Cowboy Malfoy is the moniker of Sydney musician Max Russell. A twenty-two-year-old trans non-binary artist-songwriter-producer, Cowboy Malfoy released their debut track, ‘How I’d Kill’ mid-way through a music degree at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute to unforeseen virality, and is now on the cusp of their own ‘Maggie Rogers discovery moment’ with an anticipated new single ‘Head Start’, out now everywhere.
An eloquent sonic portrayal of the challenges that accompanied their early breakthrough, ‘Head Start’ serves as an earnest opportunity for the artist to connect with their audience on a deeper emotional level whilst maintaining the theatrical appeal that has connected fans to the project.
Cowboy Malfoy elaborates, “I wrote ‘Head Start’ on the back of being overwhelmed by social media and the growth in my music career. It describes the anxieties I felt, the confusing emotions associated with change, the transformation of a hobby to a job, and just simply–burnout. It’s a universal feeling among artists, but it extends to all pursuits, not just creative.”
In addition to encapsulating the universal sentiment of burnout, the lyrical terrain of ‘Head Start’ delves into the shadows of personal struggles, including the artist’s own battle with ADHD and mental wellbeing.
Cowboy Malfoy says of the track, “The irony of ‘Head Start’ is that I planned to strip things back, however, I ended up recording double the number of instruments compared to ‘How I’d Kill.’ In the process, I grew nodes on my vocal cords doing hundreds of takes. With the theme of the song, I’m trying to heed my own words – to relax and reconnect with why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
In an age where the boundaries between work and relaxation have blurred, Cowboy Malfoy’s ‘Head Start’ takes us on a musical journey through the cycle of guilt and restlessness that many of us experience when attempting to find balance while in a constant state of flux.
Whilst previous releases experimented deeply with Jazz and Bossa Nova, ‘Head Start’ sounds a pinch more contemporary– reflecting an amalgamation of influences from Jeff Buckley to Panic At the Disco! paired with Max’s love for ballads and theatrics.
About Cowboy Malfoy:
Inspired by a vivid life journey adrift through international schools in Vietnam and France, Cowboy Malfoy crafts compelling pieces of music that explore every nook of the spectrum between alternative and pop. The dynamism of output can be attributed to a broad taste pool of artists such as Kings Of Convenience, laufey, Chick Corea & Japanese indie pioneers Lamp – all deeply influencing Cowboy Malfoy’s creative vision.
Cowboy Malfoy’s magic comes from owning their vulnerable need to express what is being felt within – music created in the throws of often-intense feelings of confusion, navigated carefully on an axis between experimentation and perfectionism. Cowboy Malfoy elaborates, “I think the world is inundated with a certain narrative in popular media, ‘Be yourself’, ‘be proud of who you are’, what if I don’t know who or what I am? I’m a trans non-binary person living with ADHD and OCD. But what’s there for us people who have trouble identifying, let alone understanding our own thoughts and feelings?”
Cowboy Malfoy draws from disparate inspiration sources and transforms/reinterprets things that already exist. Rather than believing it’s unique – the brand is instead self-conscious that creativity is an amalgamation of various existing things, experiences, and cultures. A driven self-taught musician and all-round creative, Cowboy Malfoy has to date written, produced, recorded and mixed all their music (with some Dolby-atmos spatial audio mixing from GRAMMY-winning engineer Eric J Dubowsky).
With debut live shows on the horizon and plenty of releases in the pipeline, Cowboy Malfoy’s creative genesis now becomes an exciting guessing game, with audiences waiting to see where Max will guide us next.