Maxwell 'Relished' His Time Out Of The Spotlight

'You want to know somebody's around you not because of what you could offer,' he says of eight-year break.

NEW YORK — [url id=""]Maxwell[/url] said you can't just go up to a pregnant woman and say, "Blue eyes, red hair and a girl." Well, the same is true for the neo-soul singer's music.

"The way I make good music, it's not about what's expected of me," he said recently after a Manhattan reception for his upcoming CD. "It's hard to make good music when you're thinking about what somebody wants you to do."

So he didn't think about what the fans or his record label wanted. As we say in the 'hood, Max did him. It's been eight years since he released his last album.

"It was a lot easier than I thought it would be," he said about his prolonged vacation. "It was a lot easier than I thought it was to enjoy. [My career] started when I was 21. I don't want to complain about my life, because I don't want to sound crazy to a person that's living a life. I've been blessed. But the common things people take for granted, I never had for a long stretch, such as going out on the train."

Max was one of R&B's leading men when he first hit the scene, and considering how young he was and what he accomplished in such a short time span (his debut was released in 1996), he seemed destined to be one of the all-time greats. But with his career still in its prime, he chilled for close to a decade.

"I feel like I've relished these few years, where I got to kick it, where I got to meet girls who didn't know who I was, where they would be like, 'What's your name?' " he said. "Knowing you're appreciated for you as a person was something that was very easy to be into for a while.

"What tends to happen when records are coming out and all the things that come around you, you're never sure [how genuine people are]," he added. "I'm very insecure, and I want to know people appreciate real things. You want to know somebody's around you not because of what you could offer or who you are."

Max seems to have put his insecurities aside for now. He just released the single "Pretty Wings" from the album Black, the first in his trilogy of LPs to be released over the next three years.

"I wanted to be like, 'I like how this sounds,' " he said of his pressure-free recording process this time around. " 'I don't care if people buy it or not. It makes me feel good.' "