Maroon 5 Adam Levine

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Frontman for the Grammy-winning band Maroon 5 offers tough words about the decline of the music industry.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Adam Levine fronts the Grammy-winning group Maroon 5. He began playing music in junior high school in L.A., where he formed an alternative rock band. After heading off to college in New York, he was exposed to a variety of musical genres, like hip-hop, R&B and gospel. With his new influences, he returned home, retooled the band and ended up with a record deal, a platinum-selling debut disc and several hits. He's also collaborated with various musical acts, including Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Slash.


Tavis: Adam Levine is the talented front man for one of music’s most popular big acts these days, Maroon 5. The Grammy-winning group has just released their much-anticipated new disc called “Hands All Over.” From the project, here is some of the video for the single, “Misery.”
Tavis: I say Brentwood, you say –
Adam Levine: West L.A.
Tavis: Yeah. (Laughter) By any definition, you’ve come a long way.
Levine: Yeah, man.
Tavis: You guys have done well, man. So glad to have you on.
Levine: Thank you. It’s good to be here, man.
Tavis: I’m glad to have you. Before we get to this new project, can I just say Chris, my producer and I were just talking about this, and I know I’m, like, two albums late. This is the first time we’ve ever met. I just have to tell you how much I love “This Love.”
Levine: Thank you, man. Thank you.
Tavis: Man, that – it’s in my –
Levine: That old thing?
Tavis: Yeah, that old thing is still in my rotation on my iPod. I’m still digging “This Love” and I’m, like, two records behind.
Levine: Nice, nice.
Tavis: But you guys came out of the – what do you make of the fact, looking back on it now, two records ago, you guys came out of the gate, you came out of the blocks with smoke.
Levine: It’s crazy. The cool thing about it is that it took a lot of work, and when you become a successful band it’s immediately forgotten what you did before to get there. So it took a lot of work. We were touring in a van for about a year and a half, sharing hotel rooms, three, four to a room. So there was all that that no one knows about, but it took a lot of time.
Then when we got there we really, truly appreciated it, knowing how hard it is to make it in our business.
Tavis: There’s the front end – to your point now, Adam, there’s the front end and there’s the back end. The front end is, to your point, there is no such thing as an overnight success.
Levine: No.
Tavis: People say that, nobody knows –
Levine: Absolutely.
Tavis: As my friend says, they see your glory but they don’t know your story.
Levine: Exactly, exactly.
Tavis: So there’s the front end, but there’s –
Levine: I like that. I’m going to use that. You don’t mind if I use that?
Tavis: You can have it.
Levine: All right.
Tavis: You can have it. If you use it in a record, just let me know.
Levine: I’ll just quote you. (Laughter)
Tavis: So there’s the front end, but the back end, though, is that once you become that huge success on the first record, then you’ve got to do that again.
Levine: You have a whole new list of concerns.
Tavis: Exactly.
Levine: It’s funny, because you spend your whole life working at this goal, and you reach your goal, and if you’re lucky – we reached our goal beyond what we had ever expected. So I think that when you get to the point where you have to sustain it, it’s like a whole other – like I said, a whole other list of problems. But it’s not really a problem, because you’ve already achieved what 0.1 percent of anyone ever gets to achieve.
So you’re done, you’ve made it in a lot of ways, but when you get those unreasonable kind of impossible tasks that you’ve got to do, and you think to yourself, you know what? You always have to take a step back and realize hey, I’m here. Whether I stay here forever or not doesn’t really matter; I got here. That’s the most important thing, and that’s the most important thing to tell yourself when you continue to do this for a living.
It’s been almost a decade, too, so I’m certainly not complaining about anything at this point.
Tavis: After that first record and the success of it, to your point, it’s important to tell yourself that, but that ain’t what the record company wants to hear. (Laughs) That you’re here – yeah, we’re here and we’ve got to go there now.
Levine: Well –
Tavis: A little bit higher. They want more sales, that your fans want more of the same, and you guys have to find your own comfort zone, I assume.
Levine: Well, and also in what is just frankly a declining business. The business side of what we do is not good. The music side is alive and well, and that’s what I always tell people. That’s the first question I get a lot, is how are you feeling about the state of the music business?
I’m feeling like the music business is reaping what it’s sown. It’s going through what inevitably it was going to go through. It was a very decadent, very glamorous business that took advantage of a lot of people for a long time and didn’t do things right and had a poor business model.
So in my opinion, and I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for this, but this was inevitable for our business. So I think it’s forcing people to rework the business, try to figure out how to make it all – the Internet obviously changed everything, no one’s buying records anymore. But the most important thing for a band now is to do a lot of it on their own, and there’s MySpace and there’s Facebook – all these things you can do self-promotion and put your records out independently, which is a huge thing now.
So I would say it’s kind of a great time for music and a really bad time for the music business.
Tavis: I take your analysis there. Is there something, though, that – and I’m just talking about your band, Maroon 5 – is there something that your band can do, though, to help right that ship? Is there something connected to the authenticity of what you do, the process for how you do it?
I don’t know where I’m going with this, but what can you guys do to help the business pull up out of that? Does that make sense?
Levine: Yeah, I think so. Well, I think the first thing that you need to detach yourself from is numbers, because music has now splintered off into so many different forms of media, MTV doesn’t play videos, the radio is now competing with the Internet. There’s a lot of things going on.
