On Saturday, April 14, folks have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an exciting and talented young man’s career as pop singer/songwriter Max Ater takes the stage at Johnson Hall for a performance of material from an upcoming CD. The 25-year-old was the “Vox Populi Winner” of the Independent Music Awards and was recently signed to the Michigan-based Prudential Records label, which will be releasing that aforementioned CD. In a recent phone interview from his Bath home, Ater (who handles keyboards and the occasional guitar) spoke about that and much more.

Q: Well, I’ve been playing and replaying the three songs you sent over to me and to be honest, I’ve never heard anybody that’s more radio-ready than you are, Max.

Ater: Oh, I appreciate that very much, thank you.

Q: How long have you been doing this?

Ater: I started doing this for real when I was 18. I started fiddling around with the piano when I was like 6, but when I was 18 I did my first open mic and I kind of just fell in love with it and started making my own studio.

Q: These are your own compositions?

Ater: Yes, the ones I sent you are ones that I did in the past couple of years with a producer in Windham; his name is Karl Anderson and he runs this studio called Anchor Studio. And, so those are like my new babies. Those are the ones I’m really proud about, and we just got out of the studio last week to finalize everything for a summer release. So, he’s kind of been a part of the engine behind making these latest ones with that radio-ready quality which I’m super pumped about, because my older stuff was not like that.

Q: And this was generated here in Maine.

ATER: Yup, we were pretty proud about it, and the fact that the label I signed with wanted to keep it in Maine was for me and Karl, well, we were just super pumped about it. We were like: “Yes, let’s do that!” because it just makes it that much more special for us.

Q: So, you are getting ready to put out a CD?

Ater: Yeah. So, last year when I signed with Prudential Records out in Detroit, we agreed on a full-length album. Then time went by and we were like, “Well alright, we want to put something out sooner than later,” so we’ll put out a five-song EP this summer. We’re still in the early stages of it, so we don’t actually have any sort of release date yet, but it’s so awesome to have them on my team now to be able to sort all that stuff out for a big release, which they think will be sometime this summer.

Q: Now, these three songs will be involved in that, I would imagine?

Ater: One of them, the ballad, “One With You,” won’t be. We actually replaced it with another song, but “Small Town” and “Easy” will be on the final EP.

Q: Now, when you come up to Johnson Hall, will this be a solo performance?

Ater: That is something I’ve been organizing over the past two or three weeks, that question. I’ll be coming up there with a friend of mine who’s played with me for the last couple of years named Owen Conforte. He’s on electric guitar. He’s the lead singer and guitarist of a band called OC and the Offbeats. He’s an awesome player, an awesome guy. And then another fellow named Colin Winsor will be joining me on bass. He’s one of the most in-demand electric and upright bassists in the area. I will also have Dustin LeVasseur on drums, as well, for that show in Gardiner.

Q: Have you been doing a lot of gigging?

Ater: Recently, I haven’t, between recording and that; but spring and summertime, that’s when it picks back up again. So in the next couple of months or so I’ll start to book those shows with a full band, for most of them. But right now it’s been recording. I had a couple of shows last week and now I’m focusing on getting as good a sound as I can for Johnson Hall.

Q: Have you ever played there before?

Ater: No, I haven’t. I have done their Waterfront Concert Series twice outside, but I’ve never actually played at the hall; my dad has performed there all the time.

Q: Oh, in what capacity?

Ater: He’s a headlining comedian throughout the state and New England. He’s wicked funny. His name is Johnny Ater. So he’s played there, but I haven’t. I’m wicked excited because I’ve been there before a million times and it’s such an honor to be going up on that stage.

Q: Is there anything, Max, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Ater: I’d like to tell them that it really is an honor. When I first went to Johnson Hall it was like a far-distant dream for me to be playing in a venue like that. And to think that things have evolved to a point where I actually have that opportunity — it’s huge for me personally, for my own story in my head, as someone who always wished it and then having it come true. It’s been really neat.

Lucky Clark, winner of a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award, has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.