NBC’s hit singing show, The Voice, is built around the oversize personalities of its superstar mentor judges: Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, country hitmaker Blake Shelton and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. But it’s Levine, thanks to a combination of sensible advice, sarcastic comments and contentious bickering with Aguilera, who has surprised viewers by becoming the show’s breakout star. “At first I was like, ‘Oh, shit, here we go, what if this sucks?'” he says. “But now I’m very passionate about the show.” And he hasn’t quit his day job, either. In June, Maroon 5 will embark on a 45-night romp around the U.S. “It’s going to be a blast,” says Levine, 32, sipping an Asahi before a gig in South Korea. “We can’t wait to go apeshit.”
What’s it like touring Asia, playing markets that most musicians don’t hit?
Well, we don’t call them markets, because bands aren’t supposed to know what markets are. Just kidding. It’s funny, we don’t realize how big we are until we come to Japan or Korea or Indonesia. Clearly we’re not from the neighborhood, and the fans here have a different appreciation, knowing that we’ve traveled thousands of miles to play for them.
What made you want to do The Voice?
I’m not a fan of reality TV. But I liked the fact that you’re picking people based on raw talent, and hopefully launching their careers. You don’t have to be a nonprofessional to be on the show [unlike American Idol]. So these are people getting a second or third shot in a business where you need that.
What’s up with the tension between you and Christina? Did you hook up a long time ago or something?
I just met her a couple of days before we started shooting! I don’t know where it comes from. We just bicker like brother and sister, and part of it is fabricated by the television gods. But she’s great. I respect the shit out of her. She’s going through a tough time, and God bless her. This show is great for her. But if she busts my balls, I’ll bust hers.
Which of your Maroon 5 bandmates was most upset about you doing the TV show? [Laughs] They don’t care, man. They’re cool.
This is nothing but good for everybody. It’s a win-win. We’re not an indie rock band; it’s not like it’s going to hurt our credibility. If anything, it brings more visibility to the band. And the band is a healthy band, we all have good relationships with each other. It’s rare, but it’s true.
You’re a foodie. What’s your favorite restaurant in America?
Sushi Nozawa, in Los Angeles, is the greatest place on Earth.
I heard that chef Nozawa is retiring soon.
Really? Maybe he’ll be like Jay-Z and say he’s retired but just hang around forever [laughs].
What albums are you currently obsessed with?
Mumford & Sons, along with the rest of the country. I haven’t felt like a real music fan in a long time, but that record has made me a fan again. There’s something so gripping about the way the lyrics are delivered—it’s angsty and mad, but it’s beautiful soul music. There’s a song called “Timshel” that breaks my heart. Them selling records and Arcade Fire winning the Grammy restores my faith in music.
What can fans expect on the Maroon 5 tour?
We’re adding big Marshall stacks, adding speakers and subwoofers. We have an old-school mentality toward entertaining. We emulate bands like the Stones, U2, Van Halen and Queen, bands that put on such a motherfucker of a show that you can’t not like it. We want people to get lost in the experience. There’s no smoke and mirrors.
You said that the group might have only one record left before you all embark on something new. True?
I don’t know. Actually, that’s just bullshit. I want to evolve with this band. And I want to say to non-Maroon 5 fans out there, and those that hate us: Please come see us this summer, and if you don’t enjoy yourself, I will personally reimburse you.
This story is from the June 23rd, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.