Welcome to Influencers!
Today, we have with us Jesse. For those of you who were listening last episode, there were several hints to suggest who Jesse is. He is in the music industry and is part of a band that may or may not have sold more records than Pearl Jam. And as a hint, Queen Elizabeth and her family has something to do with his middle or core.
Then, the second interview is anonymous. If you can figure out who it is before we reveal it in the following podcast, you could win a coveted invitation to the Influencer Salon.
Listen To The Podcast Here:
Pitfalls To Be Ready For In the Music Industry with Jesse Carmichael
Welcome back, listeners. I hope some of you have figured out who Jesse is. Just in case, Jesse, why don’t you introduce yourself?
My name is Jesse Royal Carmichael. I am a musician living in Los Angeles, California. I play in the band Maroon 5 and I work on music on the side as well.
You have a project, right?
I got a couple of side projects. One is something I do mainly by myself, which I call 1863. That is just an open-ended, free-collaborating project that I like to make music under the name and with different people. There’s no specific style for that side project. Then I have an electronic music side project with two other friends of mine and we call ourselves The Circuit Jerks. We play modular synthesizers.
For those of you who have never heard Jesse perform, he is an incredible musician. I had the pleasure of hearing him play piano in his home once and I was literally blown away. You’re so used to hearing a finished album and product but rarely do get to hear an artist just riff and do some work. It was really inspiring. Thank you for letting me sit in on that.
When people discover what you do, what’s their most common question?
“What’s Adam like?” It really is probably the most common question. Or, “Where’s Adam? Can you tell Adam this for me?”
I guess you get to enjoy the ideal version of fame, which is that you get to work on the craft that you love at a global scale and you still get to live a really normal life, don’t you?
I agree. That combination is so incredible and I really am super grateful for it.
You can walk down the street or go out to dinner. We walked around Comic-Con, we just had a blast. But if Adam were to walk around Comic-Con, he’d have to have a security team of five protecting him.
Yeah, it’s a totally different experience for him to walk around in the world and it is intense, I know. Everywhere he goes somebody wants to talk to him or look at him or take a picture of him. He’s nonstop bombarded with that energy. I think he’s done an amazing job of navigating that space and remaining normal with just the right amount of defenses up.
Besides the stuff about Adam, people usually ask us questions about what it’s like to travel around the world the way we do. That’s an amazing part of our lives. We get to see so many different countries up close and personal in a really nice way where people are welcoming us everywhere we go. It makes the world feel really friendly, which is such a wonderful contrast to what we’re presented with in the news all the time.
There’s a famous Nobel laureate by the name of Dan Kahneman. I heard this anecdote that he was asked if there was one idea that if everybody was aware of it would change the way we relate it to our lives, what would it be? He said that if people understood that whatever is in front of them will seem disproportionately common and disproportionately important, it will change everything. We think that when we hear about violence in the news or tornadoes or whatever it is, that these things are really common. They are actually not. Overwhelmingly at my experience too, it’s different, I’m obviously not a celebrity, but when I travel, people are really gracious and open up their homes and welcome me in and if I’m ever in trouble or anything, really take care of me. I think that there’s this general misperception of the world that it’s a dangerous place.
I agree with you in terms of the frequency. There are a lot of dangerous things happening in the world it seems today. I’m really cognizant of that. I don’t want to pretend that the world is just all rainbows and butterflies.
I’m assuming that there are a lot of people who want to get into your industry. Everybody wants to be a rock star. My hunch is there are also probably a lot of pitfalls that they aren’t aware of. Could you share a few things that you’ve learned in your tenure in the industry?
It’s been an amazing time to be in the music industry for the timeline that our band has been around for. We’ve seen a big change when the digital music world on the internet rose up. It really changed the music industry. The album sales have gone down but at the same time ticket sales have gone up. We’re definitely in a more fan-band relationship, friendly world these days where the most important thing for us right now is our fans coming to see us live. I guess we were lucky. When we first started back in 1997, we were collecting people’s email addresses for a mailing list about future shows. Then we would personally go through that email list and write emails to everyone about our next San Diego show or wherever we were going to come through again.
During that change, we’ve seen a lot of things come up with artists getting offered these 360 deals where a corporation will offer them a contract in return for not just a share of the record sales but a cut of the touring profits and the merchandise profits and everything that the band does. It’s interesting to see the industry shift to take care of itself by tapping into these money sources at the same time that those have always been the ways that the bands really made their money. Bands really didn’t ever make their money from selling albums. Those are some financial things.
