From Switzerland to Nashville, finding the way forward on a
make-or-break album

On their 2007 album, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, Maroon 5 enlisted a team of producers to help shape the material. For their latest disc, Hands All Over, the pop rockers turned to one—Robert John “Mutt” Lange, famed for his cinematic productions of AC/DC, Def Leppard and others. “The producers on the last album did a great job, but it was hard to maintain a cohesive vibe,” says band frontman Adam Levine. “Lange is someone who’s internationally minded. He’s always thinking, ‘How do we get the world to pay attention to this song?’ He felt we had great songs and great potential that hadn’t been unlocked yet.”

Maroon 5—which also includes keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, bassist Mickey Madden, guitarist James Valentine and drummer Matt Flynn—set up camp last summer in Lange’s studio in Vevey, Switzerland, to record the album. The resulting tracks veered between the groove-oriented, funk-flavored pop for which the group is known and tunes that were more experimental. “You want to keep people happy while keeping yourself creatively stimulated,” Levine says. “People connect with us because we’re open and sincere, and we want to preserve that. There’s a balance you have to strike between moving forward and continuing to do what people love you for.”

Detours include “Out of Goodbyes,” a ballad that features backing instrumentation and vocals from Nashville country trio Lady Antebellum. “James and Jesse wrote that song really quickly as an acoustic guitar ditty,” explains Levine. “Then I wrote the melody and lyrics over it. But it needed a country sheen that we couldn’t provide—steel, banjos, mandolin. We also let [Lady Antebellum singer] Hillary Scott have her way with it, adding her part as a duet. It worked great.”

Levine hopes Hands All Over will build on what has already been an impressive run for Maroon 5. The band’s 2002 debut, Songs About Jane, went multiplatinum and garnered the band three Grammy Awards. Before Long fared nearly as well, selling a half-million copies in its first week of release. Nonetheless, Levine believes that a third album can be a make-or-break disc for any band. “It becomes harder to remain relevant,” he says. “A successful third album can help you make an indelible impression on the world, and help keep you around. The longer you stick around, the more impressive that becomes.”

–Russell Hall

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