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Play That Song

Train still going strong with new album, tour

By Jocelyn Murphy

This article was published May 19, 2017 at 1:00 a.m.

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Train — the band that brought us hits like “Hey Soul Sister,” “Drive By” and, of course, “Drops of Jupiter” — with frontman Pat Monahan (above), brings the “Play That Song Tour” to the Walmart AMP on Monday in support of the latest album, “a girl a bottle a boat.”

FAQ

Train

‘Play That Song Tour’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Monday

WHERE — Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers

COST — $30-$89.50

INFO — 443-5600, arkansasmusicpavilion.com

BONUS — Openers include O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield.

If only Arkansans had known in 1998 that the San Francisco band traveling through the state was on the verge of becoming a cultural phenomenon, somebody could have come away with a pretty cool souvenir.

"When we were touring in 1998, we had a terrible van that burned up a couple of times on the highway, and we actually left it in Little Rock," recalls Pat Monahan, frontman of pop/rock group Train. "We didn't know that we would be successful. We probably should have signed the van or seen if we could just get somebody to buy it. Missed opportunity!"

It was the following year that "Meet Virginia," the single from Train's eponymous debut album, made a place for the band on the Top 40 charts. But it was the second album in 2001, "Drops of Jupiter," that established the group as one of the most ubiquitous bands of the early 2000s. If the band's production team had had its way, though, fans might never have taken that trip to the Milky Way.

"I had three different people -- a manager, a producer and a record executive -- all telling me different things that they didn't like," Monahan says of some of the iconic imagery from the song. "The record executive was like, 'OK, you can't say fried chicken, that's racist.' And I was like, 'What! You don't eat fried chicken?' I didn't understand that.

"Then the record producer says, 'You can't say soy latte, that's too feminine.' And then I had a manager say, 'You can't say Tae Bo because nobody's going to care about Tae Bo in a year.' I was like, instead of listening to all of them, I thought I should listen to none of them. And now [using specifics] seems to be totally the way people get your attention [in songs]. Especially rap -- these kids are really, really talented, and they bring you in because they have their own story."

Sixteen years after the release of "Drops of Jupiter," Monahan says he still sticks to writing what feels real for him. Even just the title of Train's 10th and latest album "a girl a bottle a boat" could have been more general because "some girls would rather be with a boy" on that boat, but the imagery of being with his wife on their boat, in the middle of a lake, with a bottle of wine is what's true to Monahan's own life. And to get the feel just right for this new album, Monahan shook up his writing process by collaborating with fresh voices.

"For this record, I asked my managers if I could please meet people I had never met before -- the younger the better, because everybody that I meet that's young in the music world, they all seem so upbeat," he says, "and people I started with, some of them don't have that positivity anymore.

"So I think I was most successful with young people that were just happy to be in a room with me, and I was happy to be there with them, and then the whole album just started to sound like summertime."

After what proved to be a challenging writing process for the band's last album, the 2014 release "Bulletproof Picasso," Monahan says much of the writing came together quickly for the latest venture because everyone was having fun. He says hopefully those good vibes will translate to the stage where, in addition to the breezy tunes from the new album, Train will be playing some of its most familiar hits from over the years, as well as some covers that inspired the current record.

"Pyrotechnics and nudity. That's what we always go for," Monahan teases. "The thing that I'm most proud of is that families are Train fans -- from grandparents to grandchildren and parents and their kids, and no one has to drag each other to a show because it's for all of them. And the production on this tour will be miles better than anything we've ever done. So I'm excited to show everyone will we have in store."

NAN What's Up on 05/19/2017

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