In terms of other pitfalls, there’s the relationship side of things, which is super important in terms of making the band dynamic a priority in terms of keeping a marriage happy. It’s all about compromise and communication and acceptance and humility and the pitfalls of ego. Drugs, women or men, and personal ego battles are the big three problem areas I’ve seen so many bands break up over. Not even break up but just lose the harmony internally. Suddenly, they’re in situations where they don’t talk to each other and they ride in separate buses or they don’t get along. Look at The Beatles, the best example of all the best and the worst things about band dynamics.
One of the things that I always bring up is no matter what you’re doing, the most important thing is the people you surround yourself with. I assume to make it as a band, you’ve got to plug in at least, what do you think? Most careers seem like they take at least 7 to 10 years to do anything really good.
It certainly took that long for our band to make it, but we got an early start.
Are there any secrets in the industry nobody really talks about?
I’m sure there are, so yes. I can’t think of any right now.
You’re holding out, you’re keeping them a secret. Impressive, Carmichael. Very good. I could see why you guys have lasted so long.
One secret is the origin of our band name, which we don’t tell anybody. The only person that we’ve ever told was when Adam traded that secret information to Billy Joel at a restaurant when he met him once in exchange for the truth about a garbled lyric that you couldn’t really understand that Billy Joel yelled out in one of his songs right before a musical moment. Adam told him he would tell him the origin of our band name because Billy Joel asked, I guess. That was the only transgression of our sacred oath to never tell the story of the origins of Maroon 5.
I’m sure that the fan sites and boards are probably full of theories. Can you say if anybody has ever gotten it right?
No. No one has ever guessed the actual, shocking origins of the band name.
Was there a certain favorite moment on one of your tours? I know you talked about being on Saturday Night Live was a big highlight because your single went to number one that day. Were there any other wild moments that maybe even felt like they were surreal?
Yes, so much of what we’ve experienced has felt surreal. We started touring in a van and we graduated to an RV which we called the RV Cartel. Slowly started at adding on more personnel to help the band on tour, tour crew and finally got into a bus and started to play bigger shows. I remember when John Mayer took our band out. The first time we played in arena with him, that was an incredible experience. To look out at 10,000 people for the first time was just amazing.
You used to open for John Mayer?
Yes, we’ve opened up for so many bands. Starting back in 2002 when Nikka Costa took us out for the first time. She’s an incredible artist. Then we went out with the Counting Crows and Train and John Mayer and Sheryl Crow. Then we started to do our headlining stuff and started to finally have bands coming out to open up for us. All those moments were incredible. When we sold out our first big places, just to see all of our fans out there was incredible, and still is. Touring has gotten continually more and more fun as time has gone on, for me at least. I know it’s not always the case for everybody. I think that it’s just gotten more and more amazing.
I know that you’re always reading something. I notice that you’re a real student continuously. Are there certain books that have influenced you or that really inspire you?
Yeah, all the time. Right now, I’m reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography and that is an incredible book. His first chapter is a sermon in church. Literally, the first time I read the first chapter of this book I was alone at night. I stood up and cheered at the end, like it was totally an involuntary reaction. I’m reading a book of short stories by Murakami right now that just came out. It’s called Men Without Women. He’s an incredible author. All the novels of him that I’ve read have been really powerful experiences. They’re dimension bending. They work their way into my dreams. Probably one of my favorite books of all time is Dune, the science fiction masterpiece.
Do you have a hero?
I have a lot of heroes. Maybe it would just depend on what realm of life we were talking about. The first one that popped in my mind just then was in the film world, Richard Linklater. He’s one of my heroes and what he’s done with his movies is so broad and so powerful. He directed a movie called Slacker. That was one of his first big movies. It’s an incredible surrealist random passing through different people’s lives in Austin, Texas movie. Full of wisdom and funny stuff as well. Then he did a couple of movies. He did Dazed and Confused, which was a huge movie for Adam and I in particular in high school, that really changed the course of our lives. Then he did that incredible series with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy where there were three movies at the span of the course of time many years apart and they kept coming back to the same characters. Then he did Boyhood, which was that awesome film experiment where they filmed for I think thirteen years. This group of actors, watching them changed over time, also with Ethan Hawke. I love movies so much, equally as much as I love music.
Do you think you’re going to direct at any point?
