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People don't listen to full albums anymore: Jimmy Stafford

Jimmy Stafford, the lead guitarist of popular American Rock band Train thinks so, as he opens up about the band’s journey so far, and their newest record, Bulletproof Picasso

Train’s success story could well be a well-executed action plan you might find in a book, titled A Guide To Becoming A Global Music Icon.

Train’s lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford
Train’s lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford

No tales of a big break by a record company at a first gig or a game-changing tour deal with a patron-promoter here. This American band’s real milestones were lacklustre and humble, even dampening if you will —playing at local clubs, getting rejected by Columbia Records and consequently, self-funding their debut album.

Clearly, the band didn’t believe in leaving anything to chance or luck. When their first record came out in 1998, they managed to make America dance to their tunes.

Free and Meet Virginia became radio favourites in no time. With their second offering, Drops Of Jupiter in 2002, featuring the almost-cult title song, they were already on their way to realising a hardworking rock band’s biggest dream; they won two Grammy Awards that year.

The Hey Soul Sister band — which currently comprises Pat Monahan (vocals), Jimmy Stafford (lead guitar), Hector Maldonado (bass), Jerry Becker (rhythm guitar and piano), and Drew Shoals (drums) — recently released its seventh album, Bulletproof Picasso.

It carries forward the rockers’ musical legacy of catchy lyrics, hummable tunes and distinctly groovy arrangements. In a freewheeling telephonic chat, Stafford spoke to the guide about this new record, touring India and being labelled sell-outs.

Q. How was the experience of working on Bulletproof Picasso?
A. Putting together an album is a frightening experience. There’s pressure to do well. It’s daunting to outdo ourselves with every new album; we have to question ourselves whether we can do this or not. But then we try and paint a picture of what we want from it (the album) and as the work begins, things start to get exciting. We really enjoyed this one.

Q. In this digital age, most artistes are choosing to release singles rather than compilations. What do you make of this trend?
A. As a band, we love working on albums. But honestly, I don't know how the album format will survive in the coming years, because people don’t listen to full albums anymore. When a record comes out, they download only their favourite songs. My 14-year-old daughter listens to music only online; she doesn’t even watch TV anymore.

Q. Is it difficult to keep up with advancing social media to ensure that your fans are interested in your music?
A. It’s not that difficult. Twitter and Facebook is fun for us; we’re a fan-friendly band. They’re like family to us. Social media has brought us closer to them.

Q. Is there any challenge you’ve had to face despite having made it big?
A. During our early days, we were known as an adult Rock band. After the release of Hey soul sister, we became a worldwide band. Our audience became younger, but we were also called sell-outs.

Q. You have quite a fan following in India. Are you planning to visit anytime soon?
A. We’ve been talking about an India visit for years. Next year might just be that year. We are really keen to come. If a big show comes up in India, we’ll definitely play there.

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