Maroon 5

from pop to politics to Prince

by Michael Hamersly

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

6 October 2008


MIAMI—With the respect Maroon 5 is given within the pop music industry, it’s hard to believe the band has produced only two albums.

The melodic, white-boy soul of the L.A. band’s debut album “Songs For Jane” and its radio-perfect hits “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved,” “Sunday Morning” and “Harder to Breathe,” anchored by front man Adam Levine’s effortless falsetto, earned the group the Best New Artist Grammy in 2005.

The group is in the middle of a world tour, co-headlining with Counting Crows, that stopped Saturday in West Palm Beach, Fla., before heading to South America, Mexico and Africa.

Levine, 29, talked about singing with Stevie Wonder, the presidential race and getting freaky in Maroon 5’s videos.

Q: Have you worked on any new songs?

A: Yeah, we have some things in the works, and I think it’s going to be a very spontaneous album-making process this time around. The second time I think was a little more calculated, a little more rigid. We’re going to have more freedom this time and kind of get back to the basic idea that made our band special, which was just kind of raw, simple, nothing too produced, the best of both worlds between the first and second record.

Q: What prompted the five-year break between your first two albums?

A: Well, the first album was a phenomenon—it just kept going and going and going. And you kind of just need to keep working to establish your presence. When you have a record that big, it just keeps on moving, and all of a sudden people say, “Oh, you’re big in South America,” “Oh, you’re big in Asia,” and if you don’t visit those people and say hello and let ‘em know that you care ... We pride ourselves on being an international band that can extend beyond where we’re from ... so you find yourself going all over the country, and all of a sudden five years have passed.

Q: The day after you guys opened for The Police at Dolphin Stadium last summer, you played a really fun, intimate afternoon show at Studio A in downtown Miami, even taking audience requests. How often do you get to do stuff like that?

A: It’s nice to change it up a lot, because you get onstage and find yourself stuck in a pattern. And we like to try and change it up, but it’s hard ... We just did a little club show Monday night in New Orleans, a benefit for the Make It Right Foundation, and that was a blast because it was a very different setting for us. It’s a challenge.

Q: You held your own alongside Stevie Wonder at Live 8. How was that?

A: That was me singing with my hero, so that’s pretty much the pinnacle at this point. I think I was partly scared, partly excited, kinda giddy—I was smiling the whole time.

Q: What other music inspired you?

A: Oh, man, The Beatles ... I mean, there’s hundreds. I grew up listening to a lot of classic music, same as everyone else listened to. The Police were a huge influence on me, too. People with high voices, you know?

Q: How much of a thrill was it to tour with The Police?

A: Oh, God, that was a blast, and they were super nice, really cool dudes, laid-back, down-to-earth. Good guys. That’s how we hope to keep it over the years. We don’t wanna start wearing diamond-encrusted shoes or anything.

Q: You lent your voice to the “Yes We Can” compilation for Barack Obama. Any thoughts on the race?

A: I don’t consider myself to be a very politically outspoken person, because politics on the whole is something I’m very wary of, but as a citizen of the United States of America, I’m voting for Obama. He seems to be a pretty good leader at this point, and personally, what I need to get from a candidate is that they want to drastically change the way we’ve been doing things. There shouldn’t be a person out there who doesn’t want that considering the state of our country.

Q: You appeared in a video short with “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Andy Samberg called “Iran So Far” spoofing the president of Iran’s sexual orientation. How did you get mixed up in that?”

A: They called and said, “Oh, we want you to do this,” and I thought it’d be a funny gag. I don’t think anybody in the world ... is above being poked fun at.

Q: Did you contribute musically to the song?

A: No, it was all Andy and his buddies, and they just had me come in and sing and wear a white jacket and have a dove on my shoulder and be completely ridiculous.

Q: Maroon 5’s videos are pretty steamy. Are you consciously trying to push boundaries?

A: Well, I think there’s definitely a sexual element to a lot of the music, so it would make sense that there would be a sexual element to the videos as well. It’s all very natural to me. But yes, I don’t want to just show a little bit of skin. I want to go for it. I’d like to get to the point where we could shock people. I grew up listening to the Beatles and the Stones and Zeppelin, but I also grew up listening to Prince, who was kind of a sexual icon. So I have a lot of different tastes I like to display. But yeah, pushing it is always nice. When people get a little uncomfortable, I have no problem with that.

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