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Rising Stars: Meet Max James

Today we’d like to introduce you to Max James.

Hi Max, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’ve been a trumpet player since elementary school, and when I was about 10 or 11, I started developing an ear for similarities in different pieces of music. I can distinctly remember hearing a track by Gorillaz called ‘Left Hand Suzuki Method’ where they sampled a violinist playing “Long, Long Ago,” something I had been playing in one of my early music learning books. Combining two genres like that had fascinated me, and that piqued my interest in sampling.

As my tastes and knowledge of music developed, I started noticing tracks from different genres sharing key signatures, and similar tempos – this was where I began mixing songs in Audacity, a free program used for editing audio. After a few years of this, friends in high school would offer me the opportunity to play their birthday parties, graduations, etc.

As I went into college, the appeal of becoming a full-time DJ grew more and more. I was 18 when I was offered my first gig as a wedding DJ, and it all began to fall into place shortly after. I’d found a career path that allowed me to be creative, and gave me a deep satisfaction in helping budding couples on such an important day in their lives.

Around 19, I began to actively pursue work in the nightlife scene here in KC, as a method to sharpen my skills and keep me in tune with what’s popular in today’s music. This dichotomy between weddings and nightlife has given me a unique perspective on music; how it’s able to influence a listener’s mood, and how that affects their experience.

Lately, I’ve been very focused on developing my trivia company, Intelligence Check. Initially, I’d started trivia as a means to practice my mic skills, but I fell in love with picking on people when they answer questions incorrectly.

And that’s where I am now. I DJ, and I ask people questions about nerdy topics; and I love every second of it!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Absolutely not. For a solid part of my life, I was certain that my path would lead me to teaching music. My first year in college taught me quickly that this was not something I was meant to do. At the time, I’d considered it my greatest failure, and that lead me to feeling very lost in my life. Finding joy in working as a DJ gave me something to work toward, and weddings gave me a sense of purpose.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
On the trivia side, I’m hopefully known for creating a fun, inclusive and fairly snarky environment during Intelligence Check shows.

On the DJ side, I’d hope it’s known that I work hard to ensure my sets have a sense of musicality to them.

I’m most proud of creating my own business, while doing what I love – playing music, and being a bit of a geek.

Something I feel may set me apart from others is that I work to be very self-aware. I genuinely want to continue to improve, and I’m aware that I’m far from perfect. Thus, I will always take constructive criticism, internalize it, and work to better myself for the benefit of those I serve.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Find someone whose work you respect, and reach out to them with the intent to connect personally – not just for your career’s benefit. I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that there are so many creators/innovators/entrepreneurs/etc. just itching to talk about their passions. A genuine appreciation and understanding for their work, and more importantly – the person behind the work – can go a long way in building lasting relationships that will carry you through your career.

Contact Info:

  • Email:
  • Website:
  • Instagram: @djmaxjames
  • Facebook: @djmaxjames

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