The situationship. Not quite a relationship, but not quite nothing.
Even if you’ve never heard of it (a runner up for Oxford’s 2023 word of the year) you still may have been affected by one. If you’ve been left asking “What are we?” the answer is probably a situationship. It can be hard to process feelings about a romantic relationship that was never really a romantic relationship.
Enter: Maxwell Luke.
His new single, “here lies what could’ve been,” encapsulates the nuance of his experience with the tumultuous relationship style, and he wants you to see yourself reflected in the lyrics.
“That's my favorite part about songwriting, when I get as specific as I possibly can and somebody still finds a way to relate to it,” Luke, 22, says.
As someone who values writing — narratives, prose, poetry — Luke’s creative process usually starts with lyrics. As a piano player, Luke puts the lyrics to music to find a melody.
Luke had written sad lyrics for this single — “But we’re in your bed and on the floor and then you call me a friend / Oh I saw the way you pulled away when you were scared of the feeling” — but that didn’t stop him from creating a song that you can “jump around your room and dance to.”
Once there’s a rough demo of the song, he takes it to his producer, Chris Donlin.
A self-curated playlist helps Luke express the general feeling of what he’s trying to embody in his songs. This time around, artists like Troye Sivan, Maggie Rogers, Liza Anne and Chappell Roan served as inspiration.
“A hallmark of my creative process is trying to fit very intentional lyrics in the context of whatever their production might be,” Luke says.
Each detail of Luke’s work is intentional, even the tear running down his cheek in the single art.
Luke wanted the image to be reminiscent of a movie poster. Something dramatic. The teary cheek with a torn suit set against a black backdrop gets that point across.
And while a variation of the final cover art existed in his head while the song was being created, he doesn't box himself into getting that exact photo.
“I go through it sort of letting the intentionality and talent of everybody involved speak for itself almost without forcing anything,” Luke says.
Intention is also evident in the evolution of Luke’s music career. Luke began writing and releasing songs in high school, but he’s since taken them down. His old goal of creating a “marketable” or “commercially successful” song has turned into focusing on authenticity.
“My music now is about reflecting just exactly who I am and how I feel about certain things,” Luke says.
Ironically, that authenticity is what may bring the most success.
“here lies what could’ve been” has more than 55,000 streams on Spotify at the time of publishing this story — less than two weeks since the song was released. The song is also featured on a number of Spotify playlists, including New Pop Picks, Fresh Finds and Fresh Finds Pop.
With a small operation and audience, Luke thinks it’s best to release one song at a time to give listeners something digestible as opposed to releasing and promoting an entire collection of work.
In the meantime, Luke has two other songs to dive into: “Growing Up Without Me” and “The Thrill of Almost.”
“I'm just barely scratching the surface of what's to come,” Luke says.