Train's Jimmy Stafford reflects on mainstream success

Jimmy Stafford (right) and his Train bandmates

Jimmy Stafford (right) and his Train bandmates

For over a decade, Train has been serenading romantic relationships with honest, passionate and melodic love songs. Their radio-friendly, recognizable, and absurdly catchy singles have led to continued mainstream success; Train just received a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance of their single "Hey, Soul Sister," a song we couldn't escape this year if we tried.

[jump] Not that long ago, Train had fallen off the circuit with a three year hiatus that ended in 2009. Many were starting to wonder if we would ever hear from them again, and then suddenly out of nowhere Save Me, San Francisco, their fifth studio album was released. With three fast climbing singles in rotation, there is now no shortage of Train.

This Friday evening will mark the last date in their current 18-month tour, and they'll be celebrating it right here in Minneapolis at the Varsity Theater. The exclusivity of the event, presented by Miller Genuine Draft and KS95 Radio Station, has made this event furiously popular -- or maybe it has something to do with the line-up of Plain White T's, Natasha Bedingfield, and Matt White. The only way to obtain tickets is to listen and win from Live 95, or pay upwards of $150 on Craigslist.

Gimme Noise had the chance to catch up with Jimmy Stafford (Train's guitarist) prior to their visit to the Twin Cities tonight.

You've maintained mainstream success for over 10 years. What does that feel like?

It's absolutely amazing. I mean, to have any relevance after this amount of time, and especially after taking a three year break like we did. We didn't even know that we were going to be a band still. And then to come back and have our biggest record and hit ever all the world, it's really special. We're having the best year of our career.

I know it shocked the hell out me, too! I remember when I heard you guys come back on the radio and I was like "wow, they're still out there!"

It's not that shocking! [laughing] I think a lot of people probably thought we were all gone away, but we've got a lot left in us. We feel like we're just starting, like this is a beginning for us.

I think it says something that you guys have still been together all this time. It's still the original line-up, right?

Yes, we're still the same three members. Myself, Pat and Scott Underwood. That was a part of some of the changes that we needed to make, we made those changes and now it's all good now.

Tell me about the line-up that you have here in Minneapolis with Natasha Bedingfield, Pain White T's, and Mike White?

It's an exclusive show, every December all the radio stations always put together these sort of shows, and they bring in their featured artists that they play a lot over the year. We're fortunate enough this year that we get invited to a lot of parties. So the whole month of December we've just been traveling around the country and doing these types of shows; I think Minneapolis is the final one on the calendar. We have played a few of them, like Plain White T's have been on a couple of them with us, and Mike Bosner has been on a couple of them with us too.

I know everyone here is super pumped about it because no one can get tickets.

Yeah. [Laughing] Well it should be a lot of fun, ya know we played that venue when we were touring in the early years with "Meet Virginia" and such. So it will be fun to go back there and do an acoustic Christmas show.

Just wait till you see the Varsity, it's been completely restored, and it's gorgeous.

Oh really! Well, it's going to cost the city a little bit more to restore that Metrodome! [Laughing]

Your single "Marry Me" has just come out, what is the muse behind that song?

I think it was just an idea that Pat had. I remember him writing that down on the last tour... The basic idea of the song and lyrically I just think that he is referring to that most men will fall in love like a number of times every day, with a woman on a sidewalk or a women in a café. And it's brief and fleeting, and I think he thought ya know, what if one of those times you just kind of went for it and go "Marry me." So that's kind of where the concept of that song came from. It's a beautiful sentiment and the song is really doing well for us, I think it's really like our quickest climbing song we've ever had. It's interesting at shows, men are starting to propose at our shows to that song, like you see it out in the crowd, sometimes Pat will actually bring them up on stage to do it in front of the audience. It's kind of catching on; I think it might be a big song around Valentine's Day.

Tell me about "Hey, Soul Sister" - who's the lucky gal that's about?

Well I don't think it's about any one particular lucky gal, it's more about, and it's based around a festival that happens annually in the desert called Burning Man. And I think Pat just had this vision of all these beautiful women just kind of dancing around the bonfire and it's just kind of a joyous celebration sort of song.

Do you think the hiatus helped with your energy to keep writing hit songs?

Without a doubt, I think without the hiatus we potentially wouldn't be a band right now. We were just kind of burnt out from the road, and on each other. It's just the way things were going, we needed a break. And we didn't know how long the break would be, but when it felt right to get back together and create music again, and when we felt like we wanted to be together and make music together... and enjoy it again. That's when we felt like we needed to make the necessary changes that we needed to make to get back together and do it. It's really been refreshing, and rejuvenating. The end result has been the biggest record we've had to date.

How do you think your music is going to mesh in with Plain White T's and Natasha Bedingfield?

Well, really good. You know, it's been interesting some of these radio shows that we've done, these Christmas shows. There's such a wide variety of music. I mean we've done shows with Justin Beiber in the past weeks. All kinds of different styles of great music, but there's a common thread of this, is there's a lot great music out there this year and a lot of these bands are super talented - so whether you're a Justin Beiber fan or a Train fan, the fans seem to appreciate a good song, the bottom line. And the shows we've done with Plain White T's, they're a nice melodic band so they mesh in really well with us.