Adam Levine ‘Begin Again’: Maroon 5 Front Man Talks ‘Selling Out’ For ‘Begin Again’ Press Day [Q&A]
Musician Adam Levine is in the next phase of his career. Over the last decade we’ve been introduced to a few sides of Levine. From the green musician on the precipice of fame, to the accessible playboy and sexiest man alive, and finally we have Adam, an allegedly reformed bachelor, who’s making headlines by embarking on an apology tour before he gets hitched to fiancé Behati Prinsloo. While all of these are faces of a much larger machine working behind the Maroon 5 front man, the most interesting side to Levine is undoubtedly his new position as an actor.
Today Levine’s film Begin Again opens in theaters. The film is right on the heels of director John Carney’s widely successful indie turned Broadway show Once. Instead of trying to recreate the magic of Once, Begin Again pulls on a familiar world but tack’s itself to the evolving state of music, and the dissolution of a dying business model. This allows Carney to explore what that means in the war of a label trying to recapture a successful platform vs an artist’s creative integrity.
Levine gives an important credibility to the film as Dave, an aspiring musician whose career has suddenly taken off despite his better half Gretta (Keira Knightley) being the essential brains behind the team. Giving in to the immediate indulgences of the business, Dave is the important piece that represents what happens when a musician has to sacrifice his passion under the pressure of selling records, and the lifestyle that comes with immediate fame.
In person Levine is everything he projects on a weekly basis on The Voice — he’s candid, honest, and charming. If he’s selling anything at all, it’s his own authenticity. He’s quick to admit that a lot of what he’s portraying up on screen in Begin Again is keying into his earlier success with his band Maroon 5, but there’s something greater working with Adam that makes him a plausible matinee idol — his charisma.
The lens he offers through his character taps into something most musician-turned-actors are too calculated to capture. What’s so appealing about Levine “the actor” is the same quality that makes him the best part about watching him play fight with Blake Shelton on The Voice. It’s the effortless way he cuts through the manufactured veneer of the entertainment industry while still remaining a larger than life rock star.
Adam Levine sat down during the Begin Again press conference to discuss his journey as a musician, the nature of selling out, and his next move as a bonafide star.
Although you’ve done American Horror Story, this was your first big project. Did you take any acting lessons?
ADAM LEVINE: When John [Carney] called me I hadn’t done any acting before. I had tried to take one acting lesson and it didn’t go well. It was bizarre. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I was being told because it wasn’t making me happy, but that’s a whole other conversation I don’t want to have. I just thought I would pretend that I knew what I was doing and hope that it worked because these people are all very talented. Keira [Knightley] made me look good.
How was it revisiting this specific time in your life to portray Dave?
This character was in the midst of becoming successful. When it happened to me I was probably tempted by some of the same things that he was. Granted, my story is very different than his, but it was very easy to tap into what it was like to experience all of these things that I never expected to experience. When you commit to being a musician I don’t think you’re really sure or care about when you’re going to pay the bills. The only thing you’re sure about is playing music, so this guy was just overwhelmed, and so was I, so that was easy. I believe that has something to do with why John called me because very few people get to experience those things, and I think he thought I would be able to articulate it on camera.
Are there differences in your character and who you are as a musician?
I wanted to pretend like he was a totally different person, even though it was impossible because I literally don’t know how to act, so I was like, ‘Okay some of me is coming out here. It’s f—ing impossible for that not to happen.’ There was a very specific point in my life where I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve made it.’ I’ve been so fortunate that there have been fifty of those moments. There was a time where in the early 2000s when someone told me our album had went platinum and I said, ‘what? are you kidding me?’ That was when I partied too hard and did a lot of stupid things and that was part of who the character was. He was that guy.
The film talks about selling out in the music industry. You have to confront that as an artist. Do you say, “Oh, I have to sell out today?’
Oh I love this question. In music people spend a lot of time figuring out who they are and presenting that to the world in a very calculated way. I think in order to understand what selling out is you first have to define what it means. It’s to do something that you don’t want to do because you might be able to gain something financially for it.
Being popular has that attachment of selling out.
Doing something that you love regardless when it’s a blockbuster movie or you’re writing a pop song, or trying shamelessly to succeed in something is not selling out. I think that’s actually fine and I would encourage that all the time. Selling out really comes when you sacrifice your own personal credibility in order to have success on a larger scale. It’s very clear cut but people do have a very hard time defining it. They kind of throw a lot of things out there and say that ‘oh this is a giant movie so that means this person sold out.’ I always hated that growing up. When my favorite bands became successful I thought, ‘That’s f—ing amazing. Congratulations, I still love you.’ I didn’t get that selfish possessive bulls–t attitude like, ‘they were mine and now they’re everyone else’s and I don’t like them anymore.’ That’s a horrible way to operate.
Begin Again hits theaters today.
[Images via The Weinstein Company]