TRAIN is I, Pat Monahan (vocals), Jimmy Stafford (guitar) and Scott Underwood (drums). There are a bunch of others, past and present that have helped us do what we do on and off the road, but the three of us have been here since the start in 1994. Wow! 1994? Really?
We started playing as Train in San Francisco at a place called Mad Dog In The Fog. How I remember that I have no clue. Obviously, it left an impression because I guarantee I was in my cups. We were paid in beer for a while until they became aware of how many pints we could put away.
The three of us met through the other people that we started the band with and somehow the chemistry really worked, so we figured we would stick together for the long haul. Before we were Train, we were just kids that didn't have any other skills. Sometimes not having a backup plan is best. Yeah, I said it.
We were selling out various places around the Bay area, building a great following, but we still couldn’t get a record deal. I remember one night a dude from Island Records came to us after a show and said, "My name is Simon Potts and I would like to sign you to Island." We're still waiting to hear back from Simon 18 years later!
In 1996 Columbia Records flew us to New York City for a showcase in a club named Don Hill's. We were told all we had to do was show up and we’d have a record deal, but we weren’t even invited to their offices the next day. The quote from the boss there at the time was, "I didn't see anything special." And you know what? He was probably right. So we flew back to San Francisco with our tails tucked between our legs, and realized we had to get our shit together. We borrowed $25K from some friends and parents, and made a record ourselves in Southern California. Columbia heard it and actually came back around to sign us, which never happens. We toured relentlessly in a van with a trailer, put out a few singles including “Free,” “Meet Virginia,” and “I Am” and went on to sell a million albums.
After record one, we made a few more, won a couple of Grammys for “Drops of Jupiter,” toured the world, made a bunch of money, lost a few band mates, lost a ton of money, lost a few more band mates and finally hit a place in 2007 when it became quite evident that Train had been infected with a pretty robust case of the Jack-ass.
That year I made a solo record. It didn't do big business but I think we all give that album a lot of value because it brought us together again. It was a time when we all had to reflect about what Train is and what we hoped it could be. The fact that we were all pretty broke helped us get humble too. We each decided to stop searching for what we could get FROM Train and started to work on what we could do FOR Train. That attitude change was crucial for us. We didn't realize at the peak of our success that we had lost our way with it all. We were focused more on being bummed that we weren’t as big as Coldplay than on being psyched with the fact that we were TRAIN. We forgot that we actually love music and the reward isn't money or hit songs, but is the gift of being able to create, perform and exist in a beautiful form of art that we were all so lucky to have been chosen for.
At that point in 2009, we made some more business changes that went along perfectly with our change of attitude. We recorded an album called Save Me, San Francisco. The title was a call for help, a plea for forgiveness because we felt as if we had let down our hometown by losing sight of who we were as Train, the "Bay Area Band". The love that went into that recording ended up coming right back to us unexpectedly. We thought this recording might be our last major label release because there was little hope of it being very successful. The fact that “Hey, Soul Sister” (the first single from Save Me, San Francisco) was the #1 most downloaded song of 2010, got us another Grammy AND the album going platinum, was a clear reminder that love of music and love for our fans is the answer to us being a successful group as well as successful individuals. We are still blown away and very grateful.
So, here we are today. California 37 is our latest album. We just finished it a few days ago and we are kind of surprised how much we all love it. We actually feel as if we are improving over time, which in life is totally logical but in the music business is pretty much unheard of. The album has eleven songs that were written over the course of the past three years while touring the globe playing “Marry Me” and ukulele for everyone.
We asked our good friend, Butch Walker (Pink, Katy Perry, Weezer) to produce it. He's an incredible producer and singer and writer and….Jeez what is he NOT good at? Oh yeah, Words With Friends!
We seem to be having more fun now than ever, except when my managers made me get a haircut a month ago. And yes, they did it in a really mean way.
Where was I? Oh yeah, fun. What an honor to get to make music that people care about. Seeing “Drive By” (our first single off of California 37) do so well so fast is crazy to us. We get to see our band on iTunes, right alongside some of our favorites when we visit the media download Mecca.
There you have it. I left out a whole bunch of b******t that doesn't matter and maybe I even left out a few things that do (like the fact that we have a wine company, made three brilliant wines AND have more in the works), but you can always schedule an interview to get the rest or better yet just write something that makes us sound great and Jimmy or Scott will give you a back rub. I recommend Jimmy!
See you soon in the town you call home.
Love, TRAIN: Pat, Jimmy and Scott