Biography: Maroon 5
Los Angeles, California, was home to high school students Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Ryan Dusick, and Mickey Madden. In the late 1990s, the friends started an alternative rock band called Kara's Flowers. They signed a deal with Reprise Records and released the 1997 record The Fourth World, but the album failed to chart and the band parted ways with Reprise. The young band wasn't quite prepared for stardom yet, and it wouldn't hit until nearly seven years later.
"I think that we weren't ready musically or emotionally to be successful," Madden told Chart magazine's online news site about Kara's Flowers. "Not that success is any measure of quality, but there was definitely something missing." The guys put Kara's Flowers on an indefinite hiatus while Levine and Carmichael enrolled in classes at the State University of New York, and Dusick and Madden went to the University of California Los Angeles. Levine and Carmichael began to discover a whole new world of music while they were at school on the East Coast. "The halls would be blasting gospel music, and people would be listening to stuff that we'd never actually listened to, like Biggie Smalls, Missy Elliot, and Jay-Z," Levine stated in the band's official biography. "When I think of songwriting, I think of the Beatles, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, the stuff that I grew up on, but then I was like, 'I want to do this. Stevie Wonder came into my life at that point, and I just found a knack for doing it," he continued.
Discovering this new music renewed Levine's interest, and in 1999, the musicians decided to re-start Kara's Flowers. But with their new sound—one that blended the classic pop styles of their teenage days with a fresh new funky R&B tint—the band needed a new name. Once they began recording demos in 2000, they were now known as Maroon 5—a moniker the band members have yet to explain. One year after recording their new demos with their new upbeat sound, Maroon 5 signed a deal with a new division of J Records/RCA. "I think when we started writing songs for Kara's Flowers, we didn't hit on any musical ideas lyrically," Madden told Chart. "But then once we came up with these songs for Maroon 5, we started playing in a way we never had before."
With a pop face and funk undertones, Maroon 5's first album, Songs About Jane, was released in 2002. The band spent most of the year on the road opening up shows for Vanessa Carlton and their old friend John Mayer, whom Valentine had met at a high school summer camp. Octone Records released "Harder to Breathe" as the first single, but the record got little press or radio play. But slowly, after time, radio began to play the song, MTV screened the video, and Songs About Jane began to get positive reviews. All of this happened nearly a year after the record was released. Finally, in 2003, "Harder to Breathe," hit the top 10 and when the second single, "This Love," was released, it too hit the top 10.
In a review of Songs About Jane, E! Online wrote, "Sensitive guy Adam Levine and his friends mix a bit of vintage Motown, some swooning sweater rock, and even a smidge of 'N SYNC." It took months before other critics really noticed the album. The band's song-writing had improved and matured greatly since Kara's Flowers—and a lot of it had to do with singer Levine's love life. The band's mix of mainstream pop formula and funky blue-eyed soul was based around Levine's emotional lyrics, which were mostly, as fans could guess, about a girl named Jane. "Jane is my ex-girlfriend," Levine told People. "We dated for about six months. It was a really beautiful experience." Levine didn't stay heartbroken for too long; he soon began dating Kelly McGee, who appeared with Levine in the steamy music video for the band's breakthrough hit, "This Love."
At this point, the songs the band was now performing on late-night talk shows and concerts had been written for a few years before most people heard them. Luckily, their sentiments still resonated with millions of buyers. In an interview with Soundspike.com, Levine told writer Christina Fuoco about his lyrics. "It's the most emotion, the most soul I've ever poured into anything in my whole life. I'm so happy [and] comfortable with what we had to say, musically and lyrically. We've been through so much over the last ten years—turbulent relationships and stuff was rocky with the band, a lot of different things. I feel like this record is definitely a culmination of all those things."
Two years after Songs About Jane was released, the album had raked in sales of over eight million copies. Maroon 5 toured exhaustively in support of Jane's slow-burning success, issuing two stopgap recordings -- 2004's 1.22.03.Acoustic and 2005's Live Friday the 13th -- while traveling the world alongside groups like the Rolling Stones and John Mayer.
In February of 2005, Maroon 5 performed in an opening number for the annual Grammy Awards alongside Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, the Black Eyed Peas, and more. They were nominated for two awards that evening and walked home with one for Best New Artist.
Their schedule was especially trying on percussionist Dusick, who sustained wrist and shoulder injuries and was often unable to play. By fall 2006, Dusick had been officially replaced by Matt Flynn (the former drummer for Gavin DeGraw), and the revised band released its sophomore effort in May 2007. It Won't Be Soon Before Long proved to be less popular than its predecessor (which had sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone), but it still enjoyed double-platinum certification while spinning off the chart-topping single "Makes Me Wonder."
Maroon 5 had cemented their status as pop/rock heavyweights, and they now had the connections to prove it. Released in late 2008, Call and Response: The Remix Album reinterpreted the band's catalog with remixes by influential producers like Mary J. Blige, Mark Ronson, and Pharrell Williams. Meanwhile, the band worked with a different producer -- veteran rock/country architect Robert John "Mutt" Lange -- on a third studio album, Hands All Over, which was released in September 2010.