Train, Maroon 5

Train was inescapable during the turn of the 21st century, when songs like "Calling All Angels" and "Drops of Jupiter" made the San Francisco residents some of America's most popular balladeers. Although formed during the glory days of post-grunge, the group found more success in the pop/rock world, where Train straddled the line between adult contemporary and family-friendly alternative rock. The hits began drying up after 2003, but Train continued releasing material throughout the rest of the decade and even returned to the charts in 2010, when the single "Hey, Soul Sister" became a surprise Top 10 hit.

My Private Nation followed in 2003 and went platinum, largely due to the successful single "Calling All Angels." Although the album didn't yield any more Top 40 hits, three of its songs fared well on the adult contemporary charts, a sign that Train had traded its alternative rock roots for an older fanbase. For Me, It's You followed in 2006, but sales proved to be the lowest of Train's career. Accordingly, Monahan briefly turned his focus inward, releasing a solo album in 2007 and briefly touring behind it. He returned to the fold shortly thereafter, though, and Train issued its fifth album, Save Me, San Francisco, in 2009. The album helped rejuvenate Train's career, with "Hey, Soul Sister" peaking at number three on the Billboard 100.

Adam and Jesse and I started playing music together in junior high, under the sway of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and their ilk. We generally played in Jesse's garage in Malibu or David Richman's basement in Brentwood. A few players came and went, most notably Adam Salzman, Amy Wood, and Jesse Nicita, until finally we scored Ryan Dusick as our drummer in 1994 and the unfortunately-monikered Kara's Flowers was born. We considered this quite a coup, as Ryan was older and one of the best musicians at our school. Ryan had also been writing music, and his collaborations with Adam made up the core of our material at the time, which is best described as "heavy" and "brooding". The lyrics could be characterized as "nonsense". After a year or so of this, our tastes were changing, as they so often do at that tender age, and we entered a phase of massive, obsessive Beatlemania that culminated in some ill-advised matching suits and big, bright pop songs with loud guitars. These are the songs that got us signed to Warner Brothers and to a superbigtime Hollywood management company. We made a record, hemorrhaged money, went on a couple really weird tours, and sold about a thousand records. The following couple years were spent regrouping, reshuffling, writing songs in the vein of "classic rock" and folk, and coming dangerously close to throwing in the towel. Adam and Jesse went on their Long Island adventure, driving cross-country at a breakneck pace and spending a semester at Five Towns College, purportedly studying music but mostly coming up with colorful nicknames for their classmates and listening to soul, gospel, R & B, and hip-hop. So, in fine Kara's Flowers fashion, we abandoned the songs that we'd been playing for the prior year and started fresh upon Adam and Jesse's return. Around this time the songs that ended up on Songs About Jane began to be written, and over the following year or so we'd written about half the record and recorded the demos that eventually got us signed yet again, this time to a plucky young upstart label called Octone, which was attached to the plucky young upstart behemoth J Records, which was in turn attached to the not-so-young, leviathan, venerated BMG. James had moved from Nebraska to LA around the time that we recorded those demos, and we met him and his bandmates in Square through mutual friends. So when we needed a guitar tech for those sessions, we called in James for his expertise in string-changing and guitar-tuning. When we needed another guitarist, as Jesse was making the transition from six strings to eighty-eight, we called in James for his expertise at actually playing the guitar. With the addition of a new member and a fresh spate of songwriting, we changed our name to Maroon 5 to solidify a new beginning. As to the origin of the name, it's a secret, and aside from the five of us only Billy Joel knows its provenance (true story). We then wrote Songs About Jane, recorded it in LA with Matt Wallace producing and Mike Landolt engineering, ate a lot of fast food and a lot of prescription speed, finished the record, totally thought we'd missed the mark, put it out, played a release party at Tower Records Sunset (R.I.P.) on January 25, 2002, went on tour, had a blast, played Starkville, MI a few times, reconfigured the seating in vans to accommodate us more comfortably, traveled in one very inhospitable RV that smelt of piss, looked in awe upon our first bus, met the Boss and Jay-Z within five minutes of each other, went platinum on our tenth anniversary as a band, kept touring, won a Grammy (!), made a lot of friends along the way, wrote a new song here and there, won another Grammy (wtf), opened for the Stones, saw a lot of the western world and a bit of the eastern, and toured some more. Sadly, the physical strain of playing so much really did a number on Ryan, and he hurt his arm so badly that he had to stop performing. We always imagined this to be temporary, but time went on and no reasonable diagnosis was made as to his ailment. Matt Flynn came in at the last minute and saved our asses in a time of need, having learned our record over the course of a couple nights. He ended up touring with us until we finally hung up our "on-the-road" gloves and put on the recording ones. After a year and a half playing with Matt, and with Ryan's condition still hindering him, we faced the most brutal decision and transition we had yet to encounter. So we moved into a new phase with Matt officially in the band, and thankfully he made it easy for us by being a monstrously great player and a general bro. After taking about a month off following our last few shows, we moved into the Houdini mansion in Laurel Canyon to write our next record. James and Jesse actually lived in the house, as the rest of us came and went daily, recording jams, building songs, and basically releasing the pent-up creativity that had amassed over the years. Jason Lader, an old friend who had engineered the demos of This Love and Harder to Breathe, was our comrade and co-producer on these sessions. That house has a few claims to fame, most notably that it is haunted, that it was home to the sessions for Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and that the board in the control room is the hallowed Hit Factory board on which most of John Lennon's solo work was recorded, among countless other great records. The bulk of what would become our second record was written and demoed over the few months that we worked there. We began to cast about for producers, and after consideration we assembled the team of Mike Elizondo and "Spike" Stent, two totally brilliant guys who happen to be a pleasure to work with too. (Btw, if you look closely at the string section during the G'n'R performance of "November Rain" at the '92 VMA's, you'll see a 19 year old Elizondo playing double bass.) We spent a couple months at Conway Studios, a sentimental favorite of ours (and home to those sessions that got us signed to Octone), and recorded the bulk of the record. After a short break, we regrouped in Burbank and finished phase one of recording. We lived with the record for a moment, and realized that there were a few loose ends to be tied up so we went in for two additional sessions, with Eric Valentine and Mark Endert, respectively, for fresh perspective and fresh ears. Both of them killed it, and really rounded out the record. As I write this, our single Makes Me Wonder has just been released, and our record is under our belts and coming out in less than two months. It's called "It Won't Be Soon Before Long", and we are quite proud of it. After so long touring, all we could focus on was our excitement about recording new songs, and now that the record is done, of course, all our energy is focused on our live show and the anticipation of being back on the road. See ya there, suckersssss
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Mickey

