They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but Pat Monahan, the lead singer of Train, knows otherwise. Not that the group’s second wave of success — a result of their massively popular “Save Me, San Francisco” album, which spawned the hit “Hey, Soul Sister” — was based on luck. As Monahan tells it, it took some time off and rearranging within the band to get back on board. Now, the group is on tour again, playing their first headlining show at Jones Beach tomorrow. We hitched a ride on Monahan’s train of thought and chatted about the singer’s penchant for mermaids (and mermen), non-musical ventures and unlikely friendships.
There must be nothing like playing Jones Beach in the middle of the summer.
We’ve never headlined Jones Beach. This is our first time really playing in the dark. It’ll be sold out and we’re just so thrilled. I mean, this is one of the highlights of our career. That area, the whole Long Island area — my friend Theresa Caputo, who is the Long Island Medium, those are like my people. Those are the people that I feel most connected with.
Wait, the Long Island Medium is your friend?
Yeah. My daughter, who at the time I think was 13, she was [one day] like, “I gotta watch my show, Dad, I gotta hang up.” I was like, “No you don’t, you’re too young to have a show.” So she told me what it was and I went and found it on YouTube and cried for about four hours watching it. So then I started to talk about her on radio stations and everything and finally my publicist was like, “I know her, I can get a meeting,” so she came to see us in Central Park last summer and we’ve become friends since then.
Has she ever done a reading on you?
Kind of. You know, as soon as I met her she was like, “Do you want me to tell you what’s going on? Because you’ve got a lot going on. And I was like, “Yeah, I’m ready.” [Laughs] I was about to go on stage so she was like, “Do you want me to tell you later?” and I was like, “Not really, I kinda would like to know.” When she met my daughter, who turned me onto her, she talked to her about a lot of stuff that wasn’t so much about — anyway, I’m moving into a different territory, but she’s a lovely human. I love her a lot.
We hear fans are dressing the part for your “The Mermaids of Alcatraz Tour.”
Yeah, it’s really fun because basically we’ve encouraged people, boys and girls, to dress the part, and a lot of people are just having a lot of fun with it. That’s what it was meant to do. I remember reading a tweet like two months ago and this guy was like, “You’re telling your fans to dress up as mermaids? Dude, you’ve really sold out.” And my response was, “Dude, we sold out 15 years ago.” [Laughs] Because it’s just like, who cares? It’s just about fun. If you don’t want to have fun with us then don’t come. But these girls and a couple of boys are dressing up amazingly beautifully and they come up onstage, and then there’s always some people who get to win better seats. There have been two women who have worn tails so they weren’t able to walk. One girl came in a red wagon and the other, her husband had to carry her. [Laughs]
You wrote on your blog recently that this is the happiest you’ve been on tour.
Yeah, it is. Last summer I was struggling with losing my voice, and my father had just passed away prior to the tour, and I hadn’t really had a break in many years, so I started the tour kinda depressed. The biggest loss for me was, I’m losing my control of my voice and I don’t know why. It’s the one thing I have control over in my life and now I’m losing it — it’s very upsetting.
So just recently, a few months ago, a chiropractor outside of Seattle read my chart and what I’d been struggling with. And this chiropractor said hey, I think I can help you — the right side of your vocal chord is inflamed, the right side of your neck is in pain. He said at our age, our adrenal gland is basically depleted, and our adrenal gland is what handles stress. So here I am, I lost my dad, and that was like the straw that broke the whole back, I guess. I didn’t know where to put my stress so it all started to go to my vocal chords. So he put me on a supplement to help kinda kick-start my adrenal gland, and gave me an adjustment, and I have not had vocal problems since.
It’s amazing, and so there you go, that’s part of the joy — I don’t have to come out here and worry if I can sing. Plus we’re out with really good friends — Gavin DeGraw is a really great guy and The Script, they’re awesome people, and we were just out with Michael Franti and Spearhead and nobody is better than those people — they are the salt of the earth and the best of the Bay Area.
You guys disbanded for a little while. What was that like?
The break was necessary because we didn’t like each other. I think we were doing it to make a living instead of appreciating the fact that very few people get the gift of music and you better nurture it. We didn’t really realize a lot of that so we tried to get away from each other as opposed to anything else. I went and made a solo record, hoping so much that it would be a humongous hit so I could not be in the band anymore. Everybody else kinda did their own thing, wishing the same thing.
And then after about two years of that I called [guitarist] Jimmy [Stafford] and [drummer] Scott Underwood and said, “Hey, man, you wanna get our band back?” And they knew what I meant. Our manager at the time was not being helpful, the people that we asked to be members of our band were not the right people — everything kind of was falling apart. We needed to start from scratch and so we did: We asked everybody to leave, and most of them left without question and some of them left pretty pissed off. But then we were able to focus on music again.
I think that we could eliminate all the other outside things that were preventing us from enjoying music, and then when we made that record we were like, “Look, this record is so fun to make, it doesn’t matter what happens,” and then it was successful. I don’t know what lesson that is other than for me, an unhappy voyage will never result in reaching a happy place. … And the fact that we were able to succeed again was very, very fulfilling, more so than the first time by miles. [At the Jones Beach show], I’m gonna have to take it in and try not to cry.
So you’re a crier?
I cry about everything. It’s no big deal for me. Just any movie I watch, it doesn’t matter — it could be an Adam Sandler movie. There’s just always one moment and I’ll be like, “Oh my God.” I think he’s an amazing actor. I watched his movie “That’s My Boy,” which is definitely a guys’ movie. He’s such a great actor in everything he does so if I got the chance to be an Adam Sandler movie I’d be pretty excited.
Drops of Jupiter (and pinot)
In addition to music, you guys also have your own wine label.
Being from San Francisco, we thought, “How can we start bringing San Francisco to people that don’t get to go there?" So we thought, “OK, first of all we’ll do it through our music; secondly, we’ll do it through our shows; and thirdly, let’s start by bringing some of the best [wine] San Francisco has to offer, and then when we do that, let’s give the money to an awesome place." We chose a really cool charity in San Francisco called Family House, and so Save Me, San Francisco wine company was created and Save Me, San Francisco company donates to that amazing charity and makes super great wine. I think the favorite right now is called Soul Sister — that’s our pinot.