Yeah. I have started to work on shooting things and editing things. Mainly, I have been practicing just putting music to them because I’m interested in getting into film scoring more because that marries my two favorite worlds together.
Imagine you somehow get an email from a complete stranger. They figured out in whichever way what your email address is. They want to meet for coffee. What would they have said in the email that would actually get you to leave your house and meet this person?
There would have to be a clear communication of stability or just safety in the wording. I wouldn’t want to get mired in something strange which is out there. Our band, all of us have gotten some weird letters in the past. Certain people will comment on my Instagram page long passages about what they think about, for example, Adam’s personal life. I just think, “Why are you writing this on my Instagram page over and over on every picture I post?” It speaks to me of some imbalance in their thinking. I would be weary of anything like that.
To answer directly what would actually make me want to go talk to them, I suppose it would just be a feeling of kindredness with the person, if I could relate to what they were saying in a way that made me think, “This is how I feel about this thing,” and if they were asking for something, like advice or I don’t know. It depends on what they were saying. Maybe they would just say, “Do you want to grab coffee?” so we can have a moment like in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life where we just sit and think about how every moment in life could be a totally sacred moment, like a wow, tears come to your eyes moment. Actually, if they reference Waking Life or Slackers and said, “Come meet me here.” It’s something that a character in a Richard Linklater movie would do, I would be like, “Okay.”
You’ve got to watch out. The listeners are going to somehow figure out how to get in touch with you. It’s going to be all over your Instagram. I know that you’re a person that has a very strong moral compass. When we have conversations, I know that you’ve gotten involved with everything from illegal harvesting of trees to also standing rock, we had a conversation about. Is there something that you’re really focused on right now?
What’s on my mind right now is the latest news of Trump pulling America out of the Paris Climate Agreement and it just blows my mind. I watched the John Oliver Special on this situation. To see the recorded footage of Trump talking about the Paris Climate Agreement, it just blew my mind. It’s so foreign from the way I think about the world. It’s like listening to something that I just cannot understand. It’s sad to me that it’s possible in our world right now for financial interest to take precedent over common sense and these ideas of how we’re all sharing this planet together. We literally cannot separate things like pollution in the air or the ocean from country to country. We have to work together.
The fact that America now is no longer a part of this voluntary agreement and is only one of three other countries that are not a part of it, of all the countries in the entire world: the US and Syria and Nicaragua now who are not a part of the Paris Climate Agreement. Syria has got their civil war situation going on and Nicaragua didn’t sign up because they thought it didn’t go far enough. Those are the two other countries on the far ends of the extreme. Can’t deal with it and I want it to be actually more comprehensive. America is the largest pollution emitter, at certain points we were. I’m not sure where we stand right now. Anyway, we’re a big country in terms of pollution and also in terms of our ability to lead. It’s just disappointing to think that we don’t have a leader right now who is speaking to those ideas of progressive thinking and kindness.
I think what’s even more interesting is you said from an economic standpoint but it’s not even from an economic standpoint.
It seemed from all economic indicators that it was good for the national economy as a whole to invest into alternative energy sources. Also, that’s where the future of jobs are. We don’t have any use for coal.
Just as a side note, let’s not even call them alternative energy sources. We can call them specifically as sustainable energy sources but I don’t like to perpetuate the idea that they are like fringe.
You’re absolutely right. The best part was that the coal museum installed solar panels. I’m not sure if you saw that article but it was like, “It’s just a cheaper, more efficient way.”
It just makes sense. We’ve seen that China has been closing coal plants and creating solar industries for people in their country. John Oliver had a great line where he said, “It turns out that Trump is actually making good on his campaign promise to bring millions of jobs to the people but it’s just actually not the people of America that are getting them.”
I often ask guests to share a human secret. Something that’s just a bit more personal and I’ll explain why, which is that it’s easy for somebody to see the success of a Nobel laureate or an Olympic medalist and assume that once you’ve achieved that, life’s easy. The fact is that just because you get to work on a craft that you love and you get attention for it in a positive way, doesn’t mean that you don’t still have kids that drive you crazy or get into arguments with your friends. There’s all these very human stuff. Some people have shared that they struggle with anxiety, that they struggle with bouts of depression. They literally opened up on wonderful things. If you feel comfortable sharing something, that would be wonderful.
