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No Sophomore Slump For Maroon5

Of the Oakland Press

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Thanks to the success of its second album, “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,” Maroon5 isn’t sweating the sophomore slump anymore.

Released in May as the follow-up to the group’s 10-million selling 2002 debut, “Songs About Jane,” “It Won’t Be Soon ...” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

The first single, “Makes Me Wonder,” did the same on the Hot 100 — including a record-setting 63-spot jump to the top spot — and the group is confident its latest single, a ballad called “I Won’t Go Home Without You,” has even more potential.

So the Los Angeles-based quintet feels a sense of relief that its audience hasn’t abandoned it and moved on to other pop hit-makers.

“It is sort of a test,” says guitarist James Valentine. “One record doesn’t mean that you’ve proven anything. I’m excited now that that’s over. We were really glad to make it through this record.”

Frontman Adam Levine adds that, “I think there’s varying degrees of sophomore slumps.

“I think we’ve avoided Spin Doctors territory; we haven’t just disappeared off the face of the Earth. But I think at the same time, we have a lot more to prove. We want a career. We want to be around for a while ... not just be a flavor of the month or flavor of the year.”

Levine, Valentine and their bandmates — keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, bassist Mickey Madden and new drummer Matt Flynn — can be excused for feeling a degree of pressure in making “It Won’t Be Soon ...”

Most of them have been playing music together since high school, where they formed the short-lived Kara’s Flowers. “Songs About Jane” certainly set a high bar, unleashing a chain of polished pop hits — “Harder to Breathe,” “She Will be Loved,” “Sunday Morning” and “Must Get Out” — and snagging the group a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2005.

Maroon5 wound up spending three and a half years touring behind “Songs For Jane,” although Levine notes that “there’s a common misperception; people think we took a lot of time off.” The group, he says, only rested for a month after the tour but quickly began working on “It Won’t Be Soon ...,” which took about a year to write and record.

“I don’t think we could possibly feel the pressure we felt on (‘Songs About Jane’),” Levine says. “There was so much more riding on that. We didn’t have any money; not to sound like ‘Cue the violins’ or anything, but we had to borrow money for food from our producer. We had no idea what we were gonna do had this (band) not worked out.

“There really was a lot more (pressure) back then. Now this is the fun part.”

Working with producers Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple, 50 Cent) and Mike “Spike” Stent (U2, Depeche Mode), Maroon5 recorded “It Won’t Be Soon ...” at the Houdini Mansion in Hollywood, which is owned by producer Rick Rubin and has been converted into a residential recording studio. The musicians mostly opted to live elsewhere, however.

“The strange spiritual goings-on definitely kept me away from the house when I wasn’t working,” Levine admits. Valentine, however, stayed in the house and reports encountering at least one apparition. “I got the impression it was a woman,” he says.

Mostly, though, the group made enough noise to keep the spirits at bay — and, they hope, entertained.

“We wanted the beats to hit harder — that was a big goal for this record,” Levine says of “It Won’t Be Soon ...,” which has a decidedly funkier swagger than “Songs About Jane.” Valentine adds that, “We definitely wanted some more up-tempo songs because we felt that our set lacked that.”

There were divergent ideas about how to accomplish that direction, of course, but Levine says that “I think we’re all really happy with the compromises we made.”

“If we didn’t have different opinions, we’d be in a lot of trouble,” he explains.

“We’d probably be very selfindulgent and kind of just ‘as we please’ when we were playing. Personally, my goal is to make records for the radio ... But I think a certain amount of compromise and restraint is important on all our parts.”

“Yeah,” Valentine concurs, “I think we’re all happy with the way it ended up.”

They’re certainly pleased with the initial results, but Maroon5’s members have their collective eyes on more than just the present. Valentine says the group is taking recording gear on the road and plans to set up a room backstage to work on new songs “so that we don’t have as long of a gap as there was between our first and second records.”

“We’ll see what happens,” the guitarist says. “I’m really excited about making our next record because I think we’re going to go in there with a lot less of that pressure over us, as much as we sort of pushed that aside to make this record. I think we’ll be free to follow wherever our creative musings go.”

Maroon5, the Hives and Sara Bareilles perform at 8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 29) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $50.50 and $40.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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