Feature Interview: Maroon 5


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(by Erik OfGang)

On this Saturday, Sept. 17, Maroon 5 will perform at The Pearl Concert Theater at The Palms. The band’s hits include the mega popular “Harder to Breathe,” “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved,” and the current hit “Moves Like Jagger” which features Christina Aguilera. In a recent phone interview we spoke with guitarist James Valentine to get the inside scoop on the band.

How did you meet the rest of the guys and first form Maroon 5?

JV: They had been around for a while. They all met up in junior high and formed as a band called Kara’s Flowers. By the time that I moved out to California in 2000, they had already released their first major label record, and it had come out and not made a lot of noise. They were in this period of regrouping. A couple of the guys were attending UCLA and they were playing around town and that’s the time that I met them. They had a small but loyal cult following in Los Angeles County and Orange County and I saw them for the first time in Orange County and I was just blown away, I couldn’t believe it. As soon as Adam (Levine) opened up his mouth and I heard the songs that they had been writing I was blown away. I got my band to open up for them. Then, over the period of the next year I became friends with them and we sort of started jamming together, it was very much like I was cheating on my band, we were having sort of an affair and I eventually quit my other band to join up with them. Two weeks later we changed our name to Maroon 5. This also coincided with them shifting around stylistically what they were doing. It went from being a power pop thing into more of the sort of soul influenced direction, you know, the sound that we have now.

What is your songwriting process like as a group?

JV: Well it varies a lot. Sometimes Adam will bring in a song that’s fully formed and fill out the chord and the structure of it and we’ll sort of figure out all our own parts or it will be a chord progression or riff that Jesse (Carmichael) or I will have come up with and than Adam will write a melody over it.

James Valenine rippin' it up on-stage (Photo via LehighValleylive.com)

Are there any surprising meanings to any of your songs?

JV: Yeah I guess there are. Sometimes Adam will start the song, I’m speaking on Adam’s behalf because he writes all the lyrics for Maroon 5. I know that the genesis of some songs have been about one thing, but he generally sort of codes the lyrics. They end up mostly being about relationships, they end up mostly being about the dynamics between men and women, but sometimes he’s actually started from somewhere else. That’s kind of allowed Adam to talk about some deeply personal things without actually talking about deeply personal things. I’m thinking about a couple of songs that I know Adam would be pissed at me if I really disclosed what they’re actually about.

But there are some very personal things in there?

JV: Yeah sometimes but a lot of them are just straight up about what literally happened. If you look at like “This Love.” He actually did send his girlfriend off on a plane and she flew cross country and that was it, you know. Those lyrics are very much what happened and that’s usually what you get, but there are a couple of exceptions.

Who were some of your early influences musically?

JV: I got my first guitar when I was 13 the same week that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out. So all of that stuff you know Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, that was all really influential in the early stages, but soon after that I really got into jazz through the blues. You start to learn the blues when you’re learning guitar. I dug the blues but then quickly discovered jazz. I was really interested in playing jazz. I wanted to be a jazz player. For a long period I only listened to instrumental music and a lot of what I learned studying jazz that’s where I really learned music. You can here a lot of that applied in Maroon 5 from Jesse and me because we both have a little bit of that background.

You guys have a lot of fans. Is there anything in particular that stands out as the craziest thing a fan has ever done to you either at a show or outside a show?

JV: Yeah fans have done some crazy stuff. Our fans are generally pretty great but the weirdest thing a fan’s ever done is this girl grabbed me, grabbed my arm and then she sprayed me with perfume and she said, ‘I want you to smell like me.’ That was really weird I don’t know where that impulse came from ‘I want you to smell like me.’

Sounds like she had a few too many that night?

JV: Yeah!

Being as successful as you guys have been is there anything that you’ve gotten for yourself that’s kind of extravagant or oddball?

JV: While of course I kind of geek out a little bit on guitar gear. I’m not like a crazy vintage guitar collector the way a lot of guys get into it but I definitely buy a lot of gear, a lot of amplifiers, a lot of pedals, you know all the latest stuff that comes out. So I think that’s were a lot of my extravagant streak goes.

Being busy touring and recording, how do you find time to practice and come up with new material?

JV: While that’s sort of a constant challenge. That’s kind of like one of the central questions of my life how to balance that all. Because we make a record then we go out on tour for a couple of years. Once you’re on the road, even though we’re only playing an hour and a half each night, there’s just so much travel you’re constantly moving, you’re changing time zones, you’re on planes, you’re on buses, so it makes it really difficult and what’s really helped is just the ways that technology is moving ahead in terms of recording on our laptops. We can make amazing stuff on our laptops and that’s really opened up a lot of creative stuff for us over the last couple of years as that’s become faster, more portable. We’re very excited about that and excited about how that’s going to effect our next records.

Thanks a lot it’s been great speaking with you good luck with the tour!

JV: Awesome! Thank you so much.

Maroon 5 is playing at The Pearl at The Palms this Saturday Sept 17th!
For Tickets & info on this Saturday nights show, click here!

For more on Maroon 5, check out their Official website,Band Twitter page, Adam Levine’s Twitter, Youtube channel, and you can check out their Wikipage, Myspace page, and their Last FM page as well. Check out
This Love on Last FM, This Love Video,

Video interviews & more…Vid1, Vid2, Vid3, Vid4, Vid5, Vid6

More to read at MTV, Pure Songwriters, Buzzworthy, Huffpost, AdamLevine.info Adam Levine’s Wiki page, Adam’s IMDB page, Maroon 5 Metrolyrics, Lyrics007.com, Maroon 5 on AZChorts Get more tour & ticket info, and read more @ VegasNews,and pick up some more of their music!

More on James Valentine here, here, here and his Fender page…

(Pic of Maroon 5 via Idolator.com)
Middle pic of James Valentine via LehighValleyLive