MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
The band Maroon 5 is known for glossy, catchy pop hits. You remember this one -you probably couldn't get it out of your head a few years back.
(Soundbite of song, "This Love")
MAROON 5 (Music Group): (Singing) This love has taken its toll on me. She said goodbye too many times before.
KELLY: That's the hit "This Love" from Maroon 5's debut album back in 2002. Since then the band has sold more than 15 million records and won lots of awards and plenty of fans. But there's one group they can't seem to win over, and that's music critics. Maroon 5's hoping to change that with their new album - it's their third - called "Hands All Over."
(Soundbite of song, "Misery")
MAROON 5: (Singing) I have this memory. There ain't nobody who can comfort me, oh yeah...
KELLY: Jesse Carmichael and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 join me from our New York bureau. Hey, guys. Thanks for taking the time.
Mr. JESSE CARMICHAEL (Maroon 5): Hello.
Mr. ADAM LEVINE (Maroon 5): Hello.
KELLY: So this song we're listening to, "Misery," this is the song that's currently the big hit on the charts - and for fans who know your work, it is very recognizable.
Mr. LEVINE: Definitely. But there's a lot of songs on the record that aren't like that, so we wanted to kind of start off with something very recognizable, you know, so people could say, oh, that's definitely them, and then go with whatever direction we wanted to go in.
KELLY: You worked with a producer named Mutt Lang, very well known in music circles as a guy who produces not just big hits but megahits, albums that - no offense intended - but in a different league from the very successful albums you all have produced so far.
Mr. LEVINE: Yes.
KELLY: Was that the attraction, to work with someone who could turn Maroon 5, take it to the next level, make you guys rock stars?
Mr. LEVINE: Well, I'm not sure what the next level is at this point. I know that we just like to push forward and Mutt wanted to help us be the best we could possibly be creatively, and that was so - such a rewarding thing.
Mr. CARMICHAEL: Yeah, and I think you're right when you say...
KELLY: Jesse Carmichael.
Mr. CARMICHAEL: When you talk about the level of success that Mutt has had, it was something that raised the bar for us. He came to us and was sort of like, what you've done is cute and it's a good start, but now it's time to really dig deep and work harder than you've ever worked to make something that's really special.
KELLY: I know you have acknowledged, Adam Levine, that Maroon 5 has, in the past, had a reputation for producing music for soccer moms. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Mr. LEVINE: That's also kind of a joke too. Well, that - another thing that's great too is, you know, our shows, there are older women, you know, that love our band. There are kids that our love band. There are teenagers, there are college kids. You know, it's such an interesting, cool cross-section of people that's a diverse group of people. And that's what we love. We love to do what we do and we love that people appreciate it.
KELLY: Let's hear another example from this album. This is the title track, "Hands All Over."
(Soundbite of song, "Hands All Over")
MAROON 5: (Singing) Put your hands all over, put your hands all over me, put your hands all over me. I can't seem to find, a pretty little face that I left behind. Started out on the open road, looking for a better place to call home. Gave her a place to stay, and she got up and ran away. But now I've had enough, a pretty little face that tore me up. Put your hands all over me. Please talk to me, talk to me. Tell me everything. It's gonna be all right.
KELLY: Maroon 5 is somewhat unique in that you do write your own songs. A lot of today's pop stars don't. Jesse Carmichael, let me ask you - why is that important?
Mr. CARMICHAEL: I mean, I don't know if it's important where the music comes from. I mean, for us, we grew up loving the Beatles and started writing music when we were 12 years old. So it's just been something that we do and we love to do it because it is therapeutic and it is a beautiful feeling to express yourself with music.
Mr. LEVINE: It's also for me too. I mean, I have a slightly different opinion on it. I think it's much more rewarding when I'm listening to something that someone wrote. To me, that is kind of the ultimate expression. You know, you could hear the best singer in the world - there are plenty of singers that are better than I am, or I guess more proficient than I am, that can sing the hell out of a really great song that they didn't write. I can't connect with that in the same way that I can connect with someone who wrote something and who's singing from literally from, because they feel the way they feel.
