IMPACT: Train’s ‘a girl a bottle a boat’

"I'm just trying to make songs that I can imagine people wanting to hear because they make you happy, and wanting to see it live."

By Radio.com Staff

“I’m pretty ‘regular,’ man,” Train frontman Pat Monahan told Radio.com back in 2015. “It’s a blessing…[it’s] totally cool now, but it didn’t used to be: I was bummed out about it. Your dream, when you’re young, is to be famous.”

Monahan gets to play out being a movie star from decades past in the music video for “Play That Song,” the new video and first single from Train’s, a girl a bottle a boat, out January 27th. Monahan turns an everyday scenario in Los Angeles into a technicolor musical. And yes, he shows off his impressive dance moves as well.

The song’s melody seems incredibly familiar; that’s because it’s based on “Heart and Soul,” a song written by Hoagy Carmichael and originally used in the 1938 film A Song is Born; it is probably more well known as a song that seemingly every piano player knows how to play.

Monahan returned to the Radio.com studios this week to talk about the song and the new album. “I was writing with my friend William Wiik Larsen, a young Norwegian guy who lives in L.A., he had this guitar riff and I was like, ‘I know exactly what to do.’ So I called my manager and I said, ‘I’m about to sing one of the most familiar melodies of all time,'” referencing “Heart and Soul.”

Related: Train Announce 2017 Play That Song Tour

“And they’re like ‘Just do it, have fun.’ Then they heard the song and said, ‘We have to find out if the publisher [of ‘Heart and Soul’] is gonna be ok with it.’ And they were OK with it, they were very excited about it. It gives the song a whole new life as well.”

Monahan is very driven about competing with his past hits, and he feels good about “Play That Song.”

“At this point, I’m just trying to make songs that I can imagine wanting to hear because they make you happy, and wanting to see it live when you throw a blanket on the grass at an amphitheater. By the way, our tour with O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield goes on sale on Friday [January 27th]! This song is, I hope, going to be a perfect addition to the show.  The lyrics are just like: the last time I went to a club was just like the first time I went to a club: there’s always a group of cute girls that got really dressed up that are waiting for their favorite songs to play, so they can go dance. It’s just about that.”

The music video is somewhat reminiscent of the mega hit La La Land, but Monahan says it was a different movie that inspired the video. “The idea was actually taken from the movie [2009’s] 500 Days of Summer.”

As for starring in the video, and pulling off some great dance moves, he says that that wasn’t his idea: “Every time we put out a new song, I beg to not be in the video. Kids want to hear their favorite song on YouTube, let’s give them another kid to look at while they listen to the song. [Everyone says] ‘No, you can’t do that…’ So I try to make the best of it. But my best decision making is in writing songs. It’s not in the studio: I’d probably re-do every vocal that I’ve ever done. It’s not onstage, where I’d probably change half the lighting. I have to delegate those things to other people. I know I should write songs and sing them and leave the other jobs to other people like directors and managers who tell me I need to be in the video, and hope that they’re right.”

Fans will likely agree that his instincts about “Play That Song” were spot on: “I’ve heard a lot of things about this song,” he notes. “I’ve heard that it’s ‘hokey,’ I’ve heard that it’s ‘corny,’ but I’m like, ‘Man, you can call it whatever you want, but I know a lot of people will call it really fun and will love it.'”

He says that the entire process of working a girl a bottle a boat was a lot easier than the previous Train record. “[2014’s] Bulletproof Picasso, it was agony. I feel like I wasn’t ready; music is like a thing… you have to go away a little bit, but you can’t go away a lot. We thought it was a good idea to have a record out every two years. Bulletproof Picasso, I did the best I could, but there was a lot of cutting and pasting and things I’m not used to. With this one, I wanted to get in a room with people I’ve never been in a room with, I want to feel uncomfortable, I want young people that aren’t jaded. I want to be around people who are like, ‘I have something to prove. And I’m ambitious. And I’m going to show up on time.’ It was so much fun, I made a lot of new, beautiful friends. I’ll try to do it again with all of those same people hoping that they’re still in that same space, but if I recognize that they’ve changed, then I have to go somewhere else.”

In the meantime, he’s looking forward to this summer’s tour. “So, Marc Roberge and I — Marc is the singer of O.A.R. — when I did my podcast, I got Marc on it, he’s such a likable, lovable guy… we hit it off and stayed friends and this opportunity came up that they were willing to go out with us, and we’re going to make it the best tour we’ve ever done. They have such great fans. And Natasha, she’s [also] going to be on our cruise in February, I love having a woman on tour, I think it keeps guys in check a little bit, but also sonically, people need [to hear] a different tone than a man’s voice, so I love that they’ll have that every day.”

Get tickets for Train’s summer tour here.

 

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