Train bandleader Pat Monahan is making no secret of his love for California these days. There's the group's irresistible sing-along smash "Save Me, San Francisco," as well as Train's latest album California 37, which also happens to be the name of the new cabernet sauvignon from their Save Me, San Francisco wine company. But until recently, the Grammy winner and "Hey, Soul Sister" purveyor had been residing a fair distance from his Bay Area stomping grounds — and for very good reason.
"I just needed to leave San Francisco for a while," explains Monahan, who'd relocated to Seattle. "A friend of mine killed himself years ago and I had a really awful marriage, so with those two things combined I had to get away for a bit. But now it's time to come back — I actually have a place in the Presidio now, and I'm gonna rent it first and see if I wanna live there. And the reason I like the Presidio so much is that I'm such a big fan of Marin, and I really love Mill Valley, which are waiting there just across the Golden Gate Bridge."
San Francisco's Presidio neighborhood also affords Monahan close access to Train's latest strange undertaking, which started as a little joke he told a journalist. Commenting on how much he loved chocolate, he quipped that he'd be getting in touch with S.F.'s signature Ghirardelli company soon. Surprise! Ghirardelli contacted him, excited by the Train-candy prospect.
"So now we have three chocolate bars coming out, via Save Me, San Francisco — a 72-percent chocolate, a dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds, and another one that they sent us to sample in this little foil package. And it looked like they'd sent us some hash! That one is called Cabernet, and it tastes incredible — like chocolate grape juice."
Ironically enough, Monahan's enthusiasm for San Francisco is reigniting just when it's time to head back on the road. "The good and bad of having a record that people actually like is that you end up having to be away most of the time," he sighs.
California 37 — the band's sixth album whose tracks were all co-penned by Monahan — is no exception. Since its April release, it's spawned more hummable hits like the Top 10 "Drive By" and "50 Ways to Say Goodbye," whose video stars, of all people, David Hasselhoff.
In retrospect, Monahan believes his time away from the Bay Area wasn't necessarily a good thing. He issued a solo record, Last of Seven, in 2010, and believes he lost sight of what was important, especially the camaraderie of Train.
"I was really not loving being a member of a band — I wanted to be the fucking guy," he reflects. "But I realized that the sum of the whole is much greater than its parts, and to have a 40- or 50-year career, you have to be a decent human being, to the core. So my goal now is to be a decent person, take care of Train's fans with what I do, and be as close to them as I can be ... I want to take care of those people because they really mean a lot to me."