The members of Maroon5 were on tour and already writing their third album when what singer Adam Levine calls “a lot of amazing, strange elements” came into play that started the path toward “Hands All Over.”
Principally, Maroon5 wound up working with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who handled landmark albums for AC/DC, Def Leppard, the Cars and many others, as well as for his ex-wife, Shania Twain. It was an association the men of Maroon5 could not have foreseen, but they’re hardly complaining about the opportunity.
“I like to say he descended from the sky in a cloud of smoke and said, ‘I want to produce this record’ — because that’s kind of what happened,” says frontman Levine. “He kind of keeps to himself and doesn’t necessarily come out of the woodwork unless he really wants to work with something he’s inspired by.
“So he just said, ‘Hey, I really want to make this record,’ and we were immediately humbled by the fact he was who he was as far as listening to his opinions and following his guidance. We were far too curious about it to say no.”
Keyboardist Jesse Carmichael adds that “the fact he had reached out to us made us feel like, ‘OK, we’re excited.’ He put us in a different headspace ... because he has produced so many hugely successful records. He could look at what we had done with our first two records and say, ‘All right, not bad. Now let’s try to do something really special.”
Those first two Maroon5 albums were hardly shabby, of course. 2002’s “Songs About Jane,” recorded after the Los Angeles quintet changed its name from Kara’s Flowers, was quadruple platinum, while 2007’s “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” went double platinum. Maroon5 has sold nearly 15 million albums worldwide and has won three Grammy Awards — including Best New Artist in 2005 — and seven Top 40 hits include smashes such as “This Love,” “She Will Be Loved” and the chart-topping “Makes Me Wonder.”
But Levine, 31, echoes Carmichael’s observation that Lange would push the sonic ceiling for “Hands All Over,” which is due out Sept. 21.
“(Lange) thinks huge; he wants to reach everybody in every country,” the singer explains. “He doesn’t want to dumb things down, but he wants to make things understandable and accessible.
“And we don’t think about things like that. I just think about how I’m feeling at any particular moment or what I want to express musically. So I think he took this music and really magnified it bigger than it ever could have been before.”
Levine says “Hands All Over” “kind of hearkens back to the spirit behind the first record and is less like the second one — or is a combination of both, the best elements of both all in one.” It’s certainly Maroon5’s most diverse set yet, including departures such as the hard-rocking title track, the country-flavored “Out of Goodbyes” (a collaboration with fellow chart denizens Lady Antebellum) and the ’60s pop-flavored “Stutter,” which Levine says is “not like anything you’ve heard from us before.”
But the first single, “Misery,” which is already out, is “the most Maroon5-sounding song on the album,” according to Levine — and that’s by design.
“There was a point where we stopped wanting to sound like us and then realized we’re the only ones that sound like us, so why not?” explains Levine, who thinks “Misery” may be the first song he’s written on guitar rather than piano. “We wanted to take ownership of that sound even more so on this (song).”
Both Levine and Carmichael, 31, say “Misery” was “a long songwriting process,” culled from an idea that was around for a while and shelved until Levine “got this idea while I was singing in the shower and humming it to myself” and took it to Switzerland, where the group worked with Lange during late 2009 and the early part of this year.
“We’ve had that similar situation with a lot of songs,” Carmichael says. “We always just sort of pick and choose the best parts of different songs to make one Frankenstein song. That’s what happened here, and I’m really happy with it.”
Maroon5 is playing some of the songs from “Hands All Over” on its current summer tour but is also being judicious about how much of the material it’s previewing.
“I really like people to have had a chance to hear them before they hear them live, ’cause I just feel you can connect more,” Carmichael notes. “Even my favorite bands, when I go to see them, like when Radiohead plays new songs I’ve never heard before, it’s a little hard to hear exactly what’s going on in a live setting. So I prefer for people to have heard the recordings first.”
And, the keyboardist adds, there will be no lack of opportunity to hear Maroon5 play the new songs after the album comes out.
“As far as I know, the next two years are already pretty much booked — around the world, several times,” says Carmichael, adding that he’s “in a totally different mindset than I’ve ever had before.
“It’s much more optimistic, easygoing, just going with the flow. We’ve been doing this for so long now, I think it’s finally really kicked in for me to the point where it really doesn’t matter where I sleep at night or where we are in the world. I’m going to feel at home.”
Maroon5, Owl City and VV Brown perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $46.50 pavilion and $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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