KELLY: How much do you worry in an age where everybody's podcasting and downloading singles and, you know, playing one song at a time off their iPod, how much do you worry about producing a coherent album of 11 or 12 songs?
Mr. LEVINE: We like to keep that dying dream alive...
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. LEVINE: ...I think.
KELLY: That somebody's listening straight through.
Mr. LEVINE: Yeah, you know, I don't know what the future will bring for albums and cohesiveness and things like that. But it was nice in there when it may not matter anymore the next time around. It's nice, I think, that we have made our most cohesive effort yet, as in this is an album. Start to finish, it's a record. It was made and mixed and produced by one guy, and it's kind of become an old school ethos, which is - it's funny.
However, no matter what happens and how things tend to shift in our world right now, the one thing that will remain true throughout all of these advances in technology and all the things that are happening in music - lack of album sales, you know, singles and radio and all this stuff and Internet, all these competing weird entities - the only thing that really matters is whether something resonates with people. And that will either happen or it won't happen.
(Soundbite of music)
KELLY: The last song on the album is actually a collaboration with the Nashville group Lady Antebellum. Let's hear a little bit of it.
(Soundbite of song, "Out of Goodbyes")
MAROON 5 and LADY ANTEBELLUM: (Singing) Tell me actions speak louder, what the song says about her words (unintelligible) I'm the last one, who waited for you, lock the door...
KELLY: What made you all want to go down the country route? Adam, let's start with you.
Mr. LEVINE: You know, our band has always struggled to find an identity in a weird way because we love so many different styles of music. And a lot of bands, especially bands, have a sound. When you hear Led Zeppelin and when you hear your favorite bands, you know it's them. And stylistically, we just feel like we're so all over the map sometimes. You know, there's a lot of Motown on this record, there's a lot of funk, there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of different things.
And one thing that we've always kind of loved but never really represented, we do love country music. We love all music. There's no conscious effort to diversify what we do. It's just that, you know, Jesse wrote a song with James on the guitar. And so we thought, wow, you know, we need a girl to sing this. It sounds like a county duet. And that's just what it turned into.
It was all - none of it was premeditated, really. It was just kind of - it just all happened.
(Soundbite of song, "Out of Goodbyes")
MAROON 5 and LADY ANTEBELLUM: (Singing) On our way home, I realized, there's some kind of storm brewing in his eyes (unintelligible) in disguise. And now that I've done my time, I need to move on and I need you to try, 'cause we're out of goodbyes.
KELLY: Can I be cynical and ask, is part of the calculation that, gosh, if we do a song with Lady Antebellum, we're going to bring in all these Nashville fans who probably weren't going to become into Maroon 5 otherwise?
Mr. CARMICHAEL: Well, there's a non-cynical way of looking at that, which is that...
KELLY: This is Jesse speaking.
Mr. CARMICHAEL: ...it's a beautiful thing to try and bring people together. There's a lot of division in the world right now. And I think it's so wonderful to make an effort to try and reach out to people who wouldn't necessarily know our band. So I'm excited about that.
Mr. LEVINE: Sure. To be totally honest, you know, that point was brought up. The thing is that it's an opportunity for us to play our music for a completely different group of people who may not even know who we are, you know?
KELLY: Adam Levine and Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5. Thanks, guy.
Mr. LEVINE: Thank you.
Mr. CARMICHAEL: Thank you very much.
KELLY: They were joining us from our New York bureau. "Hands All Over" is the band's latest album and it's out now. You can hear more songs from Maroon 5 at NPRMusic.org.
(Soundbite of song)
MAROON 5: (Singing) Now, you've been bad, and it goes on and on and on, 'til you come home, babe, 'til you come home. Now, you think that (unintelligible) love is gone. I'm all alone, baby, I'm all alone...
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