ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 29, 2003
By Steve Newton
L.A. soul-rock quintet Maroon 5 named its debut CD Songs About Jane because that’s exactly what the album contains: tunes about singer-lyricist and guitarist Adam Levine’s ex-girlfriend, first name Jane. As Levine explains from a Toronto Thai restaurant, the former flame actually became his muse for the disc.
“It was the perfect end to a highly emotional relationship,” he says of recording the immensely therapeutic album. “Some of the songs are ‘I hate you,’ some of them are ‘I love you,’ some of them are ‘It’s a shame that it didn’t work out.’ A lot of different tones.”
Maroon 5—which used to be known as Kara’s Flowers—got help finding and blending those tones from producer-mixer Matt Wallace, whose credits include Blues Traveler, Faith No More, Third Eye Blind, and Train. “Producers function as different things for a band,” notes Levine, “and I think that he was a really awesome baby sitter. But instead of just letting us watch TV, he, like, made us read and go out and exercise and stuff. That’s kind of the analogy I’d use.”
Songs About Jane was made at Rumbo Recorders, the same L.A. studio where such acts as the Smashing Pumpkins, Guns N’ Roses, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers laid down platinum tracks. “Everybody and their mother has recorded there,” notes Levine. “I don’t know about their mothers, but I know that everyone recorded there.” Whether due to the historic vibes of the place, its state-of-the-art equipment, or Wallace’s knob-twiddling ingenuity, Songs About Jane has a particularly clear and crisp sonic sheen.
“We were very meticulous about making sure everything was as tight and together as it could be,” says the singer. “And we spent a lotta time doing drums, which is super-important, especially in today’s day and age of ass-tight recordings. You know [speaking in an authoritative tone], you gotta be competitive!”
As far as competition in the music biz goes, it doesn’t hurt a band’s cause when someone like college-rock fave John Mayer sings its praises, or influential rock mags lend a critical hand. “John’s a good friend,” Levine says, “and he’s been really supportive of the band. And Rolling Stone showed us mercy with a three-star review. It was three stars out of five, but I think of it as basically three out of four, because they don’t really give anything five, you know—except for the White Stripes.”
As far as Detroit’s red-hot garage-blues duo goes, Levine—whose band opens for Matchbox Twenty at GM Place on Wednesday (June 4)—is staying off the White Stripes bandwagon. “I don’t love them, I like them,” he stresses. He certainly wouldn’t rank Jack and Meg White up there with Stevie Wonder, whose influence is heard throughout Songs About Jane. And the Stripes definitely can’t compete with the condiments at Thai eateries. “We’re leaving the restaurant right now,” explains the harried-sounding frontman, “and actually… Hold on one sec… I want to make sure we’ve got enough of that spicy plum sauce. We need a whole bunch. I gotta go get some more of that spicy plum sauce.”