G roup formed c. 1999, in Los Angeles, CA. Members include: James Carmichael (born c. 1979. Education: Attended Five Towns College), keyboards, guitars; Ryan Dusick (Education: Attended University of California at Los Angeles), drums (left band, 2006); Matt Flynn, drums; Adam Levine (born c. 1979, son of Patsy Noah. Education: Attended Five Towns College), vocals; Mickey Madden (born c. 1979. Education: Attended University of California at Los Angeles), bass; James Valentine (Education: Attended the Berklee School of Music), guitars.
Addresses: Record company—Octone Records, 560 Broadway, Ste. 500, New York, NY 10012. Web site— http://www.maroon5.com/.
C armichael, Levine, Madden, and Dusick formed Kara’s Flowers, c. 1992; Kara’s Flowers signed record deal with Reprise/Warner Bros., 1995, and released debut album, The Fourth World, 1997; Kara’s Flowers dropped by Warner Bros., 1998; the band reformed as Maroon 5, 1999; Valentine joined Maroon 5, 2001; signed deal with Octone Records, 2001; released debut album, Songs About Jane, 2002; released It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, 2007.
Awards: Grammy Award for best new artist, Recording Academy, 2005; Grammy Award for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal, Recording Academy, for “This Love,” 2006; Environmental Media Award, 2006.
T hough it took several years for their first album to become a hit, Maroon 5 eventually rode the success of Songs About Jane to an unexpected Grammy Award for best new artist in 2005. While touring in support of the album, the band drew ever-increasing audiences for their sound: white funk-soul-pop-modern rock with hip-hop influences. Dubbing themselves the Hall and Oates for the twenty-first century, Maroon 5 built on the popularity of Jane with its follow-up, 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long which was certified platinum shortly after its release.
Four of the five original members of Maroon 5 knew each other from childhoods spent together in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. Lead singer Adam Levine, bassist Mickey Madden, and keyboardist/guitarist Jesse Carmichael befriended each other in middle school. Carmichael had taken classical piano lessons as a small child and focused on the instrument until high school, when he began playing more guitar. They began making music together in the early 1990s, and eventually formed their first band, Kara’s Flowers while attending Brentwood High School where Levine was a popular, Ferris Bueller-type student. In this band, Carmichael primarily played guitar. The fourth band member was drummer Ryan Dusick, a former athlete.
An alternative rock band, Kara’s Flowers drew its name from a girl the whole band had a crush on. While their sound was heavy rock in the beginning, over the next few years it morphed into a more guitar-pop sound influenced by 1960s bands, especially the Beatles. Kara’s Flowers landed a record deal with Reprise/Warner Bros. in 1995 and released a debut album in 1997, The Fourth World, which was produced by Green Day producer Rob Cavallo. While the record received some good reviews from critics for its upbeat power pop, The Fourth World never caught on with audiences. It was essentially an utter failure and Kara’s Flowers was dropped by the label in 1998.
Levine later believed the failure of The Fourth World turned out to be a positive. He told Larry Katz of the Boston Herald, “I’m so happy we failed. Not doing well with something you’re really passionate about makes you much more equipped to deal with things when you’re a bit older . I got signed to a major-label deal when I was 16. Life was beautiful. When I got a little older I realized there is plenty to be sad about. I got my heart broken a couple of times. That did wonders for my songwriting.”
Because of the album’s failure, Kara’s Flowers essentially broke up in 1998 and the band members pursued their educations. While Madden and Du-sick attended the University of California at Los Angeles (Dusick was an English major), Levine and Carmichael continued their education at the Long Island-based Five Towns College’s music school. There, Levine and Carmichael found a new musical direction led by their new found interest in R&B and hip-hop. Inspired by R&B singer Aaliyah’s hit 1998 song “Are You That Somebody?,” the band came with a new song, “Not Coming Home.” Also drawing influence from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Missy Elliott, and Herbie Hancock, what had been Kara’s Flowers reformed and changed its sound as well as its name to Maroon 5 in 1999.
There were other changes as well for the newly christened Maroon 5 over the next few years. As Carmichael re-discovered his love of piano and jazz at Five Towns, he focused on that instrument in the new band. The band also added a fifth member to replace Carmichael on guitar. In 2001, guitarist James Valentine joined Maroon 5. Valentine was a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was part of the indie band scene there. While Maroon 5’s newly emerging sound was not exactly his musical ideal, Valentine appreciated Levine’s soulful voice and pop background.
Maroon 5 was signed to Octone Records by James Diener later in 2001. The band began recording some of the songs already written as well as new songs, all of which were put down before year’s end. The lyrics on what became Songs About Jane were inspired by Levine’s on-again, off-again, painful romance with a girlfriend named Jane. He refused to talk more about her or their relationship, other than through his music.
Occasionally playing their new songs to audiences in Los Angeles while recording the album, Maroon 5 found themselves out of step with hipsters’ expectations. Valentine told Scott Mervis of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “When we started to do some of the first songs, people thought we were joking because it was out of line with what you were supposed to do as a young white band in L.A. If you weren’t doing the ’80s like every hipster band going right now, it was like, ‘What are you doing? You’re supposed to be doing like New Wave, that’s what’s in style this week.’”
