Less Is More: After More Than a Decade, Train Still Makes It Happen

The band Train has been around the block, and then some. Back in the mid-1990s concertgoers may have known them as the guys who opened for the Dave Matthews Band, Collective Soul, Blues Traveler and Counting Crows.

But now in 2006, shortly after the release of its fourth album, "For Me, It's You," Train is the headliner.

What began in 1994 as two guys -- founders Pat Monahan and Rob Hotchkiss -- jamming with guitars in barely-there San Francisco coffeehouses, has evolved over the last decade into a chart-topping powerhouse with a diverse fan base. Case in point, its Yahoo fan club is led by members between the ages of 18 and 50.

And its new product is better than ever, more heartfelt, Monahan says. Much of the change is due to the rocky times he's faced over last few years. Between 2002 and 2005, Monahan divorced his wife, learned that a dear friend had committed suicide, and parted ways with two of Train's band members, Charlie Colin and Hotchkiss, the band's other founder.

"Just the change of relationships in my life played a big role in writing the music," Monahan says. "I guess everyone's on a different trip for different reasons, and we're all supposed to learn different things by it, and instead of being disappointed be inspired. That's what I'm going for."

Album sales indicate that fans believe Monahan's new music is worth following. "For Me, It's You" rose to the top 10 on the charts shortly after its January release.

The album includes two new band members, bassist Johnny Colt, previously with the Black Crowes, and keyboardist Brandon Bush, who used to tour with John Mayer and Shawn Mullins. Jimmy Stafford on guitar, Brandon Underwood on drums, and Monahan complete Train.

Monahan considers himself a lyricist first and foremost, while the other members compose most of the musical arrangements.

"All I can do is write music from my generation. I just write whatever is necessary to express myself, and I guess everyone seems to like it, from grandmothers to their grandchildren to my own children," Monahan says.

On The Road

Touring and endless "gigging" are part of what define the character of Train, Monahan says.

"Performing live is going to be a large part of this band's legacy, because so few bands from the time we started are still around," Monahan says. "When you look at bands like Aerosmith, there's a great deal of music in their repertoire, and a great deal of respect. I think we will be in that category."

The group hit the road after releasing its self-titled first album in 1998. Now, eight years later, Monahan is touring until October.

"I've been on the road forever," Monahan jokes. "Please help me!"

In addition to touring and performing, Monahan is the father of an 8-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son, who stay with his girlfriend while he travels.

"It was difficult those first few years, especially since in the beginning I had a son and was working every day painting houses, leaving every night to build a career in music playing small gigs," he says.

But though his music career keeps him moving, music also helps him connect to the family he loves and misses, he says.

The song "Skyscraper" on the newest album, he wrote specifically for his kids. And "Always Remember" is a tribute to the friend who took his own life last year.

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