By Big Tigger

It started off as the kind of thoughtful conversation you would expect from an R&B balladeer who’s crafted two decades of such sweet, silken music he could probably get away with reciting his “Sumthin’ Sumthin’ ” come-on in front of his interest’s mother – and both would just coo.

There was talk of his maturity at 43. His travels to Haiti, and his community work there. The woman he saw in sparse, barely tolerable conditions who still had the pridefulness to give her son a pedicure with a stone.

Related: A Conversation With Maxwell | Meet & Greet Photos

And then someone in the intimate audience of 300 or so at the W Atlanta Midtown Monday night asked Maxwell about his signature cover of the 1989 Kate Bush plea “This Woman’s Work” and – as he put it – “this whiskey got me lit. I was little chill, and now I’m about to talk all kinds of greasy mess!”

Next thing you know host Big Tigger was doubled over in laughter. Maxwell was rolling off things people would be surprised to know – like he still makes his own bed (even at hotels). He STILL has stage fright; and that PLUS a fever of 101 at his recent Essence Music Festival made taking that stage especially tough. (But, “at 43, there are no excuses.”) And who would figure the often-suited, Mr. Sophisticated R&B for the guy who races to the dance floor when DJ Khaled and Drake‘s “For Free” comes on?!

“That’s my ignorant side! I’ve been trying to present a very, very proper image to you all night…”

Related: A Conversation With Maxwell, In Pictures

And he did. In the beginning. Then this indeed evolved into a real Conversation with Maxwell, where guests felt comfortable enough to ask seemingly anything from what he wanted in a relationship (unconditional love based on who he is not what he do); and why the long, sometimes career-killing gaps between albums? (He was “gathering up experiences so [he] could actually make a record that had a life behind it.”) And even when he said earlier he doesn’t like to offer his take on his music – preferring to leave it for the audience to determine – the story behind “Suitelady” was one of the more moving of the evening.

In the end though, no word on what whiskey was working so ingratiatingly well for Mr. Mellow Smooth.

– Sonia Murray, CBS Local


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