Maroon 5 Plot Big Pop Return on Mutt Lange-Produced LP

"He worked me harder than anyone ever has," Adam Levine tells RS

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Years before Maroon 5 stepped into a studio with Robert "Mutt" Lange, the producer played a huge role in their musical upbringing. "He was involved when you were a kid, no matter what," frontman Adam Levine says as he and keyboardist Jesse Carmichael recall their love of Lange hits like Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" and AC/DC's "Back in Black" (check out our full video interview above). And when the California-based band decamped to Switzerland for two months of intense work on their third disc, Hands All Over, they were focused on soaking up the experience of working with one of the best-selling producers of all time.

"He worked me harder than anyone ever has," Levine tells RS . "I would come in with a finished song, and he'd say, 'That's a good start. Now strip it down to the drums and start over.' The coolest thing about him is that not only has he been a huge, legendry producer, but he also is a legit, serious writer."

The resulting album, September's Hands All Over, is bright and poppy, and helped the band find its focus all over again. "We're getting back to what it was all about from the beginning — and luckily we didn't stray too far before we realized that," says Levine. Likewise, Maroon 5's summer shed tour will be stripped back to basics. "No bells and whistles, no lasers and no pyrotechnics, just a show," says Levine. "A good one, too."

Levine says the album's title track is "about desperately trying to work something out, but at the same time, trying to wash your hands of something, too. It's that desperation of wanting everything to work somehow, but being frustrated by the fact that it just won't." And while fans have been trained to read about the frontman's real-life dramas in his music, he says this time around he was writing a bit more opaquely. "At this point for me, it's probably best to cleverly mask a lot of these songs, and not be so deliberately about one person or one thing."

First single "Misery" hits radio this week, and the band will perform it on the Today show Friday morning. In its upcoming video, which Levine describes as "really violent," his girlfriend is trying to kill him. By contrast, "Out of Goodbyes" (which features guests Lady Antebellum) is a sweet, sad song that Carmichael says came together in a single day in Switzerland. "We're excited for a lot of new people to hear our band through that song," Carmichael says.

Ultimately, Levine says Hands All Over is the sound of Maroon 5 stepping back from their influences and embracing their originality. "Our first record was a reflection of my love for Stevie Wonder. With the second I kept going back and forth between Prince and the Police," he's told RS. But there was no one on my mind for this album. It's just great pop."

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