Drops of Jupiter

Train

Drops of Jupiter

When Train delivered their second LP to then Columbia Records president Don Ienner in 2000, they thought the album was finished—it wasn’t. “The fact is, we’d written a record that didn't have a big first single,” frontman Pat Monahan tells Apple Music. “I think we were hurt by it. It's like bringing a girl or a guy home to your parents and having them just be like, ‘Dude, no. I can't say yes to this.’”
Months passed and Monahan—still grieving the loss of his mother a year earlier—was struggling to come up with anything that might expand upon the relatively modest success of 1999’s “Meet Virginia,” his San Francisco pop-rock outfit’s first breakthrough. The pressure was immense. But then, it happened: “I fell asleep one night,” he says, “and I woke up and wrote ‘Drops of Jupiter’ in 15 minutes. I demoed it the next day, was called to a meeting at Columbia that was basically Donnie Ienner telling me that I needed to start working with professional songwriters. I said, ‘Before I do that, can you listen to this demo?’ He did, and he said, ‘This is the song of the year, man.’”
Inspired by a dream Monahan had that night, in which his mother came home with impressions of an afterlife amongst the stars and planets, “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” would—with the added lift of skyscraping string arrangements from Elton John and David Bowie collaborator Paul Buckmaster—meet those expectations. It was a four-minute ballad that felt worlds away from the insurgent rock of The White Stripes and The Strokes at the time, one whose blockbuster scale and natural warmth turned Train into Grammy-winning global stars. But “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” was also an outlier, a moment of inspiration that both defined and eclipsed everything else they had recorded up until that point. They’d paid tribute to Jeff Buckley (“Mississippi”) and The Beatles (“Something More,” the album’s original title track), while Monahan explored fantasies (“She’s on Fire”) and fears (“Hopeless”) that stemmed from his failing marriage and an uncertain future. “‘Drops of Jupiter’ was so big that it just consumed the entire album,” he says. “There was no chance for the other songs. But I think of that album as healing for me. I was in a terrible relationship and very stressed out—not what I’d been hoping to live my life as. It took me that record and another to get through that before I started to move forward.” Here, Monahan takes us inside some key songs on the album.
She’s on Fire “It was a fantasy song for me. I was married early and I had children early, and so when we were out on tour, I was a very sober parent in a very loveless marriage. I would fantasize about wouldn't it be amazing if either, A, I wasn’t married, or, B, if I was happily married? ‘She’s on Fire’ was like, ‘This is the person that would be amazing to be with.’ And my reward, after all of these things, is that I finally did meet that girl, and she's my wife and has been for 13 years. I've kind of written my future, I guess.”
Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) “When the song came out, the internet was pretty fresh, and so I got a lot of hate mail for the first time, saying, ‘Fuck you. Van Halen's my favorite band.’ And I was like, ‘I don't even know what you're talking about.’ But they thought I was singing ‘Van Halen is overrated’ instead of ‘And that heaven is overrated.’ So that was a highlight in my career.”
Hopeless “We had been touring so much, and I was just sad a lot. I remember sitting in the back of the van—we weren't even in buses then—and just crying. I have children that need their father. I lost my mother. I was a house painter before, and I had my own business—I was pretty ambitious in every way—but I was making far more money painting than being out on the road. It took me a while to not look at a room and think about how much time it would take me to paint it. I'm in the Staples Center going, ‘Okay, give me three weeks and five guys.’”
Something More “The entire album—and the following album [2003’s My Private Nation], too—is apologies. Thinking that if I just went home, that maybe my life would be good, maybe my marriage would be good and everything would be happy. Drops of Jupiter was all that—just getting my baggage out in the open so I could try to sort it.”
Mississippi “At the time that we were touring that first album [1998’s Train], we were listening to a lot of Jeff Buckley's Grace. When Jeff Buckley died in the Mississippi River [in 1997], he was on his way to making his second record. He had an impact on us, and so that song is like a love song, about the fact that such a beautiful artist was lost in a beautiful river. It was a tragedy.”

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