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Train – Pat Monahan

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 1998, rock band Train has been going strong and remained successful, and there’s no slowing down now. Their second album Drops Of Jupiter released in 2001 went multi-platinum with its featured title song reaching 6x platinum, two Grammy Awards (Best Rock Song and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(S). In 2009 they released their fifth studio album SAVE ME, SAN FRANCISCO which went multi-platinum as well, spawning their hit single “Hey, Soul Sister” and in 2011, won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Train has received two Billboard Music Awards and their seventh studio album BULLETPROOF PICASSO released in 2014, reached number 4 on Billboard 200 albums chart. Now on May 20th, they will be releasing their 11th studio album AM GOLD. These extraordinarily talented musicians are also on tour with Jewel and Blues Traveler, and Florida fans can see this amazing show on June 24th at the iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, FL, June 25th at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, FL and on June 26th at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, FL.

Catching up with Lead Vocalist Pat Monahan just prior to the tour starting, he revealed some details about the upcoming album, what people will see of him and bandmates Guitarist Taylor Locke, Bassist Hector Maldonado, Keyboardist Jerry Becker, Drummer Matt Musty and Backup Vocalists Sakai Smith and Nikita Houston at the live shows, other projects that have taken place and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What inspired this album? Your eleventh studio LP (coming out May 20th). Last time we talked about in the beginning, the music was soul searching and then after you met your wife it was more upbeat. What would you summarize about this new music?
Pat Monahan: As mentioned to other people, there was one particular Train fan, I think several that were longing for the maybe more sad, reflective Train songs and I was like, I got plenty of that! I have lots of sadness, and so I think a lot of that kind of transfers in this album. It’s kind of a throwback record not just in its sound, but in what I’m talking about, and that’s basically the gist of it. With “AM Gold” the song, it’s more of like a self-love, upbeat. You know, you don’t need them; you need us kind of song, and there’s a lot of break up songs and reflective songs, and I just think its sounds like an AM gold compilation album from many years ago because there’s such a variety of different types of music on it. So far, I think Train fans are happy with what they’re hearing.

SFL Music: The song you’re talking about is “Running Back (Trying to Talk to You)”?
Monahan: “Running Back” yeah.

SFL Music: Yeah, that is really, really good. Would you say there is like a theme reflecting on the AM gold sound?
Monahan: Yeah, the sound is definitely like an AM gold compilation ‘cause there’s disco-esc, you know like “AM Gold”, and then there’s throwback R&B with that Philly horn sound. There’s one song on the album that has a guitalele which is a six-string ukulele that’s kind of reflective of SAVE ME, SAN FRANCISCO album, but we tried to hit every mark we could with it. There’s the Hall & Oates sound on it and lots of different vibes, but they all fit on this album.

SFL Music: You mentioned last time that you recorded in New York, L.A and Nashville. Did you do the same with this one or was it different?
Monahan: No. This one we recorded in our individual studios. It was much different. We wrote this album virtually which was never anything I ever intended to do, and I fought against it for a long time until there was no use in fighting against it. Then I tried to make the best of it, and I think that might have been the only thing that COVID provided was a chance to do this virtually. I would not have learned how to use my studio as well or anything, so there was one upside.

SFL Music: So, that really sharpened your skills in the studio?
Monahan: Yeah, it really did.

SFL Music: The song that you wrote with Jewel “Turn The Radio Up”, how did that come about?
Monahan: Well, you know Jewel and I, we share management and I’ve also known Jewel for a long time, and when we decided to do this tour together, I asked her if she would sing on a song on my album and I sang on a song on her album and so, we’re planning on being together onstage a bunch and that sounds fun to me. John Popper I’ve known for a long, long time, so I’m hoping that John will join us as well. It’ll be like a family reunion. It seems like a throwback album, so a throwback tour seemed to be the right way to go about this.

SFL Music: Is that how the tour with Jewel and Blues Traveler came about?
Monahan: Yeah. It just fit with what the album direction is.

