At the end of April, singer/songwriter/actor James Maslow released his latest single, “Love U Sober.” It follows last year’s “Falling” and “All Day,” and it’s catchy but with a sense of longing: this is the type of song that you could listen to at the club, but you could also get in your feels quite a bit. Maslow tells Substream that the new song release is “just the beginning of a bunch of music, all curated specifically to come out with single art, exceptional art, music videos, everything that I’ve put together.”

“Love U Sober” is “one of the most honest and authentic pieces of art” that Maslow has ever made. The title comes from a rather literal context: as he looked back on past relationships, both casual and serious, he realized that whenever they spent time together, “We’d had at least a couple of drinks, it was in some sort of party setting.” He found himself hoping that the relationship was real without all of the partying but eventually being let down time and time again.

While many of his peers in their 20’s are going out all the time to meet people, that’s not what Maslow wants right now. Maslow does still enjoy “going out and having tequila and all that jazz” from time to time, but what he likes much more is “waking up early and training and working out and staying focused and building my empire, and that makes me more excited than any of it.” In the past, it was heartbreaking to be “yearning for this relationship to mean more than it was, mean more than it did, and when we weren’t partying, the feelings were different, the emotions were different.”

Right now, Maslow’s top priority is maintaining his health, wellness, and career regimen. Your 20’s, he says, are the prime time to be selfish – to build and follow your dreams. As someone who is “incredibly motivated” in his career (“I call it my empire because I don’t plan on just being moderately successful”), he hopes to meet someone with a similar mindset. There are only so many hours in the day, and “I just can’t afford the hours of going out and the hours of recovering and still do my job exceedingly well.”

When it came time to create the track, Maslow wanted the song to be “drastically different” from everything else he’s put out; each song, he notes, represents a different side of him as an artist. Producer Eugene Ugorski came up with the idea to bring together clips of various interviews Maslow had done over the past ten years to tell a new narrative. Reflecting back on “this crazy decade of success” where Big Time Rush was “the biggest band in the world, biggest TV show in the world” and all that came with it (“we’d be on set, get a police escort to the airport, take a private jet to play a show, to come back”), Maslow is grateful for how “amazing” it was, but questions whether it allowed him to show his authentic self as an artist. While he’s entirely glad he did it, he finds what he’s doing now as a solo artist to be more fulfilling from a creative standpoint, and with more life experience, he has more stories to tell in his songs. For now, each song that Maslow creates will be a separate entity – and they’ll all be wildly different from one another. While “Love U Sober” is a personal look back that’s “very raw and very honest,” the next single he plans to release, “Delirious,” is “sexy, upbeat” a la Bruno Mars and old school Justin Timberlake. The music video for “Delirious” will be shot in Malibu, “on the beach, in the pool, and singing and dancing and having fun.” Maslow hints that the song to follow “Delirious” will see him take on an EDM vibe.

James Maslow - "Love U Sober"

Though “Love U Sober” presents itself as an easily danceable track, but Maslow’s vocals here are sweet and soulful. He grew up listening to artists like Marvin Gaye, Brian McKnight, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cooke – “all these people that – you know, they would run, and they’ve got vibrato, and they’ve got soul” – and while he likes to bring some of that in to his music, he’s still cognizant of the fact that pop music needs to be accessible, and therefore “somewhat simplified at times.” In “Love U Sober,” that’s brought out with a hip-hop / urban vibe; with “Delirious,” that’s accomplished with a 90s throwback-style pop vibe. “I love to sing in all different ways,” Maslow explains, “but as long as you get a taste in these songs, that ‘oh shit, he really can sing’ – I don’t feel the need to riff and run throughout the entire thing. I’m trying to keep it simple.” However, when he’s singing live, “I’ll run all day long – that’s the fun part.”

Maslow spoke to Substream a few days after the release of “Love U Sober,” when he’d just returned from Detroit, where he shot a “James Bond-style” music video for the track. There, he partnered with director Michael B. Chait, whom he’d previously worked with on the World War II action film Wolf Hound. Maslow says Chait has “one of the most gorgeous eyes for cinematography I’ve ever seen,” and was eager to work together to create a music video that would combine an action movie persona with the artistry of the song.

The resulting clip is one Maslow is “incredibly excited” to see come together: “We put together this romantic, over-the-top, James Bond love story where, you know, essentially, the right girl leaves, and I’m chasing after the right girl, and she’s heading over to take a private jet, and my vintage car can’t get there in time, so I jump in to my helicopter. We literally had me flying a helicopter over Detroit, filming all of this, getting to a private airport – it was insane.” It combines his theatrical and musical sides and is the culmination of him taking the reins on his here. No longer waiting for someone else to put plans in place, Maslow is bringing his vision to life; the video is “something I’ve always wanted to do, and finally just said, ‘Screw this, I’m gonna finance it – my vision, my creative, my people.'”

Currently, Maslow is finishing up the music videos for “Delirious” and “Love U Sober” – and at the same time, he’ll be flying to Virginia to film pick-up shots for Wolf Hound, then head to New York for press and the cover of Bella magazine. Next month, he’ll head to Philadelphia to film another new movie. He’s not sure just yet when it will happen, but he intends to play more shows and hopes to tour before the end of the year.

In his time as an independent solo artist, Maslow has learned “so much.” There have been frustrations, of course (“it’s stressful doing everything on your own,” he admits), but he adds that “I’ve also become such a better artist by doing it, so I really can’t complain. I learned how to engineer, so I could cut out of my own studio and become far more proficient doing that. I’ve learned how to do graphic design, so I didn’t have to wait on other people to get my assets made.” He hasn’t written off the possibility of a label completely, however, but says that if he does go that route, “mark my words, I will still be at the helm of this ship and running it all, because it’s my music and my time, and I’m not gonna do what other people want me to do.” Some people may not like it – and that’s okay – but for those who do, “you’re liking shit that’s authentically me.”

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