Before James Valentine rocked sold out arenas as Maroon 5’s lead guitarist and the songs he wrote sold millions of copies, he went to Lincoln Southeast High School. He played in bands such as Square and Happy Dog. He played small stages in Lincoln bars and clubs.
Now Valentine, 34, will return to his home state with the band known for such hits as “Moves Like Jagger” and “She Will Be Loved” to play CenturyLink Center Omaha for Sunday’s sold-out show — one of many sold out performances on the pop-rock band’s Overexposed Tour.
On a day off from the tour, we caught up with Valentine by phone at his hotel in Kansas City. We talked about sold-out shows, the band’s pop sound and, of course, returning to Nebraska.
Q. How have these sold-out shows been?
A. It’s been amazing. Most of the seats have filled on most of the shows. We’re ecstatic. This has been the biggest tour that we’ve ever done. Not only with the sold-out shows, but the amount of production that we’ve put into this. We’re carrying our own stage in the shape of our own logo. We have lasers. We have these huge video walls. It’s a pretty spectacular experience.
Q. Are you playing things from the whole catalog?
A. Yeah, we are. That’s another thing about this tour that’s different: we’ve finally reached the point where we can play songs from “Songs About Jane” (released in 2002) and “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” (released in 2007) and everything. We’re pretty much playing just singles — songs that were released as singles, which is cool. Even if you’re a casual Maroon 5 fan, you’ll be familiar with these songs that we’ll be playing.
This show is definitely about the hits and the songs that people want to hear. On the road this summer, we may get back into doing some of the fan favorites.
Q. Are you excited to play in Nebraska again? Will you be seeing any old friends?
A. Absolutely. I’m stoked to be back in the motherland with my people. This weekend, in addition to seeing some of my old friends and my junior high band teacher, Mr. (Robert) Olmstead — I’m gonna see my little sister, (fashion designer Amanda Valentine). She’s coming out to do a mini show, so I’m gonna hang out at Omaha Fashion Week.
Q. Do you see any of your old bandmates from Square (which Valentine left to join Maroon 5)?
A. Absolutely. They remain good friends. Our relationships were a little rocky right after I left, but we continue to be great friends. I see Ryland (Steen) a lot out in LA. Ryland was, for a while, playing drums for Chris Allen, who opened up for one of our tours. I talk to Sean Beste all the time. I’m really into his new project, “BZZZ,” that he’s got going on. He played me the beginnings of some of those tracks the last time I hung out with him and I love them.
Q. Do you ever look around now with “Moves Like Jagger” being huge and you guys selling out these huge arenas and wonder how you got here?
A. Totally. That’s why I love playing in Nebraska and coming back. It really reminds me of how incredibly lucky I am and that I somehow got to have the sort of life that I dreamed about when I was living there. It’s so cool to come back and play and connect with some of the people who helped me get there.
Q. With “Overexposed,” you worked with outside producers and writers for the first time. How did you make that choice?
A. Adam (Levine) was asked to sing the hook on “Stereo Hearts,” the Gym Class Heroes song, and he went in the studio to do that. He had such a positive experience working with those guys that they started working on the beginnings of “Moves Like Jagger.” It was a different sort of thing.
We all said, “OK, let’s give it a shot.” The record that we made, “Hands All Over,” was made in an old school sort of way, and it wasn’t really doing well. It wasn’t causing much of a stir out there, so we gave “Moves Like Jagger” a shot, finished it and put it out there and it was such as huge success.
It seemed like a clear mandate from the public that they’d like us to at least explore this direction. It was great. It was a whole breath of fresh air.
Q. Have you been working on any new material?
A. We’ve already been working on new stuff. With my laptop, it’s more powerful than all the gear that you used to need. A lot of the songs on “Overexposed” were written out on the road. We wrote “Ladykiller” in a hotel room in Helsinki, which is really cool.
It’s pretty crazy. It’s much different from when my high school band paid the Mogis brothers 50 bucks a song because they were the only ones in town with Pro Tools (digital audio workstation platform).
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