Cover Story: Adam Levine

by Kristie Bertucci Photography by Miguel Starcevich,  Creative Direction by Darius Baptist, Hair by Shaul Shaya, Grooming by Denika Bedrossian

With his California-based collective Maroon 5, singer Adam Levine has sold millions of records over the past decade. But aside from filling iPods with romance-inspired tunes, the sex symbol is doing his part to save the planet with eco-minded ventures.

He’s ruggedly handsome, immensely talented and sincerely cares about the planet. Maroon 5’s front man Adam Levine isn’t only about the fame and fortune – he’s about using his success for the greater good. Earlier this year, he stripped down bare (with only the hand of his Victoria’s Secret girlfriend, Anne Vyalitsyna, covering the goods) for Cosmopolitan UK’s February issue on behalf of the Everyman charity, which raises awareness and funds for men who battle prostate and testicular cancer.

While it provided many across the globe some delicious eye candy, the 32-year-old singer is a natural philanthropist. But Levine isn’t the only one trying to do this world some good. In fact, all the M5 guys are involved in various environmental-related organizations, including Kiva, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Reverb and the Environmental Media Association.

“I think I have a very interesting and weird view [on environmental issues] because the earth is going to be fine; it’s human beings that need to be worried,” says Levine with a slight laugh. “The earth has withstood incredible damage before and will replenish itself in whatever way it sees fit. I just think it would be nice if we were more considerate so we can stick around longer to be on this beautiful earth.”

In Levine’s eyes, we should all be worried for ourselves, and he’s doing his part to wake up those who will listen. “I like Earth,” he continues. “Hopefully, it’ll stick around for a long time. Our brains have evolved to these levels where we have thoughts and intuition that most creatures don’t have, and didn’t have before. And wouldn’t it be nice to use it for a positive thing?”

Levine and his bandmates have tried to do just that. In the past, the L.A. natives have held a celebrity auction for Haiti and blogged about environmental issues on their main site (which they continue to do). And while they have rallied for a variety of good causes, Levine holds one especially close.

“Out of all our environmental projects, Reverb is what I love to talk about most because it’s this amazing organization that helps bands and artists on tour live more efficiently,” he confesses. Deeply rooted within the music and environmental communities, Reverb educates and engages musicians and their fans to take action toward a more sustainable future. Maroon 5 has been an active band for the organization since the early ‘00s and is known for always fueling their buses with gallons of biodiesel, reducing the carbon footprint of their tours and offsetting hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide.

Because they believe in what Reverb represents, they became founding members of the Green Music Group, a Reverb coalition that includes other artists and bands like Linkin Park, The Roots, Sheryl Crow and Paramore.

“It’s basically a new coalition of musicians, industry leaders and fans working to inspire widespread environmental action,” he explains.

An issue very near and dear to the band is energy use. In the past, the band has teamed up with non-profit organizations like Vote Solar to give a positive and persuasive voice to personal energy reduction, as well as promote the use and development of alternative energy sources. And as the band currently tours Europe and Australia for 2010’s Hands All Over, the group makes sure they aren’t shirking their environmental duties.

“There’s so much waste that goes into touring, it’s kind of a shame,” Levine asserts. “As far as energy, recycling and everything being biodegradable, we’re just trying to be as conscience as we can about little things that add up when you are a touring act that goes all over the country – and over the world, for that matter. You see all these beer cans and trash everywhere at concerts, that it’s disgusting. There are napkins and shit everywhere you look. So it’s kind of cool, it’s amazing actually, that this organization does this. It’s just a great thing to be a part of and there’s no reason that everybody on tour shouldn’t be doing this already. Everybody is capable of this. It seems like an easy thing to think about, but most artists don’t, and we do.”

Steering the conversation to his next favorite organization, Kiva, Adam explains that this association encourages individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe to help minimize poverty. In the summer of 2007, Maroon 5 threw an awareness party and fundraiser for Kiva and has since promoted the organization and its cause at various functions. Other celebrity supporters include President Bill Clinton and Entourage’s Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly.

