidil Yusof, Melati Ibrahim,
Universal Music Singapore