#TalkNerdyToMeLover’s Elizabeth Rosselle
On Sunday evening, July 11, 2010, otherwise known as free Slurpee day around the country, Grammy award-winning rock group, Train, headlined in front of a packed house at Los Angeles’ legendary House of Blues in honor of 7-11 and Slurpee’s Battle of the Bands, 2010. July 11 has appropriately been deemed 7-11′s recognized birthday over the years, and what better way to celebrate than with live music, screaming fans, and a performance by Train.
Battle of the Bands consists of four main events where bands contend in groups of three to battle it out to compete in the final round of the competition. Sunday’s House of Blues concert was the first in a series of four, and the bands featured this Sunday were Ambience, The Welcome Home, and Levi Wear. The audience was receptive to all three performances, however, the final competitors of the evening – folk/indie-rock group, Levi Ware – garnered the most praise. And then came the Train….
Smoke, fancy dim lights, and train whistles permeated the main stage as an anticipatory intro to the Train performance, and when the band hit the stage, they were greeted with loud cheers and excitement from below. They certainly did not disappoint and played everything that the audience wanted to hear, including “Meet Virginia,” “Drops of Jupiter,” and, of course, their number one hit, “Hey, Soul Sister.”
I had the opportunity to sit down with Train frontman, Patrick Monahan, in the back of the Foundation Room at House of Blues prior to their show for an exclusive one-on-one with the artist. I was immediately struck by Monahan’s very zen-like and laid back demeanor. He has a calming presence about him that’s quite different from the animated zeal that he exhibits during his stage performances. He opened up about his life on the road with the band, his solo career, talked about some of his favorite new artists, and was also able to give advice to new musicians who are just starting out in the industry.
ER: You guys have had a pretty big comeback.
PM: Yes, it’s been a big year I think.
ER: Did you think you guys were going to wind up with such a big hit [with “Hey Soul Sister”] after taking a three year break?
PM: I suppose we didn’t really count on a really big hit like this, especially one that is far eclipsing “Drops of Jupiter,” but I think we learned a lot of really cool, valuable things in the last few years that helped us make a better record than we ever did so that it would have a good chance of doing well. I think that we’re less surprised than a lot of press people.
ER: And how did you come up with the new sound? It’s pretty different.
PM: I don’t know! I think that what happened was that I made a solo record and what that did was open my eyes to getting in a room with different writers and really, kind of, searching myself for the best I could be and, you know, we all did that. We all got in rooms with different people. I think it changed the way we looked at music for the better.
ER: And what do you think we can expect over the next year?
PM: Well, we’re going to do a lot more touring, but now it’s like, I feel like even though we have several more singles to get to on this current record, “Save me San Francisco,” I feel like it’s important that I start writing again soon so I’ll probably be making trips to New York and L.A., but I don’t see when I can do it until next year because, like, I wrote today with a guy and I’m just so exhausted. Trying to get sleep, I think, is going to be so much more important, and we’re traveling all over the world for the rest of the year and so I’ll probably wait until late January to get started.
ER: You’re a pretty new dad again, too, right?
PM: Well, I’m a dad for the third time, and she’s going to be two in a few months and she’s really neat.
ER: Is she inspiring any of your new songs?
PM: She is really musical! I can’t even believe it, like, since she’s been six months old she’s been yelling to music and “[Hey] Soul Sister” – that was a big song for her. You know, as a little kid she heard the incarnation of it and she responded, so she was definitely the leader of the pack as far as who liked the song.
ER: What’s behind the name of the new album, Save Me, San Francisco?
PM: Well, you know, the band came up in San Francisco and none of us live there anymore because what happened was we never really lived there. I mean, we came up there and played there for years and years, and always went home there, but we lived on tour buses and so we miss it. You know, we all went back to where our families were living and we used to always miss San Francisco. You know, it’s just a magical place so we just wrote this record. You know, these lyrics that I wrote are about stories of San Francisco, and it’s just kind of saying thank you.
