Maroon5's Adam Levine doesn't like it when he reads press clips that call his band "the next Jamiroquai."
He'd be happy to hear someone ask if Stevie Wonder, or even Michael Jackson, was an influence on the soul/rock outfit from the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, Calif., instead.
"I don't have a funny hat, I'm not a dancer and we don't do disco music," Levine told POLLSTAR about the numerous press clips comparing Maroon5 to that, uh, other band.
The group's soul-tinged sound is something that evolved for Maroon5, or, more accurately, singer/guitarist Levine and keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, during what could charitably be called a hiatus from another band, Kara's Flowers. The pair wound up at a small college on Long Island, N.Y., where they soaked up the music and cultural influences of their predominantly African-American neighbors.
"It was culture shock in a lot of ways," Levine explained, "but every single morning when you walked down the hall, there was gospel playing, R&B that we'd never even heard before. There was underground stuff. It was when Jay-Z was just getting into the mainstream and we were hearing him for the first time. We were just so sick of being a typical rock 'n' roll band and doing the things a typical rock 'n' roll band does.
"So, we started to latch on to that, and we wanted to be that. I think there was a lot of audacity about that, just because of the way that we look. And what kind of turned us on was, we thought, maybe we're doing something new. I was born and raised listening to Simon and Garfunkle and the Beatles and stuff, which was really good for songwriting. But I felt like I needed to look elsewhere for some vocal inspiration."
It sparked a complete reincarnation from the power-pop of Kara's Flowers and a brief run with Reprise Records into Maroon5, which just finished a tour opening for John Mayer and Counting Crows, and the matchbox twenty / Sugar Ray package before that. The Reprise period was a rude awakening for Levine and his bandmates, but it did prepare them to work for the success they've found in their new incarnation.
"Especially like when you're 17, you're in high school, you're cocky, and you have people telling you you're going to be huge and giving you a bunch of money and all that. You're, like, 'Sweet. Cool. We're going to be famous, our problems are going to be solved.' By Christmas we were going to be famous. What happened was, by Christmas, the record was in the garbage can."
Maroon5 isn't worried about garbage cans anymore. With the guidance of manager Jordan Feldstein of W.F. Leopold Management and a more nurturing environment at Octone Records, the band's label debut, Songs About Jane, took off; it's still on SoundScan's Top 100 current album chart after almost a year.
"I think the strategy has always been that their record label, Octone Records, who originally signed them in a joint venture with J Records, planned from the beginning to grassroots the band, to sell them on the basis of their live shows, before going to radio," Feldstein told POLLSTAR. "In order to do that, you need to get in front of a certain number of people. That' s why they did the Jeep tour (with Sheryl Crow), O.A.R., John Mayer, etc.
"But the goal was always to bring it back to their live shows, so for every tour they go and do in support, we always attempt to get them back into the clubs to play their own gigs as well."
And the team is concentrating on grooming Maroon5 as a career act, no December garbage cans for them.
"This record has been out for almost a year," Feldstein said. "Phase one was almost no radio. So we had to figure out ways to expose them to a wider audience without depending on radio or TV or even press, for that matter. Getting on festivals and packages and supporting, really, was the way we did it."
The band just came off a summer tour opening up the Counting Crows / John Mayer co- bill. It was Maroon5's second time out with Mayer, who has quickly become one of the band's biggest boosters.
"John Mayer has been a huge supporter for this band. It's unbelievable how much he's done to support this project. He came and played their headlining sold-out show at Irving Plaza, came in and jammed on a song on guitar," Feldstein said.
"It's nice, because you see the music coming up and you see people really being supportive of each other."
Levine is a big fan of Mayer's, too, and sympathizes with the Atlanta singer/songwriter, who also puts up with the media's tendency to make comparisons among artists.
"People really are obsessed with defining things. It's so funny to me, people saying stuff like Jason Mraz is the next John Mayer! And you're like, John Mayer is the next John Mayer!
John Mayer is the next Dave Matthews, and Jason Mraz is the next John Mayer, and then somebody's going to be the next Jason Mraz!"
Or, somebody's going to be the next Maroon5, so long as they don't wear funny hats, dance or do disco.
Photo Credits: Marcy Guiragossian