It seems Maine’s own pop/country artist, Max Ater (say “A-der”), will bring his original music to Slates in Hallowell on Monday, Nov. 26, as he prepares to hit the road in support of his new album on Prudential Records (a Michigan-based label), “Small Town.” That release was recorded by Karl Anderson at his Anchour Studio in Windham and features two well-received singles: “Easy” and “Light Up This Town.” In a recent telephone interview from his studio in Bath, Ater was more than happy to chat about what’s been happening in his life since last we spoke back in April. I began by asking about this new record.

Ater: We released it back on Oct. 12 and so it’s been about a month now since it came out. We’ve been getting all kinds of awesome news back on the statistics from all the stuff the label checks out.

Q: Like what, for example?

Ater: Retail radio with stations down South and out West picking it up. And I’ve got this show coming up on the 26th at Slates. Katie Daggett got in touch with me and was like, “We want to have you there.” So we’ve just been getting a really exciting reaction to the songs, and now we’re in the process of setting all the pieces in place to see how the machine will turn on its own after everything’s said and done on the label’s part, and then on to just booking more shows.

Q: Where are you now in that process?

Ater: I’m here right now in Maine playing a few shows before we kind of kick into high gear.

Q: What does that entail?

Ater: The label is getting a band together out in Michigan and I get flown out to Michigan and we start either doing a buy-on tour or doing one-off shows throughout either the Midwest or East Coast. I’ve never been in this position before, so this is all new to me and I wait for the next text message from the label. And I’ve been doing a lot of kind of neat interviews with people across the country, with magazines and podcasts, but it’s a little bit scary when it’s someone you don’t know. But it’s fun. I’m having a blast.

Q: Now for the show at Slates, are you going to have backing musicians?

Ater: Well, just given the size of the room, and the kind of room, I’m not; it’s just me. I’m going to be me, and I’m going to make it a storyteller session, kind of like what I did at Johnson Hall the end of last year.

Q: That sounds nice.

Ater: I just want to kind of talk about this whole last year and play songs off the new record — play some old ones, maybe anything I come up with between now and then. Just kind of do a little combo in music. I’ve honestly never been to Slates, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s pretty dang small. I’m so excited for that — it’s kind of been a goal of mine to play there.

Q: Size-wise, I’ve never been to their new location so I can’t confirm that for you, but I can tell you to go there hungry. The food is amazing!

Ater: That’s what I heard. So as I’ve been promoting it, I’ve been telling people to eat there, because everybody’s been raving about the food.

Q: Now, you said “maybe anything I come up with between now and then.” Are you writing new material all the time now?

Ater: Yeah, most of my days are spent waking up, walking to the studio and brushing up old demos. I do a bit of production work in the studio where I’ll get the overall vibe of a song, then I’ll play piano and sing. I’ll get it to the point where I can send it to the label, send it to the producer and get their feedback. The more overall polished, finished songs that I end up using as a blueprint to go out and play live, not as many of those, but it seems like I’ll have a couple of new things to play at Slates. Which is just so exciting, especially after working on a record with five songs you’re really proud about. It’s an interesting time in my evolution as an artist: What’s the sound of the record? Where do I want to go from there? But I’m really excited with the stuff I’ve been coming out with in the studio alone recently.

Q: Is this new record an EP or a full-length album?

Ater: It’s an EP. We stuck with the EP format of five songs. Two of them were kind of released a little bit earlier than the rest of it, but it’s funny because one song, “Summer Next to You,” is the only one on the EP that’s a slow ballad. We were surprised to discover that it’s the top seller.

Q: When they fly you over to Michigan, how long will you be on the road? And what’s a buy-on tour?

Ater: A buy-on tour is when you go out and open for a bigger act. They take you where they’re going. And as far as how long we’ll be out all depends on what opportunity arises and what networking the label’s done.

Q: Now, what will you be using instrument-wise at Slates?

Ater: I’ve always been a piano player. Piano is going to be my main instrument for the night. I’m also going to bring along my acoustic guitar. There are a couple of songs on the EP that I think are complemented more by guitar than piano. So it’ll be those two and my good old voice.

Q: So I guess I had better ask: What can folks expect from your Slates debut?

Ater: They can expect new music from my EP, my record, and a lot of my old favorite tunes, maybe some that are still on the horizon that I’ll have finished by then, and just a kind of relaxed, good time. I love making people laugh. That’s one of my joys besides just playing music is getting to connect with people. This whole last year has been such an incredible journey, so I’m looking forward to sharing what’s been going on with the label and my music and having a dang good concert.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to get across to the folks reading this article?

Ater: Yeah, that my record right now is available just for streaming on all major platforms — iTunes, Amazon, Spotify — anywhere you go you can stream my new record or you can download it online, or you can go to my website at maxater.com and find all the links to it there. Give it a listen. If you like what you hear, come on out to the show.

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.

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