ER: You didn’t get signed right away when you guys first started out. Was that discouraging?
PM: Yeah, it was really discouraging because what used to happen was if somebody said ‘no,’ they all said ‘no.’ Then somebody said ‘yes,’ and then the guy bailed because he was a weirdo, and then we got our hopes up, and then we were bummed out, and then a dude from Colombia Records was just, like, “you need to come to New York and just play a bunch of songs and then we’re gonna give you a deal,” and then we flew to New York and they were, like, “that’s not happening!” We were thinking, “what?” That was the best thing that happened to us even though it felt like the worst thing because we made a record, and “Meet Virginia” was on it, and then that record company did sign us. It was really cool because I feel like they were smart twice. They were right that they didn’t sign us, but they were also right that they did because they did really well with us.
ER: I love that you just went for it anyways.
PM: Well we had no choice. It was either that or stop.
ER: With that in mind, what advice would you have for new artists just starting out who do get discouraged in the beginning?
PM: You know, in the beginning I always used to say just play as much as you can in front of people because your sound really can’t develop entirely in a basement. I feel like you need reaction. There’s a different energy when you’re showing off for girls or whatever and, you know, something different happens and you try things out that aren’t great and you try things out that are, and then you should go record it. But secondly, I think that the best thing anybody can do is be him or herself and just be authentic. Take a chance at that because if you try to be something you’re not and you win, you’ll never be fulfilled, and if you try to be something you’re not and you don’t win, what a waste of your life, so be authentic.
ER: Do you think that it’s easier for bands to get noticed now because of the internet, or harder due to the competition?
PM: Well it depends. It’s easier to get noticed by people who aren’t going to sign you, but if that’s what you’re looking for then you need millions of people to notice you. Like if you want to get a deal because of Myspace, you’ve got to get a lot of peoples’ attention. You’d better pull your balls out or something, which I do a lot. You can probably see them now. (pause) I just figured I’d throw that out there but you didn’t seem to dig it so let’s move on to the next one. (Note: I did dig it, as a matter of fact.)
ER: I did, actually, and I can’t wait to transcribe that quote. I’m really looking forward to it.
PM: Yeah, it’ll be fun for you. But if you want people in the industry to notice, I don’t really know how to do it anymore. I don’t really know the best way. I just always think of the old fashioned way of just trying to write the best songs that you can. I think that in the end, you know, take it from a band who, you know, has the biggest song of our career after fifteen years. Like, it’s about a SONG!
ER: Are there any new artists that you’re listening to now that have recently popped up on the scene?
PM: I like Travie McCoy a lot. I think that dude is really good. I think Bruno Mars – that guy is outrageous. He’s the next dude, man! I love that guy’s voice. I really like LaRue. And then I’ve been writing a little bit so I haven’t really dug deeper than that but I like those three a lot.
ER: Are there any new artists that you’d like to work with?
PM: You know, I love MGMT. I don’t think that I could work with them, though, because I think that they do something that I probably don’t know how to do, but I’m really looking forward to them doing more that’s like that first record. That would be great if I could hear some of that. And then, you know, B.o.B is awesome. I’ve met that guy a bunch of times. I think him and Jason Derulo are super, super great. You know, there’s David Guetta – I’d love to do something with that guy. I think that would be really hot. That would be the guy because, you know, he’s got some cool stuff and I watched him a lot when I was in Germany because he seemed to be on every six minutes.
ER: Have you ever played around on the turntables, yourself?
PM: No, not really. I probably wouldn’t be the guy to turntable you!
ER: I’ll keep that in mind. Are you going to be doing any more solo stuff?
PM: Eventually, but it’ll be different. You know, I think I needed to kind of do that for the sake of – well, I think we needed a band cleansing and that was part of the cycle of that. I made a lot of mistakes in making a solo record in my approach to it and my intention behind it, so I wouldn’t do that again but I definitely would do some different stuff down the line. It would just be fun for me and the intention behind it will be way better. It won’t be to get away from my band. It’ll be to do something totally different and fun.