Pat Monahan photographed at Studio B Portraits in Issaquah by photographer Brooke Clark – AM Gold project

SFL Music: Is there anything else fans can look forward to with this tour versus prior?
Monahan: Well, you know, every tour we try to do differently. My drummer and I both have these beautiful gold sparkly drum kits, so we’ll do some fun jams out there and you know, come up with some different ideas, but I always try to incorporate the other acts onstage with us. I think it’s a necessary part of comradery, not just for us and backstage vibe, but also, I think as a ticket buyer, I like to know that the people traveling together are actually fond of one another, and so I like that to be seen from stage.

SFL Music: Are you going to do pieces together as well? Jewel will maybe sing “Turn The Radio Up” with you?
Monahan: Yep. Exactly, yep.

SFL Music: Oh, that’s very cool. People will love that!
Monahan: I love that too, yeah.

SFL Music: Now the tour is sponsored by Save Me San Francisco Wine Company which is your company. How did you incorporate all that?
Monahan: Well, about twelve years ago, we started a partnership with Concannon Wine Company in Livermore, California and wanted to bring Train fans a taste of San Francisco or the Bay area. So, we wanted to make an affordable delicious bottle of wine and found a great charity to donate funds to. We’ve sold millions of bottles of wine and have taken Family House, along with some great contributors, from two twelve room homes to a large building with eighty rooms that house families with very sick kids that need work at UCSF hospital. So, we’re just going to continue to do that.

SFL Music: You’ve sold over ten million bottles of wine and the last time we spoke, you said it had expanded into the Publix in South Florida.
Monahan: Yeah, it was in Florida for a long time. You know, every year we try to put something together. A fresh look and also a fresh taste, and we made a great partnership with the Drops of Jupiter line with Publix and H-E-B out of Texas. This year, we start a partnership in September with Costco and we will be selling the Save Me San Francisco Wine with Costco that is a limited version of a really quality wine that we teamed up with Concannon to make. It’s a Cabernet.

SFL Music: That was your favorite, right? The Grey Cab?
Monahan: Yeah. I like it all, but that one was great.

SFL Music: You have videos for “Running Back (Trying to Talk to You)” and “AM Gold”. Are there going to be any more videos for fans to look forward to?
Monahan: Yeah actually, in about two weeks, we’re gonna film a video with a woman who sang on a song with me. The song is called “Cleopatra”.

SFL Music: How did that come about?
Monahan: The song has such a Latin feel that we got together and asked this really lovely, talented Latin artist named Sofia Reyes if she would consider singing on it, and she was lovely and happy to do it and changed some of the lyrics which I loved. So, we get to work with her, and maybe you’ll see her on this tour as well.

SFL Music: Oh, that would be great! The last time we spoke you had collaborated with Kenny G. I think it’s wonderful how you reach out and work with various artists in the industry. You wanted to play golf with him. Did that ever happen?
Monahan: I didn’t get to play with Kenny, no. He used to play in the AT&T Program and now I do, but you know, you play in it for a long time and then they bring some other people in. So, I’m sure that I will have a limited amount of time to be able to do the program as well, but I’m hoping that I get to play with Kenny someday out there maybe on the west coast. I think he lives in the Southern California area now.

SFL Music: What would you say you get out of working with all these various artists musically?
Monahan: Well, you know in the music industry, it’s hard to continue friendships because I would say that us musicians and artists are pretty needy, and so I started a podcast years ago. Maybe ten years ago, and the reason I started it was not for popularity’s sake, but because I felt like there’s got to be a bunch of people like me who are interested in having friendships with other artists. So, I made hundreds of friendships through the podcast, and so when I work with these people, it’s to create a friendship based on the fact that I find them interesting or talented or you know, whatever we can do to help each other out kind of thing. I think the hip-hop world did such a you know, unbelievably great job at that starting many years ago, where instead of saying to each other, it’s me against you. Its instead, us against everybody, and just love that concept of let’s do it together.

