Max Gomez has always had the heart of an old soul. As a child, the first songs he learned to sing were originally recorded in the 50s by Johnny Cash. As a teenage guitarist he adopted Big Bill Broonzy as his blues master. And as a budding performer, he apprenticed in the rarefied musical climate of northern New Mexico, where troubadours like Michael Martin Murphey and Ray Wylie Hubbard helped foster a folk and Western sound both cosmic and cowboy. You’ll find his hometown of Taos and nearby Red River right there between Colorado and Texas on both your sonic and Google maps. Splitting his childhood between there and a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Gomez is at home in the heartland, too.
Gomez cut his teeth on regular gigs at a late, lamented institution of a venue called the Old Blinking Light. “The school I went to was playing at that bar,” Gomez says. Country greats like Mentor Williams and Lynn Anderson frequented the bar and were early fans and supporters of his music. At 18, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career. He quickly began writing songs and performing around the city at many notable clubs. He wrote some songs with Shawn Mullins, who later recorded them. In his early twenties, he began recording his own songs with producers in New York, L.A., and Nashville. His debut album, Rule the World, was released in 2013 by New West Records, home to the likes of John Hiatt, Kris Kristofferson, Buddy Miller, and Steve Earle. Soon after, Kiefer Sutherland directed the music video for the single “Run From You.”
Judging by the company he keeps, Gomez is positioned to emerge as a prominent voice of Americana’s next generation. Since the release of Rule the World he’s shared billing on hundreds of stages with stalwarts of the genre like Shawn Mullins, James McMurtry, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Patty Griffin, and John Hiatt. And Jim Scott—who’s worked with Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, and Lucinda Williams—produced Gomez’s latest EP Me & Joe, which features Williams collaborator Doug Pettibone on guitar and Eric Clapton and Jackson Browne accompanist Greg Leisz on pedal steel. The soundscape is acoustic and warm, a comfort zone for Gomez’s buttery vocals.
Gomez grew up in a rich musical environment, but he represents more than the sum of his influences—he’s got that ineffable and instantly recognizable x-factor called talent. Melodies that flow naturally. Trenchant lyrics that express wise-beyond-his-years observations on the ways of the heart. Laconic phrasing in a cafe mocha timbre, and guitar skills that can stand alone. In short: the whole package.