Max Lugavere: The Mindful “Wonder-Junkie”

Max Lugavere

Self-professed “wonder-junkie,” Max Lugavere resides in the spot where art and science interact.  Fresh out of college, he became a founding host of Current TV, the Emmy-award winning network run by Al Gore, and reported on provoking and intelligent content.  Now he’s the creator of a philanthropic rock concert series and working on his second album.  Oh, and Max was also the host of TED’s Pangea Day, a GAP Icon, a proponent of citizen journalism, and a slew of other awesome things.  Some might say he’s a 21st century Renaissance man, and, after having a conversation with him that jumped from philanthropy, to reality TV, and then on to rock concerts in space, I would have to agree.

Right now, it seems like your main passion is for your music–do you find that it aligns with your previous work, or is it more of a personal interest?

For me, it’s always been a total yin and yang. The more I get into ideas that are discussed on the world’s premiere conference stages like TED, the deeper down the rabbit hole I go with my music. They both energize the other. I’ll have a really cathartic performance one night and the next morning I’ll be invigorated to see what the latest advances in biotech are.

Max Lugavere

I saw that you had done a concert series, Rockdrive, a few years ago?

Yeah, and it’s ongoing. Heading into the end of the year, I’m working on my album and putting together Rockdrive.  It began as a hybrid between a toy drive and a rock concert, but every subsequent year we sold tickets and gave the proceeds to benefit various education-based charities. The idea being that concert charities happen all the time and these concerts typically benefit communities that are continents away or really long term issues like global poverty or global warming. They’re definitely worthwhile causes, but Rockdrive is about being collaborative and opening our eyes to the need that’s in our own communities.

We want to make it a global collaborative event and have people sign up to join the movement. If you go to Rockdrive.org you can join our partner program and bring it to your city.  Last year we had Rockdrive in Nashville and Miami. We want to be TED for music.

I’ve also seen that you’ve done a lot with TED–have you ever thought about giving a TED talk?

Definitely.  I’m a huge fan of TED and Chris Anderson. I love his curatorial sensibilities and I consider myself a curator as well. I was a curator of ideas on Current but Chris Anderson just has a knack for bringing together the best of art and the best of science. I like calling myself a “wonder-junkie” and he’s like, the Chief “wonder-junkie.”

So, what would my TED talk be about? It could be about the rise of the wonder junkie or how technology is empowering us all to fulfill our inner child that’s just passionately curious.  We live in a time where you have all the world’s information in your pocket at any given time, which makes it a great time to be alive. I’d also like to perform my music at TED.

Current was a great platform for you to spread powerful ideas and highlight amazing people to a large audience.  What do you think is the most influential media? Is Current-esque TV the future?

I think the Internet really is the future of everything. It’s increasing levels of connection and reducing friction across the board of information. There’s always going to be outlets that cater to the mass population and that’s where TV is such a powerful business model and that’s because of simple psychology–it’s the bell curve. There’s always going to be an average in any sort of natural phenomena.

Could you see that shifting slowly or are we stopped at this mass consumption of material that isn’t as intelligent or moving society forward?

The human brain has room for both, like I’ll enjoy American Idol here and there and then go and watch a really mind-blowing documentary. It’s all part of the fabric of everyday life in 2012. But then again, I was reading an article about how TLC might be the country’s most socially irresponsible channel, and it’s because of Honey Boo Boo.  The article made a really fantastic point, because obviously, we can appreciate highbrow and lowbrow and there should be room in our lives for both, but at a certain point of exploitation, you need to vote with your eyeballs and just not watch something.  That’s just as much part of being a human as is the consumption of things that are both highbrow and lowbrow. It’s saying, “This adds absolutely nothing to society,” but not only that, that it takes away.

Thankfully, there’s not a lot on TV that’s that bad.

Right now, who or what inspires you the most?

I’ve lately been very inspired by Elon Musk. He’s single-handedly pioneering privatized space flight. He’s incredible–he runs Space X, owns Tesla Motors and I’ve gotten to meet him a few times and he’s such a down to earth dude. He’s not waiting for the future to arrive; he’s pulling us forward to the future.

Would you go to space, given the chance?

I wouldn’t be the first one… but, maybe eventually. Open up some cool music venues on Mars. Be the first inter-planetary performer.

And what’s next for Max?  A few projects that he’s keeping under wraps, but also his second album.  Listen to some of his songs here and keep your eye out for his name in the future, it’s sure to be linked to more worthwhile causes and experiences.

Photo Credit: Max Lugavere, Ear Bits
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