Artist Interview: Train

Train takes a bow after headlining the 2011 Dubai International Jazz Festival. Photo by Tom Roth.

The following includes information from USD Radio’s exclusive interview with Train before their headline performance at the Dubai International Jazz Festival. Interview by Tom “Wonderboy” Roth.

“I didn’t know we were a jazz group”.

This was Pat Monahan’s response when asked what it felt like to headline the Skywards Dubai International Jazz Festival. He’s right. A search online will yield more results categorizing the California group as “rock” than anything else. But not so fast, wasn’t their Grammy last month for Best Pop Performance? However you slice it, Train is rolling along towards music history and their recent performance in Dubai is just one of this locomotive’s many stations.

Despite taking a hiatus after 2006’s, For Me, It’s You, Train has pulled a little-engine-that-could maneuver and scrambled back to the top of the musical heap with just one (albeit wildly successful) studio album. Their first single in three years, “Hey, Soul Sister” off of their latest album, Save Me, San Francisco earned them their most recent Grammy award and the band has been selling out venues ever since its release in August 2009.

In discussing the album, Monahan mentioned the group has been touring for the past two years. When inquired about getting the opportunity to spend time at home, he said everyone was looking forward to some downtime before heading to South America. How much downtime? One week. Better than nothing. In his inimitable positive manner, Monahan pointed out that “there’s a lot left in this album” and the group would tour until that energy is spent.

The solemnity and penuriousness one would expect from international rockstars is absent with Train. In fact, they’re a pretty grounded bunch who enjoy a dry joke or two mixed with some slapstick to keep it interesting. Has any of the stardom gone to their heads? What must it be like to get up in front of a thousand different people in a hundred different cities every night? Monahan said they don’t take it for granted. In fact, according to Pat, he and the guys “have the best jobs in the world”.  “Seeing a five year old girl singing ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ with her mom” he says, “is powerful. Seeing them sharing that moment is something special”.

And those moments can happen at any time. Even in California. The group originally formed in Los Angeles in 1994, eventually relocating to San Francisco so the Golden State has had a significant influence on the band. How does it show through in their music? “Tolerance”, says Pat. “In California, everyone is invited”. Judging by the number of stops on their international tour, it seems that, yes, Train is indeed inviting everyone.

Will Train be bringing their talents home to California anytime soon? While Monahan wouldn’t confirm it, he did mention that they were “routing a summer tour that will make stops at big outdoor venues”. If they do stop in SoCal along the way, you can be sure they’ll be visiting their favorite hangouts, Pat’s being the surfing spots in San Onofre. As for drummer Scott Underwood, he prefers the Encinitas area while guitarist Jimmy Stafford opts to relax up north in Marin County.

Before our California-in-Dubai rendezvous wrapped up, I inquired what was currently on everyone’s iPods. Monahan rocks out to a little Tame Impala; Jimmy to Beach House; and Scott to Band of Horses, Taylor Swift, and Black Keys.

Sounds like a pretty good line-up for a “big outdoor venue”, if you ask me.

To learn more about what Train is up to, check out Pat’s blog,