SFL Music: Your band has been around a long time. “Hey, Soul Sister” just reached diamond status which is one of only fifty-eight songs in history. That’s amazing! Has over a billion streams. What would you say is the secret to Train’s success?
Monahan: If I had a secret, I would be way more successful! The only thing that I really can credit longevity to is my desire to be relevant and continue to make music that Train fans will like and also, that maybe that fan base can still be extended into different generations. My favorite part of a Train concert is that you know, I’m writing songs for my generation, but generations before them and after them can all enjoy them.

SFL Music: What would you say inspired you originally to get into music when you were growing up in Erie, PA? Pennsylvania has that history of some great musicians.
Monahan: Well, I went to a Catholic high school and not being an amazing athlete or an amazing student, you are limited. I found music as my magic bean that could maybe grow something and it was all I had really. So, I just nurtured that and took care of it, and I try to continue to do that.

SFL Music: You also did a Christmas movie, Christmas in Tahoe in 2021. How did that come about?
Monahan: Train has a Christmas album called Christmas in Tahoe and my management company are very smart people and they were like, I bet Hallmark who will make you know, forty Christmas movies a year, would maybe be interested in partnership that we can turn this album into a movie. They were super excited about it and wrote this really cute, great script for it and included me. So, I’m like a dorky hotel manager, and they made me wear pink and purple sweaters and things that I would never do, and it was a lot of fun.

SFL Music: Did you find it easy to do or did you find you had to kind of get outside of your comfort zone?
Monahan: Yeah, acting’s not easy. Some people make it look easy. I’m not one of those. Music is definitely my comfort zone and acting is not, but I think its super fun to try different things and also you know, try to do them in a way that is not just acceptable, but try to be really good at. All of the personnel were really sweet and helpful, and any time that I was not getting something right, they used a loving hand at helping me do it instead of any kind of weird behavior.

SFL Music: So, do you think there will be any more movies in your future?
Monahan: I hope so, yeah. Actually, you know, George Lopez is a dear friend of mine and in the middle of the movie I was like, hey George. Is there a chance that you would like to be inconvenienced and fly to Canada and make no money and be in this Hallmark movie? And he said, “I’ve been waiting for this call my whole career!” So, he came and worked with us for a day, and I’m hoping that maybe Hallmark can put together a movie where our two characters are extended and we make another Christmas movie about the two of us. George is in a new Marvel movie coming up called Blue Beetle that I’m very excited about.

SFL Music: That’s something to keep an eye out for. I just learned that you and I have the same birthday. So, would you say having that sign, we’re supposed to be very creative people, that it maybe helps in all the creative things that you do?
Monahan: You know, sometimes I buy into astrology and sometimes I don’t. When I met my wife, I was like, what is your sign? And she was like (he laughed) are you out of your mind? She told me her sign was Aquarius and that’s really good for Pisces. I don’t know if there’s something to it or not, but sometimes it feels good to feel like there is a connection to all of it.

SFL Music: As far as touring, you guys are also having the Sail Across the Sun cruise?
Monahan: Yeah, we’ll do that again next February.

SFL Music: Do they have all the artists lined up? What are you looking forward to with that?
Monahan: I think almost all the artists are planned out and you know, I kid about it and say, I hear that I had a great time because you get on this boat and it is just a whirlwind of parties and music, but it’s so fun to connect with Train fans in an intimate way. It’s different every year. We have theme nights, so everybody dresses up every night in different themes. We just try to make it just the best escape from a troubled world as we can for four days.

SFL Music: Speaking of escapes, do you still play racket ball and …
Monahan: Pickleball?

SFL Music: Yeah. I bet that helped throughout the COVID stuff.
Monahan: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I got really into pickleball during COVID, so I would spend time pickling and playing golf during COVID just because it was some of the only stuff you could do.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want fans to know?
Monahan: I just hope that everybody loves this record as much as we love it. We had a great time making it and people are gonna want to see it live too. That’s the most exciting part.

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