Train moves full steam ahead

The frontman Pat Monahan speaks to Saeed Saeed about healing powers of the hit Hey, Soul Sister

Pat Monahan performs the song Mermaid with audience members during the du World Music Festival. Duncan Chard for The Nationa
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Speaking backstage before Train's du World Music Festival performance, the frontman Pat Monahan talks to Saeed Saeed about the healing powers of their hit Hey, Soul Sister and the band's next album

You are quite the festival draw card here in Dubai. You also headlined the Dubai Jazz Festival a few years back.

That was a great experience and it is an honour to play in this part of the world. It just proves that I don't know what to expect anymore. The song Drive By was number one in Beirut for three months. That was pretty amazing. We have been wanting to do a proper tour of the Middle East for many years. At the moment, we don't have time to do many things until October.

Train is back after a three-year hiatus from 2005 to 2008. How important was that break?

We needed to be away from each other. We also lost touch with our fans and why we were doing this. Having it taken away from you is sometimes what people need to realise what they had. We spent 10 years being mad at everybody for being bigger and better, from Oasis to Coldplay and a lot of American bands. We focused on what we didn't have instead of being grateful for what we do have.

Then again, one can argue the band's anger was what caused you to self-fund your debut album after being rejected by record labels.

We were desperate the first time and I think we have some of that desperation back. But now our goal is to create our Pet Sounds album next. We need our Led Zeppelin IV, the album that creates a moment where people say: 'Without that record they are not that band.'

The two albums you mentioned are the type you listen to in one whole sitting. Would that be tough for Train since you guys are known for producing killer singles?

The singles do overshadow the albums but that is the case with everything right now. Albums have really lost their romance. I don't even know if people will still be making albums by the time we do our next one. That's why I really feel we need to do that great album. If we try to do what's popular, we will fail. We are not that band that is capable of keeping up with the cool.

Is that what made Hey, Soul Sister such a big hit? That it's just a fun pop song?

The song is the most satisfying moment of my life. I had been divorced from the woman who took all of the (previous hit single) Drops of Jupiter money and left me with nothing, basically. There was also a sense of my old band mates that left the group, my ex-wife and many other people in my life who thought they hadn't been successful without me. So for Soul Sister to eclipse all that we have ever done, everyone went: 'Oh, no, they can do it without me.' It is very satisfying.

In the live shows the band uses Hey, Soul Sister to invite the crowd to the stage for a singalong. The fans, particularly the children on stage, always seem to let their hair down and enjoy performing it live with the boys. How does that feel?

You know, years ago, a woman told me I am a healer. I didn't understand that at the time. But now we are hearing lots of stories of autistic children responding to Soul Sister in a way that is overwhelming.

One story made a huge impact on me: there was a 5-year-old who hadn't talked ever and his parents had given up hope of him speaking. One night they could hear in the other room some singing. They went to the living room and watched their son sing every word to Hey, Soul Sister. That was the first thing they ever heard him speak in his life. Whatever magic is in that song, I am just glad it helped all those kids.

Train's latest album, California 37, is out now through Sony Music Middle East

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