Bands just need to get back to a really old school mentality and play live, play in front of people, go on tour, do those things, because people get lazy, they don’t want to do that anymore, and I think that’s what we did. We cut our teeth on the road for a long time before we had any success, so we have fans that are loyal and creating a loyal fan base that loves you, that embraces what you do – not everything, but they love you and they’ll follow you.
That’s the most important thing, as far as I’m concerned, because who knows what’s happening with this business? It keeps going down, so you want to make sure that you’re not going to live and die by all these things that happen.
Tavis: As successful as you guys were coming out the gate, you had your critics who basically promoted you guys or talked about you guys as a –
Levine: You’ll always have those guys, man.
Tavis: They’re a bunch of pretty boys, they’re going to have one record, they’re going to disappear. Have you outgrown – do you think at this point you guys are comfortable beyond that critique?
Levine: From record to record, that changes. I think you can outlive criticism the more you stick around. People always – when you rise, whenever you’re getting to a point where you’re a very big band, which is, like I said earlier, a very rare thing, there are always going to be people that aren’t going to like you.
That is an inevitable fact of any kind of success. There are people that don’t like me; there are probably people that don’t like you. You’re a very charming man.
Tavis: Probably? (Laughter) I’m stuttering. Probably? I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, but I digress. Go ahead.
Levine: But you accept that. You’re not going to make everyone like you, and so we understand that. Yeah, it hurts our feelings when people say negative things about our music. Our records are like our babies. We put out our albums and we’re very proud of them and we love what we do.
So that hurts a little bit, but at the end of the day you also have to remind yourself there are millions of people out there that love us and come to see us, so we have our – we speak to our constituency. We have our people. We love that about our band and the community that we’ve created, so like I said, nothing else really – at this point, it’s such – it’s the wild west in the music industry, and the only thing that matters is truly connecting with your fan base and growing and evolving as musicians and as songwriters and as performers, too.
Tavis: do you know who your fan base is now? Put another way, has it changed over these three records?
Levine: That’s another thing too that’s great about our shows is that our fan base is so all over the map. There’s not one type – yes, it is largely female, but you’d be really surprised. (Laughter) It is. It is. That is a fact. But you would be surprised at how many guys are at our shows and how many mothers –
Tavis: Looking for those females.
Levine: – mothers and daughters come –
Tavis: That’s why I (unintelligible).
Levine: The smart guys are at our shows.
Tavis: That’s why I show up, yeah.
Levine: I always say that to the crowd. I’m like, “You are the smartest men in this city,” wherever we are. But no, it’s cool, and there’s no type of person that likes our music. Really, it’s kind of across the board. There are grandmas that love our music.
Actually, Chris Rock said the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my – (laughs) one of the funniest things. I met him for two seconds and I was introduced to him and so, you know, “Chris, this is Adam. He plays in the band Maroon 5,” and he said, “Maroon 5 – my mother loves you guys.” (Laughter)
Tavis: That was a pretty good Chris Rock (unintelligible). That was pretty good, yeah.
Levine: I was just like that was the perfect thing to hear from Chris Rock. That was the best thing I could possibly hear come out of his mouth. (Laughter)
Tavis: Tell me about this third project.
Levine: I went into the studio with Mutt Lange, who is a legendary producer, out in Switzerland, one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen.
Tavis: You guys recorded some of this stuff there, yeah.
Levine: Yeah, most of it, most of it.
Tavis: Most of it, yeah.
Levine: He obviously was a powerhouse in the ’80s and the ’90s, Shania Twain, Def Leppard, AC/DC, all over the map. That’s kind of why we really wanted to work with him, is because our band has kind of had maybe not trouble, but we’ve definitely – we don’t fit in anywhere, necessarily. We’re a little bit of R&B, a little bit of rock and roll, a lot of pop.
So he was the perfect guy to wrangle all the different ideas that we had, and he pushed us harder than we’ve ever been pushed, he’s very internationally minded. He always thinks of things as how are we going to reach everybody in the world, and that was exciting.
He also looked at our success as a good start, as how he presented it when we met him, which was really interesting, being in our position and having someone say, “All right, that’s cute, but we want you -” (laughter) “- you can get here, and you’re doing good, nice start.” That was a very humbling realization that we had.
So we look at this as our first record. We always have looked at every record on an individual basis and never taken for granted the fact that we are where we are, and I think that’s what’s made each record successful, is because people, for lack of a better phrase, they buy it. They understand it because it’s very genuine and very honest, and it’s what I’m feeling.
When I write these words, none of this is dishonest. This is all very heartfelt and very sincere, and that’s what our fans love about us. If we keep doing that, I don’t really think – regardless of what happens with everything else, I don’t think we can go wrong.
Tavis: I don’t think you can either. They’re off to a good start.
Levine: Yeah.
Tavis: Three projects in.
Levine: Yeah.
Tavis: Maroon 5, Adam Levine and his partners are out with project number three. It’s called “Hands All Over,” and I’m sure there’ll be women’s hands all over this project and all over you when you guys get back out on the road.
Levine: Well, you know.
Tavis: Can I come hang out with you?
Levine: You can come with us. You can come with us.
Tavis: (Laughs) Adam, good to have you here.
Levine: All right, man, thank you.
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Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm