Train's Pat Monahan Explains Some Of Their Most Iconic Lyrics
Now you'll finally know what a "drop of Jupiter" is.
You've no doubt belted out one of Train's megahits like "Drops of Jupiter" at late-night karaoke or while singing your heart out in the shower. But the Grammy-award winning band is back at it again with even more music, recently releasing their seventh album Bulletproof Picasso, and gearing up to hit the road this summer on their Picasso at the Wheel tour.
Frontman Pat Monahan recently stopped by BuzzFeed New York to chat all about the upcoming tour, and finally explain what some of those highly confusing but extremely iconic lyrics actually mean. Here's what went down.
"Drops of Jupiter"
Pat Monahan: "Drops of Jupiter" was written just after my mom had passed away, so the song came to me in a dream, literally. I fell asleep and woke up with this song in my head and went downstairs and wrote it all out and sang it into a Dictaphone. It's a story about my mother coming back after like swimming through the planets and finding her way through the universe, and coming back to tell me that heaven was overrated and [to] love this life, you know? That's what that was about.
What exactly is a drop of Jupiter?
PM: My mother, she was able to swim through planets and turn them into whatever she wanted — they didn't have to be what we know them to be. So she actually had Jupiter in her hair, when she was talking to me.
Is that how songs come to you in general, through dreams and experiences?
PM: No, that was like a magical song. I keep waiting for another one of those. It'd be sweet if I could write another "Drops of Jupiter." If any of you guys are holding hit songs, I'd love to get in on it. (laughs)
How long did it take you to write it?
PM: I wrote almost the whole thing in about a half hour, and then the next night when I was going to bed I went and finished it so that took about 20 minutes — less than an hour.
In the song you sing, "the best soy latte that you ever had." Was there an actual best latte?
PM: You know, I wasn't even drinking coffee at the time! But everybody in my band drank lattes and soy lattes, so it just was like a potentially great realistic portion of the song. I got heat about a few lyrics in that song from either my record company or the guy producing the track. "Soy latte" was definitely something that my producer wanted to get rid of, "fried chicken" my record company wanted to get rid of, and there may have been one other lyric that somebody wanted to change. But we didn't change any of them, and I'm really grateful for that.
"Hey Soul Sister"
PM: That song I wrote really quickly. That was like two hours — I wrote it with some friends in New York, and I had never been to Burning Man but everyone around me was going to Burning Man, and that song made me think of my wife dancing around this burning man. So the whole song was about Burning Man, and then we shot a video that had nothing to do with it. (laughs) So that's the idea of "Hey Soul Sister."
Has your wife been to Burning Man?
PM: No, but her family all go. We haven't gone because we have kids and we wanna go together, so we'll wait until our kids grow up.
The lyric, "I believe in you, like a virgin, you're Madonna. And I'm always gonna wanna blow your mind." Is that a comparison — are you comparing your wife to Madonna?
PM: Well, I wouldn't compare my wife to Madonna — I think Madonna is fine, but I think my wife is fucking awesome. So it was just what worked in the song, and I probably was actually thinking about Madonna, not the pop star. I think I was thinking of Mary, the mother of Lord Jesus. She was also a virgin like the pop star. But it's not religion, because I'm not religious at all. It just works, you know?
PM: You know, Virginia was a bunch of girls that I had met in San Francisco and they were real people, and Virginia was the name that came with that person — I don't know why. One of the main girls, her name was Amber. My wife's name is Amber too, but this other girl was dating my original bass player and we were playing softball against a few of the guys from the Counting Crows cause they were a Bay Area band originally too. So my bass player's girlfriend comes from some like wedding shower, and she's wearing a really long dress and high heels, and she goes out and plays shortstop and kicks ass. So it was like, she was wearing high heels and exercising and it was just so weird that it had to be written about. So that's what "Meet Virginia" is about, a bunch of different people.
Do you meet fans all the time that are like, "I'm Virginia!"
PM: Yeah, yeah. Virginia, the first 10 years of our career, every girl that was named Virginia, or Ginny, or whatever version of that name was, would say, "I'm her! You wrote the song about me!" It's less like that now just because, you know, I think we've been a band so long that most of those women are dead. (laughs)
"Calling All Angels"
PM: I have a therapist named Judy Bell in the Bay Area and she is just really terrific — she just really helped me become a grown-up, and in the process she helped me start to understand that in a process of work you have to stop sometimes and congratulate yourself, or you just get caught up in it all and it's never rewarding. I was stuck in that place, so she would make me stand up and like take bows in front of her, and she would clap and everything, and she said, "Just remember that we are made up of angels and traitors, and the angel is the one that says, 'You're beautiful and you can do anything you want,' and the traitor is the one that says, 'You're ugly and you can't get anything right.'" And so that song just came from that conversation of, if we all called our angels, what a cool life this would be for all of us.
What did you mean in the lyric "I need to know that things are gonna look up / 'Cause I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup"?
PM: You know, a sea spilled from a cup is kind of the idea of big problems always starting small. And so one little lie turns into 10, and then, you know, you build a life out of a house of cards, and then all of a sudden somebody blows it over some day.
And what about: "When children have to play inside so they don't disappear / While private eyes solve marriage lies 'cause we don't talk for years / And football teams are kissing queens"?
PM: News and children disappearing and terrible things happening, that's just literal. And then hiring private eyes because we don't talk for years, pretty literal. And then, I was watching the news and I saw that these great soccer players in the U.K. were — the queen is so massively important, the royal family is such a tradition, and they love their queen, and I found that to be ironic. I found that to be kind of strange that still after all this time they wouldn't just say, "We're gonna come and get all the shit outta your house and you're gonna have to go get a job." So that's what that was all about — I find tradition to be super cool and beautiful, but also it can get in life's way, you know?
PM: "Drive By" was about meeting my wife and quickly falling in love, and being really scared about that because I was like, Man, I am not sure if this is a good idea — that something like this would happen so quickly. Because I think generally when you're looking for something big you're not gonna find it, and when you're not looking for that thing it's gonna probably show up and get you. And so, "Drive By" was all about realizing that I have to not worry about it and just let it be what it is.
What did you mean when you said, "Just a shy guy looking for a two-ply Hefty bag to hold my love"?
PM: So, back in the day, I worked at a restaurant called Henry's in Erie, Pennsylvania. I'm friends with the guy that owned it and he lives in Denver now — so, Mark, if you're seeing this, I wanna just say I'm so sorry. We would steal beer out of your refrigerator, and we would put it in garbage bags and put it in garbage bins filled with garbage. And then we would take it out, put it in the dumpster, and then we would go get the beer when you went home. And then we would go to parties together and drink that beer of yours. And I remember meeting one of the waitresses' husbands and he was like this really big, beautiful, awesome black man. I was just not gonna talk to anyone at this party because everybody was intimidating, and he came up to me and he just goes, "Shy guy." And I was like, man, I wish that was my name because he made it seem so cool. And so I really was a shy guy at those parties, but he was so cool to me and that's where "Shy Guy" came from. And then you know, when you have love for somebody, you can probably fill up a Hefty bag full of it. And then Hefty sent us a bunch of garbage bags. I was hoping that would work out with the song "Cadillac, Cadillac," but...you know.
PM: You know I wrote that song on my kitchen counter in front of my wife, because I had this melody and an idea. And I'm a terrible guitar player, but I figured out how I wanted to play it and had this first verse and this chorus and I just wanted it to be that. It was about 52 seconds, and then I sent it to my manager and he was like, "OK, you gotta finish it" and I was like, "Nah, I think it's good. I think that's what's cool about this is it's 52 seconds. And he was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you're gonna finish it because it's gonna be three minutes and it's gonna be an important part of people's lives 'cause it's cool." And then the first person to make me feel like it really was that was Martina McBride and her husband, John. They wanted it on Martina's album and had me sing it, and they became dear friends of mine and that was a proud moment for me.
"50 Ways to Say Goodbye"
PM: It was just a gag about a girl breaking up with a boy and being just so immature that the only way to handle it was just to tell your friends that she's dead. Which makes sense...