“Kiva is so amazingly successful and has a huge success rate!” he enthusiastically states. “It’s this microfinance thing where they give these mini leases to people all over the world to start small businesses. So it’s, like, this incentive-based program where you give someone ‘x’ amount of money, and they start their business. It’s been so successful and [is] such a brilliant idea, you think that someone would have thought of it a long time ago. It’s the future of charity and it’s revolutionizing the way people see charity.”

Other environmental accolades for Maroon 5 include being awarded the EMA Futures Award in 2006 for their help in raising awareness of sustainable energy and have pledged both time and energy toward Global Cool, an initiative launched to fight global warming by motivating people worldwide to reduce their personal energy use.

“We just want to do our part and make Earth a great place to live,” Levine says about M5’s efforts, a constant for the band. “We always take our awareness with us everywhere we go.”

And because of their great works and conscious awareness of environmental issues, karma’s been good to the quintet, who has already had an impressive start to 2011. The band was given the opportunity to play Super Bowl XLV’s pre-game show, and while not a huge football fan (he’s waiting for L.A. to get an official team), Levine did enjoy himself on game day. “It’s so crazy to see such a culturally relevant Mecca of a place,” he describes. “I think anybody who gets to be part of the festivities definitely feels a sense of pride.”

The band was also nominated for a 2011 Grammy for single “Misery” in the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. During the show, Levine was a special guest on Rihanna and Eminem’s performance of “Love the Way You Lie,” playing the keys in the background. Despite losing in the category this year, Maroon 5 wasn’t down and out, with seven nominations and three wins in their career thus far.

However, Levine did describe the personal tension he goes through at award shows. “It’s just been another exciting thing to be a part of, you know?” he says. “It’s an amazing position to be in at the Grammys when you’re nominated. I try and make it more about the event than winning, but the ‘playing it cool’ side of me always says it doesn’t matter and it’s just a thing and we’re just happy to be recognized as a group. But when it gets closer to the moment, I want it more than anything.” Considering many artists probably feel the same way, Levine just shrugs away the loss, commenting on how great it feels to be appreciated and have the new album be recognized.

In actuality, Maroon 5’s Hands All Over touts some of the best work from the band thus far. Recorded with veteran studio wizard Robert John “Mutt” Lange (known for his work with AC/DC, Foreigner and The Cars), this third studio album is quite different from their previous “pop-ish” releases. “We didn’t even talk to anyone else,” Levine says of why they went with Lange. “Mutt is undeniably one of the most successful producers who’s ever lived.

“We didn’t string it together like people do nowadays,” he continues. “We made it a real experience, which was really cool. It sounds different from our previous stuff, but I like that it sounds different.” A hybrid of rock, pop, funk and R&B, Hands All Over  took a little over a year to make – pretty quick by Maroon 5 standards. “We’ve taken a lot of time in the past [for releases], but I think it’s actually probably a smarter idea in general to just be naturally prolific as possible and release music when you write it and have it be relevant to the moment when you made it. I think that’s the exciting [factor] in music.”

Levine admits that the musical climate has changed quite a bit since first starting out with M5 in 2002. Acknowledging that the Internet has changed the way music is heard and distributed, as well as how different fans appreciate and approach music, Levine isn’t too dismayed by the slow death of recording a conceptualized album in a single-based culture.

“I don’t really think it is a sad thing,” he comments. “I think if you look back at the industry of music, sometimes it was a single-based place, and sometimes it was an album-based world. And, obviously, The Beatles and The Beach Boys had a lot to do with creating a whole album experience where you press play and go through the whole record, but I think nowadays, it’s kind of more about the singular song.” For Levine, it’s a good change for the music world, and he believes that focus albums rather than singles will resurge in the future.

“In five years, I just hope we’re all living in a wonderful elated place where we are happy with our creative output and still very successful,” he states. When asked if he has any plans on going solo, he immediately answers with a negative: “I love being in my band.”

Already in a creative state of mind, Levine mentions that M5 is putting together new tracks and crafting another song presently. While unsure what they’re going to do with it in terms of releasing it as a single or waiting to put it on their next album, he does know he’s enjoying every second of being a part of M5 and helping the earth.

“You know, just to have the opportunity to get paid for what we love to do, and go on the road and have hundreds of thousands of fans like our music is just so exciting,” he says. “Being able to help the earth is definitely an added bonus!”

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