Ava Max

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Amanda Ava Koci (born Amanda Koci) was born February 16, 1994 and is known professionally as Ava Max.

She is an American singer and songwriter.

Ava was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Max’s parents are from Albania; her father, Paul, is from Qeparo and her mother, Andrea, is from Sarandë. Max also has an older brother. In 1991, her parents fled Albania after the fall of communism in the country, and lived at a Red Cross supported church in Paris for a year. While in Paris, they encountered a woman from Wisconsin and were given passports by her before immigrating to the United States to reside in the state, where Max was born. 

During her childhood, Max often saw her parents struggle to earn an income, as they each worked three jobs without speaking English. Her mother was a classically trained opera singer, while her father was a pianist.

Max moved with her family to Virginia when she was 8 years old, where she was raised in Hampton Roads. While living in Virginia, she competed in numerous Radio Disney singing competitions. Max often traveled to Florida in order to perform in singing competitions, and began releasing music under the moniker Amanda Kay. At the age of 13, Max came up with the middle name Ava, and adopted it as her first name after stating that she did not like being called Amanda while growing up.

When she was 14 years old, Max moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career at the suggestion of her mother, but was constantly rejected for being underage. Max relocated to South Carolina a year later, where she began writing songs about relationships she had observed, including those of her brother. She later stated that she was grateful for the move, as it allowed her to experience a normal childhood. During her time in South Carolina, Max attended Lexington High School for a year, where she recalled being constantly bullied. After she turned 17, Max returned to Los Angeles with her brother, who acted as her manager. 

She acknowledged that the partnership “did not work out” due to differences in receiving orders from her brother, and both not knowing anyone in the area. Max’s difficulty in searching for producers and songwriters alone caused her to spiral “down a really bad path”, which led her to drink at an early age, and survive with 20 dollars a week.

After years of having demos rejected and not returned by record producers and songwriters, in addition to sexual harassment incidents, she met Canadian record producer Cirkut at a dinner party in 2014, who was also an acquaintance of her brother. Max sang “Happy Birthday” to him, which led to the two working together, writing hundreds of songs and releasing “Anyone but You” on SoundCloud in July 2016. The song gained traction and attracted the attention of various record labels that contacted her through email, ultimately leading her to sign a record deal with Atlantic Records in 2016. Max acknowledged that working with him changed her life, as she considered leaving the music industry after being creatively stifled.

After signing the deal, she began searching for a last name to use as her stage name, eventually deciding on Max. She chose the name, as it combined elements of being both masculine and feminine. Around 2016–2017, Max adopted her signature hairstyle titled the ‘Max Cut’, which can be seen in her logo as a substitute for the ‘A’ in Max.

In July 2018 month “Salt” was sent to SoundCloud, in August 2018 she released “Not Your Barbie Girl” as a promotional single and “Sweet but Psycho” was released on August 17, 2018. The song became Max’s commercial breakthrough. In March 2019, she released the follow-up single “So Am I”. In March 2020, Max released “Kings & Queens” as the fifth single from her debut studio album Heaven & Hell (2020). “My Head & My Heart” was released in November 2020, which served as a bonus track from the digital re-issue of Heaven & Hell.

Max has been labeled as a pop and dance-pop singer. Her music has been compared to contemporary artists such as Bebe Rexha, Sigrid and Dua Lipa. Max grew up listening to artists such as Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Céline Dion, Aretha Franklin, Fugees, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston. She has also cited Beyoncé, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga as some of her influences. Max has stated that Carey is her biggest influence, recalling how she grew up listening to her music on loop.

Max has often been compared to Gaga for her music and “ostentatious presentation”. Max responded to the comparisons, stating that while Gaga was an “incredible” artist, people should not compare her to other people only for having the same hair color and releasing pop music. Although she described the comparisons as “lazy”, she understood that it is “an easy thing to do” after being fascinated with pop artists since her childhood.

Max acknowledged that she often goes against the grain while making public appearances, often seeking designers who are overlooked, and wearing outlandish outfits, as she wants “to give people an experience”. She stated that she was influenced by fashion in the 1990s, citing Stefani and Cindy Crawford as influences. However, Max preferred making music in the studio than appearing in public, stating that she did not like the attention of the fashion and cameras on the red carpet.

Her self-cut ‘Max Cut’ hairstyle consists of her asymmetric peroxide blonde hair parted down the center, with the right side containing a chin-length bob cut, while the left side was longer and wavy. She explained that she did not feel authentic with her normal haircut, and that it was about embracing herself and being unique. While interviewed by Radio.com in 2020, Max described her hair as “symbolic of having the freedom to do your own thing” and a “visual representation of her self expression”, stating that it was an escape from conformity.

Max has described herself as “100% Albanian” and stated that she wants to give back to the community. She is able to speak the language, but cannot read it. She is also outspoken about female empowerment, which is featured in her music. In a 2019 interview with Attitude, Max revealed that she had been attracted to women in the past but has chosen to not label her sexuality.