WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — As Maroon 5 finally start work on their second record, will Adam Levine be calling on recent collaborators such as Kanye West to return the favor?
"That was actually part of the contract," the singer deadpanned last week. "That's the only reason [I sang on West's 'Heard 'Em Say']. I was like, 'I'm not singing on your record unless you sing on mine' [see 'Kanye, Kids Run Amok In Surreal Macy's For New Clip'.
"Um, no," he stopped, killing his joke and switching to lecture mode. "That's not why you do favors. You do them out of the goodness of your heart. You don't do them 'cause you want something else in return."
Levine said recent collaborations with Alicia Keys (see "Alicia Keys Taps Mos Def, Common For 'Inspired' 'Unplugged' "), the Ying Yang Twins and especially West inspired him — and that's all he wants in return for now.
"We want to make ourselves our own separate entity. We don't want to have 800 guest stars, 'cause then that kind of blurs what we're doing," Levine explained. "We have the rest of our lives to collaborate with a lot of the wonderful people we've met, but as far as right now, I think getting ourselves to a point where we can stand alone is really important."
"Now's our time," Levine continued. "We've had this tremendous success but that's very fleeting, and now we want to show everybody that we can do great things. We've gotten their attention, so now it's time to prove it to them — which we will do, I promise."
Maroon 5 began writing this summer (see "Maroon 5 Looking Forward To Their 'Summer Of Love' "), and are now compiling their ideas.
"We're amassing large amounts of material so we can weed through all the crap and get the good stuff," Levine explained. "Obviously the success of the first one could be a little bit daunting next time around, thinking ... 'I gotta write "This Love" again. And oh sh--, what if I don't?' But we're trying to think of it like we're trying to succeed the second time around with just as much passion and energy as we did the first time."
Maroon 5 have yet to pick a producer but have a few "brilliantly talented" people in mind, Levine said. As for the direction of their sound, the singer has been listening to a lot of early Prince and said that influence is coming out in his songwriting.
"The vibe is a little quicker, everything is a little more hyperactive," he said. "It hasn't taken its shape yet, but it's definitely going to be very different, but also kind of rooted in the same thing that we do, which is make melodic pop songs. We're going to change it up a little bit, but we're not making f---ing the [Beatles'] White Album or anything. We will later, fourth or fifth record. If we made the White Album now, our manager would have a heart attack."
It's too soon to talk titles, but it will definitely not be More Songs About Jane, as Levine has moved on from his original muse.
"I don't know if I have as specific a muse as I did the first time around. That was pretty intense, but there've been relationships or there've been life experiences that I've had that have definitely contributed to the lyrics of this record," the singer said.
"I'm trying to generalize a little more on the record and not be so specific," Levine explained. "Every song, every note and every line [on the first album] had something do with the intensity of that relationship, and that worked for that record, but I wouldn't want to try to have it be Songs About Somebody Else. I was hoping to have a unified theme and hopefully people can latch onto it. There's no more Jane ... but girls still perplex me and bother me and I love them and I hate them and all that sh--. That'll never go away, I have a feeling."
When he's not writing about women, perhaps Levine can address in song the incident that caused his life to flash before his eyes this summer.
"Basically there's no really macho way to say this," Levine explained. "I got hit in the chest very hard by what was kind of like a slingshot effect, 'cause I was working out and the [weight] kind of flew out of the socket and hit me in the chest. And I staggered backwards and it was really dramatic and intense. And I started bleeding from my chest, which is never a good thing, and I thought I was probably going to be dead."
Levine went into shock, but he remembers it quite vividly. "They took me away ... like on a stretcher, and that was my first experience with that, which was pretty sweet," he recalled. "And they gave me a lot of drugs, painkillers, so I was all right."
In the end, he walked away with a broken sternum, which sidelined him for a few weeks.
"I thought that was it," Levine said. "I was like, 'Man, what a way to go, to get hit with a f---ing weight in the chest.' Not very cool. It could have been a motorcycle accident, you know? It could have been something a little bit more badass. But I'm all right though."