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Adam Levine on The Voice, the Art of Karaoke, and Getting Naked in Public

Photo: Splash News
Adam Levine. Photo: Splash News

Like his fellow judges on NBC’s hit singing competition The Voice, Adam Levine has been enjoying a renewed (or maybe just new, if you weren’t a Maroon 5 fan) postshow relevancy. He and his bandmates just released the video for “Moves Like Jagger,” a collaboration with Voice pal Christina Aguilera; he just announced plans to produce a karaoke sitcom for NBC; and come the fall, he’ll attempt to defend his judging crown on the second season of The Voice. Vulture caught up over the phone with Levine, who’s currently on tour with Maroon 5, to discuss The Voice, his karaoke practice, and his habit of getting undressed in public.

Congratulations on The Voice, and on winning.
Thank you.

Have you been in touch with Javier since the show ended?
Oh yeah, I talk to him all the time. We played a show in Connecticut last night, and we texted each other to see how things were going, and I’m definitely interested in what he’s doing right now. Because obviously it’s a crucial time for him, and I want to kind of help him along, as I would with anyone I cared about. I care about everyone who was on the show.

I know you and Blake in particular had a special relationship. He was a nice surprise for a lot of people (Vulture included) from the show. Were you already familiar with him?
No, it was cool. I went through the same thing. I think a lot of America knows who Blake is; I think it was just the cityfolk who didn’t really know who he was, because he’s such a big country artist. He’s such a good guy. That’s something about the show — it’s so nice when there’s something genuine on television. I didn’t really like singing competitions until I signed up for the show. But it’s nice to have a show that feels real. Everything that happened on the show was genuine and in the moment. People really cared about each other.

Let me ask you a little bit about the karaoke show you’re producing. Are you actually a karaoke fan?
I’m a huge karaoke fan. The whole idea for the show was born out of this specific place in Los Angeles that me and my roommate Gene Hong, who is the creator, co-executive producer of the show — it was kind of like our Cheers. It was our spot where we would all meet up and sing songs. So we had this great idea, this would be an amazing way to kind of appropriate that old, simple format of a television show. And that’s what made Cheers so amazing. And we’re not trying to compare ourselves too much to that show, but it does take place in a bar, and it is kind of like that. But it’s so cool, because we have the right people involved: NBC is doing it which is amazing; Jake Kasdan is incredible, I’ve been a huge fan of his since Freaks and Geeks. Well see, it’s still obviously a ways to go, but I love everyone’s enthusiasm about it.

So was it a private-room karaoke place, or are you all in one room?
No, it was a very big Cheers-esque bar, where everything is out in the open. This place, it was a real watering hole for us. All of our friends would get together there and celebrate any occasion. And that was what this place was.

And do you still karaoke?
I still love going to karaoke. It’s a blast.

Do you have any go-tos?
Some. It’s nice now because I can cut my way up to the front of the line. I used to have to wait for hours. But yeah, I like singing Marvin Gaye, I like singing Al Green, I like singing the old soul classics.

Some people get very particular about their karaoke practice. Do you have any rules?
Yeah. Karaoke is — there are unique and individual approaches to the art form that is karaoke.

What’s yours?
We can’t impose our own beliefs on others as far as karaoke is concerned. I like to stick to my go-tos. I like to know I’m going to sway. I like to be very focused. Every once in a while, I’ll try branching out, and it will just be a mess.

Can you give me an example?
Long solos, bad move. Don’t want to do karaoke with songs that have long extended solos because you’re just sitting there like an asshole, waiting for the 16 or 32 bars to finish so you can come back in. That’s bad, bad news. You don’t want that. So you want it to be as seamless as possible — you get a song that just kind of flows through, and all of the sudden it’s over. Two and a half, three minutes, you’re in and out, the crowd doesn’t even know what happened to them. But, you know, when you do a Guns N’ Roses song, you got at least a minute of Slash. You gotta take that into account. You’re going to need to do some serious theatrical stuff to offset the guitar solos. You gotta think about this shit.

That’s all very wise. Do you ever do duets?
It depends how drunk I get. But yes, I have a side project called Adam Le-Gene — Gene is my roommate — we do an array of Run DMC tunes that we always destroy.

Oh, interesting. Are they rehearsed beforehand? Or is that really only in the drunk moment?
No, we go in the moment. That’s definitely right before they close. If we just want to bring it to a whole different place. If we stick around, and we decide that it’s time, we look at each other, and that’s it.

It’s important to have someone to do that with.
It is. Gene and I have been known to tear shit up.

About the “Moves Like Jagger” video — obviously there were a bunch of Mick Jagger impersonators, but it didn’t look like you were attempting to do any of the Jagger moves yourself?
No, I thought the song is already an homage to Mick Jagger, so I kind of felt the need to be myself even more. In the spirit of Jagger, I did maybe slightly more flamboyant movements, and things, like, got a little more naked, and maybe I flailed around a little more than I normally would in order to get in the spirit of it. But I didn’t want to be an impersonator. I didn’t want to try to mimic Mick Jagger so much as I wanted to just be myself. I wanted to hold my own as much as I possibly could.

Speaking of shirtlessness, I was also going to ask about the cancer PSA you did. You seem pretty comfortable getting naked in public?
Strangely comfortable. I don’t know why.

Do you have to get into any sort of mental place? What kind of preparation goes into that?
No. You know what, it’s so weird. I don’t really care about — I mean obviously showing my … my stuff is different. Showing the world your penis is a lot different than posing almost naked. But I don’t know, I’ve just never really been particularly shy about that. I don’t know what it is. Makes me kind of strange. People think I’m out of my mind. But it doesn’t bother me. It feels pretty natural, and I don’t mind. Shit, I’m not going to be young forever. I might as well. I don’t know, seems like it makes sense. It’s fun. I have to be told to put on clothes in my own home when people come over. That’s how bad it gets. Not clothes as in I’m walking around naked, but I just don’t like clothes.

Fair enough. I think that’s all I have — thanks very much for the karaoke tips.
Please just make me look cool.

Related: Mick Jagger Is Now Lending His Street Cred to Maroon 5
Which Judge on The Voice Has Benefited the Most From the Show’s Success?

Adam Levine on The Voice, the Art of Karaoke, and Getting Naked in Public