- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Incredibly, Pat Monahan, the unbelievably high-tenored vocalist of the band Train, claims he has never used a vocal coach.

Except once.

“I took one lesson when I lived in Los Angeles as a kid. All we did was piano runs,” Mr. Monahan, now 48, told The Washington Times, demonstrating the warmup exercise over the phone. “I was like, ‘I can work on my own, thank you.’”

The decision seems to have worked out. With his San Francisco-based band, Mr. Monahan has sold millions of copies of albums “Drops of Jupiter,” “Save Me, San Francisco” and this year’s “a girl a bottle a boat.” Train will perform Saturday at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, sharing the bill with O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield.

Train formed in 1993, but it wasn’t until 2001’s “Drops of Jupiter” and its eponymous song that the band came into the greater cultural consciousness.

“We had our song on the radio, and we thought we were big stuff,” Mr. Monahan recalls.

Mr. Monahan wrote the song “Drops of Jupiter” about his late mother as part of his healing and grieving process. But the song took on a life of its own, and it seemed to be everywhere in the early-aughts: TV, films and as a popular wedding song.

“I feel like it’s not really ‘for me’ anymore, it’s for other people,” Mr. Monahan said of the tune, adding fans tell him they have used the song to deal with losses in their own lives. “I got to feel through [grief], and maybe someone else could as well,” he said.

Riding high on the song’s success, the band followed up with the album “My Private Nation” in 2003, procuring another hit, “Calling All Angels.”

However, trouble was brewing, and the lineup changed due to band infighting. Their next album, 2005’s “For Me, It’s You,” was a commercial failure, and Train went on hiatus.

“We weren’t selling many tickets, so we thought we better do something,” Mr. Monahan said. “My reaction was, I gotta get away from these guys and go make a solo record.”

Mr. Monahan then recorded and toured behind 2007’s “Last of Seven.” But even while enjoying his first solo effort, he wrote furiously, confident there were yet more Train albums.

“I wrote for two years to try to come back from basically being ‘gone,’” he said, adding that “97 percent of them were garbage.”

“And that’s when ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ came,” he said.

The dulcet song, featuring a ukelele behind Mr. Monahan’s ceiling-scraping vocals — set to lyrics about watching his wife dancing at Burning Man — became the band’s second Top 10 hit, and pushed the album “Save Me, San Francisco” to No. 3 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums.

The album, which also produced hits “Marry Me” and “If It’s Love,” served as a re-centering for Train after years of discord and nonfocus.

“We had been on the road for so long trying to be everything to everybody that it was time to go back home,” Mr. Monahan said of returning to the Bay Area to work with his bandmates again.

Mr. Monahan counts Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler among his influences, and has even become friends with Mr. Tyler. He has also bonded with fellow Bay Area mainstays Journey, whom Mr. Monahan inducted into the Rock & Roll Hame of Fame at the April ceremony in Brooklyn, New York.

“It meant a lot to me, as a fan of theirs, to induct them,” he said, “and I think they appreciated it as well.”

Mr. Monahan, who now lives in Washington state with his second wife, grew up in western Pennsylvania, the youngest of seven children. Incredibly, he was the only one of his siblings with any aptitude for music, he claims.

“I don’t know why it chose me, but it really helped me reflect” the spirit of music, he said of his gift, adding that it was considered uncouth where he grew up to brag about one’s talents.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, he said, is “very grounding.”

“There’s a lot of successful people here, so no one cares if you’re in a band or you’re famous,” he said of his adopted home. “I’m not really a famous guy, but I have famous music, which gives me a better life. But I don’t have to deal with the nonsense that famous people do.”

“Drops of Jupiter” and “Hey, Soul Sister” will likely be on Saturday’s setlist, as will “Play That Song,” the current poppy radio anthem from “a girl a bottle a boat” that borrows a rather famous lick from the classic Hoagy Carmichael song “Heart and Soul.”

“They knew that it could be a really big song, but they didn’t know if we’d be able to get permission” to use the “Heart and Soul” fragment, Mr. Monahan said. “But they loved it, and we all figured out a way to let ‘Play That Song’ have a life.”

Despite lacking a coach, Mr. Monahan continues vocal exercises to keep his chords in shape.

“It’s not as easy as it used to be. I wonder if at some point it just doesn’t work anymore,” he said, adding that diet and exercise are also key to remaining in tip-top condition as a rock artist.

However, he said as he has aged and grown, life on the road with Train has become ever more joyous.

“We’re touring with O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield, and they’re friends of mine,” Mr. Monahan said. “To live on the road with the wrong people can be tortuous.”

Mr. Monahan, who says he hopes to find a DMV golf course this weekend when not busy with the show, believes Train’s music appeals to fans of all ages.

“We’ve been on the radio now for 22 years, so there can be something familiar for [everyone]. The whole family can come,” Mr. Monahan said. “I’m not throwing around F-bombs. Because I have children, I don’t think that’s funny or interesting.”

Train’s “Play That Song Tour” comes to Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at LiveNation.com.

 

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