SALT LAKE CITY — When Maroon 5 returns to Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 7, lead guitarist James Valentine should feel right at home.
“My parents live in Highland. One of my sisters lives in Provo. One lives in Draper. And my brother lives in Draper. I’m out in Salt Lake a lot,” he said. “I actually get a lot of Deseret News articles forwarded to me by my dad. I’m a regular reader.”
Odds are Valentine was in Utah recently as his band has been on summer break. When Maroon 5 plays at the Vivint Arena, it will be the first show of the second leg of their U.S. tour for their sixth studio album, "Red Pill Blues."
“We had a nice little summer vacation. At least the band members did. Of course Adam (Levine) had to go back to work at 'The Voice,' so he didn’t really get the break that we did,” he said.
Maroon 5 has consistently been one of the pop music world’s top acts for the past 15 years, with almost 20 million subscribers to their YouTube channel and racking up 14 top 10 hits on Billboard and three Grammy Awards along the way for "This Love," "Makes Me Wonder" and "She Will Be Loved.”
For Valentine, his unconventional road to rock 'n' roll stardom started in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, where his family was actively involved in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“My siblings are still fully active in the church and my mom works in the education department at BYU. And all my older siblings attended BYU. I was the first one not to. … At the time it came to either go on a mission or move to California, I went on a different path. I went to California and formed this band. But my upbringing as LDS has had a huge impact on who I’ve become, obviously,” he said.
Valentine admits it wasn’t easy coming to terms with his musical aspirations and his own personal beliefs versus going on a mission and remaining an active member of the church.
“That was very difficult. I think coming to terms with what my ideas were on the faith and sort of some the problems I had with some of the teachings of the church — it was very difficult and very confusing as a teenager to navigate some of that stuff,” he said. But despite some initial difficulties, Valentine said ultimately his choices haven’t gotten in the way of his relationship with his family and they are all “still as close as ever.”
In that time that Valentine decided to go to California instead of serve a mission, he planned to establish a career as a jazz guitarist.
“But I kept getting recruited into rock bands and here we are,” he said.
One of those bands that recruited Valentine was called Kara’s Flowers, which was lead by Levine and included Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick. That short-lived band was looking to revamp the lineup and their name.
“They were exposed to a lot of different types of music, which was eye-opening for them, especially hip-hop, soul and R&B. I came along right when they were exploring those kinds of sounds. And with my jazz background, I had the right tools to compliment that. It was a perfect fit.”
There are currently seven members in Maroon 5 — keyboardist PJ Morton joined in 2012 and multi-instrumentalist Sam Farrar became an official member in 2016. But the person who receives the overwhelming majority of public attention is lead singer Levine. Even those who aren’t very familiar with the band’s music know who Levine is because of the hit NBC TV show "The Voice."
But, Valentine said, the band doesn’t mind.
“For a lot of other bands, that would have been an issue. But for us, we’re all good with that. And it’s raised the profile of the band too,” he said.
It's a clichéd story: A popular band breaks up because of infighting over the lead singer receiving more attention than the rest of the group. But with Maroon 5, Valentine said he and the other members are happy to let Levine grab the spotlight.1 comment on this story
“I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to stay together. I mean, you can watch any episode of VH1’s 'Behind the Music' or any sort of music documentary, and you can see the story all over where there’s two or more members of the band that want to be the front person and there’s usually like a struggle for power for that spotlight. But I think for us, we kind of all knew the dynamic. Adam loves the spotlight, he loves being out in front. And the rest of us are totally, totally fine with that. We’re much happier being in the supporting roles."
If you go …
What: Maroon 5 "Red Pill Blues Tour"
When: Friday, Sept. 7, 8 p.m.
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, 301 S. Temple
How much: $79-$457.20