Adam Levine: 'People thought Maroon 5 were a boy band'

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMaroon 5's hits include Payphone, Moves Like Jagger, This Love and Harder To Breathe

It is 10 years since US pop band Maroon 5 scored their first hit with Harder To Breathe and, despite a few career hiccups, they have been a consistent presence in the charts ever since.

In 2011, they scored their biggest hit with the disco-funk anthem Moves Like Jagger, officially the 38th biggest-selling single in UK chart history.

With the band's fifth album V ready for release, frontman Adam Levine is a little busy, to say the least.

As well as marrying lingerie model Behati Prinsloo last month, he is also filming season seven of The Voice US, and starring alongside Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in the hit film Begin Again.

He spoke to the BBC last month, joining his bandmate James Valentine on the phone from California.

image copyrightRecord company
image captionMaroon 5 (l-r): James Valentine, Mickey Madden, Adam Levine, PJ Morton, Jesse Carmichael, Matt Flynn

Hello Maroon 5!

Adam: Hello!

James: Hi there!

It's very handy that you have distinct accents, because I don't want to misattribute any quotes. If you do a phone interview with a boy band, it's impossible to tell them apart.

Adam: I'm just glad you didn't think we were a boy band.

Has that happened before?

Adam: Early on in our careers, yes. People didn't know what to make of us, so they thought we were a boy band.

Why was that? Because you're a good-looking band?

Adam: Well, number one, thank you very much. Number two, I think people mistook our R&B and soul influences as pop.

James: We didn't easily fit into a category at that point, and I don't think people understood that we wrote our own songs.

Adam: It's weird because, to me, the thing that made a boy band a boy band was they didn't play any instruments and they choreographed their dance moves. If you don't do that, you're not a boy band. Even Hanson - they're a band. They were young, but they were just dudes who played in a band. A boy band is the headsets and the sparkly stuff and all those things.

So you've never had choreography lessons?

Adam: Not yet!

image copyrightAP
image caption"What people say about our band and what we do has no bearing on our success," says Levine

It's three years since you last album, Overexposed. What's happened since then?

Adam: Has it been three years, really? Yikes. Where does all the time go?

Jack: I don't know. We're old men now. I sort of count this, today, as me and my girlfriend's anniversary. We had a day of interviews like this three years ago - and that's one of the first nights that we met.

Adam: And we had a huge fight.

James: A huge fight.

Adam: It was brutal.

James : That argument was amazing. We were having this screaming match in the hallway of the Roosevelt Hotel and this woman came out of her room angrily, to complain because it was late at night. The she recognised Adam and had a very confused response. She was all ready to yell at us for making noise and then she went, "Oh, hey, I love you on The Voice!"

Do you argue often?

Both: Yeah.

James: Less now. I think we've learnt how to deal with stuff a little more diplomatically, but I've been in a band with him for almost 15 years, and he's been with some of these other guys for the last over 20 years. So stuff comes up.

Songwriting partnerships often have that tension.

James: If that tension isn't there, it means people don't care about what's happening.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionValentine (right) joined the band, formerly called Kara's Flowers, in 2001, precipitating their breakthrough

So what was the key argument behind this album?

Adam: To be totally honest, we've been doing this a long time and, as far as the music is concerned, it kind of takes its own shape.

Your last album had a lot of hits - Moves Like Jagger basically rescued your career. Was there pressure to live up to that standard?

Adam: On Overexposed, there was a very conscious effort to have as many hits as we possibly could. It was very gluttonous in that way. The band had this new-found success from The Voice and then Moves Like Jagger and we were very excited because we hadn't had hits for a while. So we were very hit-drunk.

On this record, we've balanced those things [by] adding a bit more thought into what would make a great album - instead of being just a collection of pop hits.

Is there a song that epitomises that thinking - one you're proud of, but which would never work as a single?

James: Most of the songs would work as singles. I don't think we'd put a song on a record any more unless it could be a single. It might seem to work against what we've just said - but…

Adam: But quality control is the number one criteria to us: If a song doesn't feel special, we wouldn't include it. And we don't mean that in a cheap way. We mean that like, "Could this song connect with the world?" Then, after we decide that, we say, "but is this the kind of hit song we want to have on our record?"

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMoves Like Jagger, which has sold 1.5m copies in the UK alone, was a duet with Christina Aguilera

When the album hits iTunes in September, how long will you wait before checking Twitter? Are you sitting at home pressing the refresh button?

Adam: Of course! Listen, our fans are going to love it. Obviously, you never know with the numbers… you can't calculate whether or not you're going to have a hit, but we know it'll be a hit with our fans and that's the most important thing.

Social media means everything is declared a "hit" or a "miss" in an instant - but your first album, in particular, was a slow burning success. Does that snap judgement culture scare you?

Adam: No. The best thing about our business is that critique never plays into any of it. The power and the potency of music will transcend any one person's opinion about it.

People in the press only either say nice things or nasty things - but there's nothing we can do about it, except tell them to [expletive] off, I guess…

Have you ever sent a furious email to the music press?

Adam: No, no, no. I don't lose sleep over it. I just go on living my life.

image copyrightAP
image captionLevine married fashion model Behati Prinsloo in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on 19 July
image copyrightFilm Company
image captionHe also starred opposite Keira Knightley in Begin Again, the new film from Once screenwriter John Carney

Adam, you recently starred alongside Keira Knightley in a musical drama - did you have to give her any singing tips?

Adam: I told her that I thought she had a great voice but she didn't believe me!

It was pretty intimidating working with her, as lovely and amazing as she is, because she's an actress. I was finding my way for the first time but she was great and she helped me along.

It wasn't quite your acting debut, though. Didn't you have a role in American Horror Story?

Adam: American Horror Story was a glorified music video, basically. It was more of a montage of things happening than it was me having intense dialogue. I got to have creepy sex in a crypt and I got my arm ripped off and I got shot in the head.

That's what you want to do as an actor, isn't it? Get mauled in a gunfight or blown up by Darth Vader…

Adam: That's my childhood dream - to get blown up by Darth Vader. How did you know?

Have you thought about sending an audition tape to JJ Abrams for the new Star Wars?

Adam: No, I haven't. I haven't compiled that reel yet for him.

Or maybe he'd rather have a theme song...

Adam: I know, James and I are writing it now. It goes DUR DUR DURRR DURRR, DUR DUR DUN DE DURRRR.

James [joining in]: BLIP BLORP BLERGH.

Both: DURRR DUN DER DERRRRR... DUH-DURRRRRR. [Raucous laughter].

Maroon 5's album V is due for release in September. The first single, Maps, is out this month.

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