Maroon 5 released Songs About Jane in the summer of 2002. For the first few months of the album’s release it only sold a few hundred copies, seemingly proving fickle Los Angles listeners correct. Even the first single, “Harder to Breathe,” was not initially popular except on a few modern rock stations. The band then spent most of the next two years on the road in support of the album, playing endless gigs to drive up interest. Singer/songwriter John Mayer gave the band the opening spot on his early 2003 tour because he knew Valentine from their time at the Berklee School of Music in the mid1990s. Maroon 5 also opened for popular bands like Match-box 20 and Counting Crows.
The hard work soon began to pay off. The tide began to turn in the fall of 2003 when a re-released “Harder to Breathe” became a chart-topping hit 16 months after its initial release. By October of 2003, the band had sold about 300,000 copies of Songs About Jane as well. Maroon 5 also became a head-liner in their own right, playing about 200 scheduled dates in 2004 alone. They continued to open for bigger artists as well, including more touring with Mayer.
By the spring of 2004, Maroon 5 was selling about 70,000 copies per week of Songs About Jane, and had sold more than two million copies total of the album. That same month the single “This Love” became a number-one hit in the United States, followed by another smash, “She Will Be Loved.” Part of their appeal was the ability to attract modern rock, adult contemporary, and top 40 fans. Another was the appeal of Levine, who became something of a sex symbol, especially after his performance in the band’s often provocative music videos.
A divide emerged in the band’s image because of their popular videos. Carmichael told Keyboard’s Peter Kirn, “I don’t think a lot of people understand our band right now. I think that when people see the videos that we’ve made, they have a much pop-ier version of who we are as people. But that leaves out the side of our live show that’s much more raw and spontaneous.”
In 2005, Maroon 5 shocked many in the music world by winning the Grammy Award for best new artist. Many, including Maroon 5 itself, believed that hip-hop artist Kanye West would nab the honor, but all were surprised at the ceremony when Maroon 5’s name was called. Despite such wins, the band still had to defend itself as being more than just the hit-producing pop band of the moment.
During the endless touring which extended through 2004 and into 2005 when the band launched its first major tour, Dusick’s physical problems caught up with him. He had suffered from extreme tendonitis for some time, then had a shoulder injury in the summer of 2004 and was forced to step aside temporarily. He was replaced for a time by Matt Flynn, who had previously played with the B-52s, among other bands. Dusick eventually left the band in 2006 due to chronic nerve damage, and Flynn returned to be his permanent replacement.
Maroon 5 took off much of 2006 to write and record the follow-up to the quadruple platinum Songs About Jane. The album was written while the band was living in Harry Houdini’s mansion in Los Angeles, then recorded in Los Angeles-based studios. Released in May of 2007, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long was an immediate smash for the band. The first single, the disco-tinged “Make Me Wonder,” was a radio hit, reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was a number-one-selling single and video on iTunes. It Won’t Be Soon Before Long itself debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 the first week of its release. By June of 2007, the album had reached platinum status, less than three weeks after it hit the market.
Maroon 5 deliberately sought to make their recorded sound harder and more reminiscent of the energy of their live shows while adding a slick production influenced by Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Prince’s Controversy. Lyrically, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long featured some underlying angst reflective of concerns about the world, but, for the most part, Levine’s songs again focused on heartbreak and the sometimes bitterness of love. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Ann Powers called the album “an icy-hot blend of electro-funk and blue-eyed soul that works its cruel streak with the confidence of Daniel Craig’s James Bond.”
As soon as It Won’t Be Soon Before Long was released, Maroon 5 began touring again. The band believed playing to live audiences was important to their success as a band, and helped boost their still-problematic credibility among some listeners. However, some still considered them no better than a boy band or a studio contrivance. Levine told Edna Gunderson of USA Today, “There are people who love our band, but there are people who don’t know what we’re about, and they might get turned on by this record. And then there are the haters. I hope by this point they’ll realize we’re a good band and that we’re for real. We’re not a straight-up rock’n’roll band, but I think it’s cool to redefine what rock is.”
While Levine was content with Maroon 5’s success, he could also see past his life in the band. Unlike other band members, he regularly participated in outside projects with rap, hip-hop, and soul artists. Levine was also regularly in the gossip pages for his romantic dalliances with a number of celebrity women. Speaking about post-Maroon 5 plans, Levine told Linda Laban of the Boston Herald, “Life is so fascinating. I like to experience it from different angles. If you have the luxury to move on gracefully from something, you should do that. A lot of people get stuck with what they do, not necessarily because they want to do it. Which is a really [lousy] reality for a lot of people.”
As Kara’s Flowers
The Fourth World, Reprise/Warner Bros., 1997.
As Maroon 5
Songs About Jane, Octone Records, 2002.
1.22.03.Acoustic, Octone Records, 2004.
Live—Friday the 13th, Octone Records, 2005.
It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, Octone Records, 2007.
Associated Press, May 21, 2007.
Boston Herald, October 29, 2003, p. 52; August 19, 2004, p. 61.
Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, OH), July 29, 2004, p. 8.
Keyboard, January 1, 2005, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2007, p. E2; May 31, 2007, p. E12.
New York Times, May 21, 2007, p. E1.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 15, 2005, p. W22.
PR Newswire US, April 26, 2007; June 27, 2007.
San Diego Union-Tribune, June 17, 2004, p. NC1.
USA Today, May 23, 2007, p. 1D.
“Maroon 5’s White Funk,” Rolling Stone,http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/maroon5/articles/story/6053686/maroon_5s_white_funk (August 18, 2007).