Beloved by fans for his blue-eyed soul vocals, freewheeling melodies, and earthy charm, singer, songwriter, and musician Gavin DeGraw has enjoyed success since breaking through in 2003 with his debut album, Chariot, which sold over a million copies, earned platinum certification, and yielded three hit singles: “I Don’t Want To Be,” “Follow Through,” and the title-track, “Chariot.” He followed that up with his self-titled second album, which debuted at No. 1 on the digital sales chart and at No. 7 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart in 2008 (earning Gavin his first Top 10 album and spawning the hit singles “In Love With A Girl” and the gold-certified “We Belong Together.” After releasing 2009’s Free, a gift to die-hard fans clamoring for recorded versions of his live favorites, Gavin decided it was time to shake things up. “Not only do I love a challenge, but I also wanted something new to sing,” Gavin explains. “I’ve listened to my favorite songs 5,000 times, and I love them, but sometimes it’s hard to go home and put on that album and listen to it for the five thousand and first time. I needed to write something I found interesting both melodically and rhythmically and that meant stepping outside my wheelhouse.”
On Gavin’s new album SWEETER, the New York native experimented with new sounds, thanks, in part, to collaborating with a host of top-notch producers he’d wanted to work with for a while, including fellow groove-minded piano player OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (Beyoncé, Adele), Butch Walker (Weezer, Avril Lavigne), Eric Rosse (Sara Bareilles, Tori Amos), and Ron Aniello (Barenaked Ladies, Matt Nathanson). “The creation of every song began with an interview to select the right producer,” Gavin says. “It was like speed-dating. I’d play them the songs I was working on and ask which ones they liked the best, and then ask them to produce those they were most passionate about.”
Gavin took another departure from his usual way of working, enlisting co-writers for the first time, such as Tedder, who co-wrote and produced the album’s vigorous first single “Not Over You” (about the struggle to let go of an old flame) and its title track “Sweeter,” as well as Andrew Frampton, who has worked with The Script and Natasha Bedingfield. “Co-writing with other people changed everything for me,” Gavin says. “Not only did it open my mind to new ideas, but it changed the way I wrote on my own. Playing all these different styles with other musicians led me to think about things differently when I was working by myself. I was able to tap into things I do live, dabbling with some of that late ’60s, early ’70s R&B stuff, and record all the styles of music that I like and put them on one album. It was great to take the leash off and experiment. Although it doesn’t stray too far from what I’ve done, I think SWEETER is the first album I’ve made that has caught my true sound, and that was the result of taking risks.”
Recorded in several locations, including Tedder’s studio in Denver, Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Walker’s space in Venice, CA (where Bob Dylan recorded some tracks in the ’70s), and the legendary Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood, SWEETER finds Gavin in a provocative mood, which infuses several songs with a potent, swaggering strut on sexually charged songs like “Sweeter” (on which he sings about wanting to hook up with another guy’s girl) and one of his favorite tracks, “Radiation” (about knowing a lover is bad for you, but every now and then, you can’t resist making that late-night call). “Those songs are designed to be fun while also being truthful. I think a lot of people can relate to the lyric, ‘If you get an invitation, I’m probably drunk,’” Gavin says with a laugh.
“This is the first album I’ve made where I felt ready to explore the more sexual side of my nature in my music,” he continues. “It’s not only about my feelings of being in love, although I do tap into those elements on this album on songs like ‘Soldier’ and ‘You Know Where I’m At.’ This is the funkiest, sultriest record I’ve ever made. It satisfied a lot of things for me that I wanted to have satisfied musically.”
SWEETER’s racier moments are balanced out by more emotionally transparent moments, like “Run Every Time,” which addresses a reluctance to commit to a relationship, as well as romantic, uplifting songs like “Soldier” and “You Know Where I’m At,” which convey a vulnerability while still managing to feel distinctly masculine. “The question for me became, ‘How do you expose your vulnerability without seeming like somebody who gets kicked around, and, at the same time, describe your ability to get past something without sounding cocky,” Gavin says. “That’s always tricky, because you know you’re being judged on the lyrics and they’re all very personal.”
That willingness to explore what’s meaningful to him and express it in a universal way is what has made Gavin a compelling artist, one who connects with listeners not only through his recordings, but also through his live appearances. Gavin has toured the globe, performing sold-out headlining shows as well as festivals with a variety of artists. This summer he will hit the road with TRAIN and Maroon 5 for an extensive North American tour in support of SWEETER, and is looking forward to playing the new songs. “I want to take people from the beginning to the end of their emotions, for however long they’re with me,” he says. “I want to woo people. I do. I want both women and men to love it, because I feel this album satisfies in a masculine way while still having a feminine touch.”

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Train, Maroon 5 with Gavin DeGraw

Wednesday, August 24 · 5:30 PM at Merriweather Post Pavilion