“We’re all blown away by what’s going on,” says twenty-five-year-old Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Songs About Jane, written by Levine about an old girlfriend, has broken the platinum barrier nearly twenty months after its release, thanks in part to props from fans such as John Mayer and a steamy new video for “This Love,” featuring Levine’s new girlfriend, model Kelly McGee. Born and raised in Los Angeles — where he made his rock debut at age fifteen — Levine found teen salvation in Pearl Jam’s Vs. but says he learned everything he knows about singing from Stevie Wonder (“He just rocks my ass”). Levine’s pinup looks and M5’s unique blend of rock and soul have scored them a summer co-headlining spot with Mayer. “It’s gonna be hot and sexy,” Levine says from the band’s tour bus in Arizona. “I’ll be taking off all my clothes.”
Did your parents turn you on to music?
My mom was insane about the Beatles. She had a thing for John, which was rare, because usually all the chicks liked Paul. We’d sit in her car — it was a little red BMW 320i — and we’d listen to Abbey Road, and she’d quiz me about which Beatle was singing a certain song. I’d always screw up and say that John was Paul or Paul was John. If it was George or Ringo, though, I’d nail it.
Do you remember your first concert experience?
It was Warrant, on their Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich tour at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I was in fifth grade; I went with my dad. I knew it was the shittiest thing ever, but it was so much fun. Jani Lane came out with this gigantic white wireless mike. Hair, chicks and metal — it was awesome.
You’re obsessed with Stevie Wonder. What song of his do you wish you’d written?
I wish I’d written “I Wish.” Or “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” “Sir Duke” or “I Believe.” I just saw him play at the House of Blues in L.A., and it was one of the highlights of my life. I stood there in shock. It was like some religious shit.
Who among your heroes has disappointed you in concert?
The only way I go to shows is if I’m obsessed and I know I’m gonna have the best time. Like Pearl Jam. I don’t want to rag on anybody.
Sounds like you want to rag on somebody. Call ’em out!
[Long pause] OK. To be honest, I was really disappointed by Paul Simon. I was so excited, because it was fucking Paul Simon! But he was freaky and weird, and he was doing hand gestures and getting all musical-theater on us. And he was a lot older than I thought he’d look. When heroes age, man . . . Not aging well is just tragic.
How important to sounding good is looking good?
Looking good is half the battle. The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Prince, Michael Jackson — they’ve all got something going on with their appearance. If Prince wasn’t the sex god, he wouldn’t be Prince.
Did you ever practice singing in front of a mirror?
Hell, yeah, man! I used to have a karaoke machine when I was nine. I sat in front of a mirror with a microphone singing “I Wanna Sex You Up,” making up my sexy moves.
Who have you been most excited to see at one of your shows?
We played Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party — the greatest party in the world. We did “This Love” and “Harder to Breathe,” and sitting at the tables in front were P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Missy Elliott and Magic Johnson. I was so star-struck — those were the coolest people ever at a Maroon 5 show.
In “This Love,” you include the lines “Keep her coming every night” and “Sinking my fingertips into every inch of you.”
Yep, that’s sexual, all right. I was so sick of typical lyrics like “Ooh, baby” and “I love you” and all this vague shit. I thought the more explicit I got without being totally explicit was a nice approach. The little girls would enjoy them, and it would go right over my grandparents’ heads. But it would hit my ex-girlfriend like a ton of bricks. It was perfect. MTV has now edited the language. They won’t let me say, “Keep her coming every night,” and they took the sinking out of “sinking my fingertips.” It’s like fucking communist China. It’s totally bizarre.
I guess it depends on how far in you sink your fingertips.
Exactly! We’re just talking a little stimulation.