Maroon 5's James Valentine
Pop-rock band Maroon 5 has already had fans rockin’ out to their latest single, “Misery,” along with the anticipation for their upcoming album, Hands All Over, being released later this summer. Despite hitting the mainstream in 2004, the band has been active since the early nineties. Originally named Kara’s Flowers, singer/songwriter Adam Levine, keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, bassist Mickey Madden, drummer Matt Flynn and lead guitarist James Valentine, have been entertaining crowds with their brilliant music for nearly two decades.
After a brief hiatus in the late nineties, the band reunited and placed their focus on music. The group also felt that it was time for a new name to help symbolize a new image and direction they were heading to, eventually being renamed to Maroon 5.
With their musical talent, along with composing captivating tunes, the band caught the attention of several record labels, including Octone records. This New York based label later signed the band in the spring of 2001. With the help of producer Matt Wallace, they recorded songs throughout the year that would later be featured on their debut album, Songs About Jane, which was released in the summer of 2002.
Songs of Jane was a huge success thanks in part to the release of several hit singles. The band reached a new level of popularity with the release of the 2004 hit single, “This Love,” which peaked at number five on the Hot 100 charts. The music video released for the single featured Levine and then-girlfriend, model Kelly McKee, in a few intimate scenes. The album’s third single, “She Will Be Loved,” was also a huge success as it reached number five in the United States and had well over two million downloads. The music video for this single is known for featuring Kelly Preston, famous actress and wife of John Travolta. The song would later be featured in the Guitar Hero series and the film, The Last Song (2010). The album was certified platinum in several different countries, and helped the group win a Grammy award for Best New Artist.
In 2007, the band released their long awaited album; It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. The album was met with positive reviews as most critics were generally in favor of it. The first single, “Makes Me Wonder,” was an instant success as it climbed sixty places all the way to number one on the Hot 100 charts, the biggest jump in Hot 100 history. The album’s next single, “Wake Up Call,” peaked at number nineteen on the US Hot 100 charts, and was featured on an episode of HBO’s Entourage. Their third single, “Won’t Go Home Without You,” peaked at number three on the US Adult Contemporary vocals charts. In 2008, the fourth single, “If I Never See Your Face Again” featuring R&B singer Rihanna, was released and reached number ten on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs. , “Goodnight,Goodnight” was also released in late 2008 and was featured on an episode of CBS’ CSI: NY.
In our exclusive interview with guitarist, James Valentine, he discusses topics such as what makes their upcoming album different from previous albums, memories of working with the Rolling Stones, tour plans, and much more!
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Well, we had the opportunity to work with Mutt [Lange, music producer] on this one, and Mutt brings 30-plus years of experience making records. So, he had a pretty wide perspective on what it takes to make a song that will connect with lots and lots of people, because the songs and albums he's worked on have connected with millions and millions of people. So, he brought that sort of perspective to what we already do and what we've done on the last records. Also, you know, we have a particular sound and I think that Mutt really helped us hone it a little more. Hopefully with every record we'll get a little better and I think this is our best work so far, and I think a lot of that has to do with Mutt's help.
Yeah, that was an amazing experience! It's still surreal. [Rolling Stones guitarist] Ron Wood, his daughter is apparently a fan of ours, so he took us backstage and introduced us individually to each member of the band, which was really amazing - you know, they each had their own section. So, we got introduced to each one of them, which was incredible. I didn't think that would happen! Just because our dressing room when we did that was out in the parking lot basically. [laughs] But yeah, the best part of it was when Ron went to grab Keith [Richards] out of - I guess he was in make up and hair or something - and Ron went in to grab them. But Keith doesn't like to be disturbed, apparently, and he came flying out of the room and literally stumbled into Mickey, our bass player, and yelled at Ron for interrupting him. He said that he was going to 'shove his balls down [Ron's] throat,' or something to that effect. [laughs] It was amazing - I mean, that's the type of encounter that you want to have!
Well, my older brother had a basement band, and they would rehearse at my house. My brother is seven years older than me, so as a little kid I would sit on the stairs and listen to them play, then wait for them to leave, so I could go around with all of their instruments. [laughs] Initially, I wanted to be a drummer, but so did my best friend who lived across the street, and his parents bought him a drum set before mine would. So, I had also been interested in guitar, and I finally got one when I was 13 years old. My parents got me some lessons down at the mall in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I've been playing ever since taking lessons ever since! Still take lessons. [laughs]
Well, I was playing in a band at college in Nebraska, and we eventually decided to move out to L.A. We'd already started to do well on a regional level when we won this national battle of the bands, so we used the money that we won from that to move out to L.A. to pursue a record deal. Soon after I got there, a friend of mine took me to see a band called Kara's Flowers, which was the band that would eventually become Maroon 5 - that was basically Maroon 5 minus myself. I saw them playing, and they were the best band that I'd heard out there! As soon as Adam started singing I was like, 'Wow, these guys are really good!' So I got my band to open up for Kara's Flowers, which was to benefit my band because Kara's Flowers already had a pretty strong cult following in L.A. and Orange County. But I also just wanted them to see me playing guitar, because I could see that they maybe had a need for another guitarist since Jesse - who's our keyboard player now - was in between guitar and keyboard a lot. I kind of thought that maybe there was a place for me there, and I was kind of not getting along with the singer from the band I'd moved out with, so I was sort of looking for a place to land. Yeah, it ended up working out. Eventually I started jamming with them, and right before they began making what would be our first record, Songs About Jane, they asked me to become a full member, and I had to make the tough decision to leave the other band.
Well, we met at the Berklee College of Music. I attended this guitar camp, it was a week-long guitar workshop where you got to take lessons from the Berklee instructors, and that's initially where I met John. It was pretty amazing - back then you could already tell he had a pretty strong personality. I mean, you know, the first time I met him he walked into this dorm room where we were all hanging out. He said, 'You know, I want some Hostess snacks. Does anybody want to go get Hostess Snacks with me?'[laughs] I think that's my favorite memory.
Sure! I think that we're always trying to incorporate other stuff. I mean me, personally, I'd like to make more instrumental music - that's a lot of the stuff that really turns me on. I like 70s style fusion a lot, we need to get more of that in the band.
Well, you know, when we put out these records, we plan on being out there for a long time. Right now we're doing this tour of the U.S. that will lead into trips to Europe, Japan, and some promotion work. Then at the beginning of next year, we'll probably be going to some other places. And, depending on how the record is received, we'll probably be pretty busy for a while. So, by the time we get off the road it'll be time to start thinking about making another record. That's kind of just the never-ending cycle that we're on - well, hopefully never-ending!