Backstage with Maroon 5’s James Valentine
While Adam Levine was running a tight schedule making appearances for Bench and preparing for the show, Super and other members of the media were able chat with Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine backstage just before the show started.
Warm, funny and engaging, he shared how Adam’s superstar status has actually given the rest of the band members some downtime to pursue other passions. For his part, James has certainly been busy—he’s recently done the Los Angeles Marathon for the Pablove Foundation, an organization that raises money for pediatric cancer research, and he’s released a debut album with his “supergroup” side project, JJAMZ (pronounced “juh-jamz”).
With the ever-growing success of the band, it was heartwarming to see how its members are giving back to their staunch supporters. As of this writing, the call for video submissions for the Daylight Project (the band’s video concept for their new single) has gone global. Pinoy M5 fans, you have a couple of days before the deadline; represent our country and see your life story immortalized in the band’s upcoming video.
James also spills the beans on the two guys that fans have probably been wondering about—namely, the mysterious “Carlo” to whom they have dedicated a song during the concert encore, and keyboardist-on-hiatus Jesse Carmichael.
We’ve been involved with a charity called Teen Impact in Los Angeles. Over the past few years, I’ve gone to teach guitar lessons—that’s what I used to do to make money before the band sort of took off. This children’s hospital in LA, where people come in from all over the world, happens to be right in the neighborhood where we live. So when we’re off tour, I go over there and teach some lessons to some of the kids.
That’s where I met Carlo, who was just the most amazing student. He’s a really funny kid, and really, really talented as well; the best student I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, he lost his battle with cancer… but we think about him every time we go up on stage. He’s such an inspiring kid.
On “Overexposed” (and becoming it):
The title came about at a time when Adam’s face in the US was everywhere because of the new season of “The Voice.” We couldn’t get away from his face; it was on the buses and billboards. So at that time, we were definitely very overexposed. I think now, the success of the new record meant that some of these songs are starting to get overexposed, too. Which is good for us, but you’re always in danger of overstaying your welcome.
On foreseeing Maroon 5’s success:
Growing up, my main goal was to just make a living as a musician, so everything else that happened beyond that was a total surprise. But I will say this: Mickey and Adam have been playing together since they were 13 and I met them when I was 20, 21 in the year 2000, and the very first time I heard Adam open his mouth and sing, I was like, “Okay, these guys could be going somewhere.” So in a sense, I did see the potential early on. I was one of their first fans before I joined the band.
On musical influences:
Nirvana, Soundgarden, especially Pearl Jam. It was a great time to start playing guitar, because it’s great music to learn. I really learned how to play guitar especially with Pearl Jam’s first record, “Ten.” I literally started playing guitar the same time Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out on the radio. It’s really important that that came out right when we were coming of age.
On his new band, JJAMZ:
When Adam did “The Voice,” it sort of gave the rest of us a little bit of time to do other things. For the last 10 years, we’ve been all Maroon 5, all the time on tour and on record, so it’s the first time we had a break. I had these songs I’d been working on with some friends of mine from other bands—Phantom Planet, Rilo Kiley—and we finally had time to finish the record. We’re really proud of it. The only sad part is they’re on tour right now without me. I have an understudy, a Mini-Me, that goes out and plays my parts when I’m not there. It’s a very confusing name; it contains our initials—James, Jason (Boesel, Rilo Kiley), Alex (Greenwald, Phantom Planet), Michael (Runion), and Z (Berg, The Like).
On Maroon 5’s “Daylight Project”:
Basically, it’s sort of turning the cameras around from us on to our fans and we’re kind of giving them a chance to direct the video. So we’ve just gone, “Hey, send us footage of you dancing to the song or doing whatever you want, and tell us.” And we’re going to put it together to make the video, which I think will be really cool because we have amazing fans and it’s cool to actually collaborate with them, and for the fans to actually be able to see themselves in the video.
On Jesse’s hiatus and possible return:
Yes, he’s coming back. Like I’ve been saying before, we’ve been touring and recording so intensely since 2001 that it’s pretty exhausting. As soon as we’re done with a record, we’re out on the road, and as soon as we’re done touring we’re back in the studio, and Jesse just wanted a little break. So we worked it out and he’s just like, “You know, I’ll just sit this record out until I’m ready to come back.”
But he’s coming back—I just hung out with him right before we left on tour. It’s weird to be on tour without him; it’s definitely strange, but he’s still with us in spirit and he’ll be back for the next record. He’s chilling at home right now, probably sipping Mai Tai by the pool. (Laughter)
On commercial success affecting the band’s artistic outlook:
Well, we’d be lying if we said success hadn’t affected it, probably in ways we wouldn’t know unless we would not have been successful and seen what sort of music we would’ve made in that case. I think at the core of it, though, we always have been interested in the craft of making pop songs, that tradition that goes back to The Beatles, The Beach Boys… so in that sense, we happen to enjoy making music that also happens to appeal to lots of different people, which I think is good for us.