I am fully interested in doing that because I have had my own experiences of hearing from people who seem like they have reached a certain level in their careers that it’s still not a feeling like they’re done and I can sit back and rest. Or, like you said, that life is suddenly just perfect. I feel like I’m continually striving to find a better relationship with life and with the things that I care about, like music and relationships with people. It’s never over. I think of life as just one never ending school session where there are constantly new semesters and new classes to take and new friends to make. Personally, I am still working on so many things in my life. I have a lot of optimism about life and I think that things can get better. That’s what I’m focusing on right now in my own life.
You would think that at some point, things were just settled but it still feels like I’m getting to know myself at 38 years old. I’m working to make peace with myself internally, and that includes things like my childhood traumas and my parents’ lives and their childhood traumas and their parents’. Looking back through generations, that’s what I’m thinking about a lot these days. We’ve had generations and generations of people who had to just survive. It’s rare for somebody who have the ability in life to not focus on the basic things in life in terms of making enough money to survive and shelter. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is really interesting where it goes from the bottom of the pyramid with the most elemental things working their way up to the smaller parts of the pyramid, which have to do with things like self-realization. I feel really lucky that I don’t have to worry as much about those lower tiers of the needs. What I found though is that the other tiers are just as difficult to navigate.
I really can relate to this. First of all, there’s this conversation in our culture that everybody should be doing what they love with their life, which puts a lot of pressure on people. The idea that we could even enjoy what we do with our life is only something we’ve discussed for about 150 years. Most of human existence has barely been getting by. There were points where we almost went extinct as a species.
Right and we’re still in that same position where a lot of people are just getting by and we’re also on the brink of extinction.
This time, we created the issue, but yeah.
If you’re willing to believe that stuff in science.
Just to continue that thought for a second, science is inherently limited because we’re at the borders of what we with our human brains can think of and there’s clearly so much more beyond that. I don’t want to say that where we are in science is the ultimate peak of knowledge. Clearly, science has always been about expanding and moving forward into the realms that we don’t know. I just wanted to give a shout out to the brave people of science.
I have to let my geek out and ask one of my favorite questions which is, if you could be any comic book hero, who would it be?
Batman, 100%. I don’t even have to think about it.
I was obsessed with Batman as a kid. I don’t know why I connected with him so early but just the whole world of Batman is really intriguing to me.
Did you hear the news that he got engaged?
No, do tell.
There was some internet meme going around in one of the most recent issues. Bruce Wayne asked Catwoman.
That’s so sweet. Good for them, I wish them all of the happiness in the world. They both deserve it.
Or at least less anger, frustration and grumpiness on the part of Batman.
He’s got a lot of work to do. Real quick, The Lego Batman Movie was one of my favorite things that’s ever been made. I thought that they nailed it so well with the humor and the realness. That movie is just everything.
Last question: Imagine you show up to a dinner and there are three people there with you. The three people you’ve always wanted to sit and chat with and they have to be living people. Who are they?
Damon Albarn, the singer for the band Blur and Gorillaz and numerous other side projects of his. He’s one of my heroes in the music world, as well as Bjork. There’s my two musical heroes. For the third, I want to get away from that realm and it’s going to be Donald Trump, Mr. Trump, President Trump. I would invite him to be a part of our quartet and we would just talk about life. I want to know more about who this person is really.
I think that’s one of the most interesting answers we’ve heard so far. Jesse, thanks so much for coming on. I really loved having you as a guest. If people want to find you online, what’s your Instagram or if you use Twitter and so on?
Yeah, Instagram is @JesseRoyal.
Thank you so much for coming on. Listeners stay tuned for another anonymous interview.
About Jesse Carmichael
Jesse Royal Carmichael (born April 2, 1979) is an American musician. He is the rhythm guitarist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, as well as one of the keyboardists alongside PJ Morton. Carmichael also has a solo project called 1863.
Anonymous Guest Interview
Listeners, I am so excited. You know this is my favorite part of every interview. I have with me one of my closest friends in the world. Larsen, thanks so much for coming on the show.
It’s an honor to be here. Although I feel like you flatter all the guests, but I truly feel like one of your closest friends in the world/ roommate/ travel buddy/ trouble in the making.
That’s so true. I’m only disappointed that we met after I finished my book. Although there is a call-out to you at the end, so I’m very happy. I could have at least added that. Yes, you are one of the great rabble-rousers of our generation. That’s for sure. Let’s give the listeners some hints about your background. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a sleepy little surfer town in Northern California. Close to one of the world’s most famous big wave spots. It’s cold, dark, stormy and a lot of men in gray suits, which is our euphemism for really sharky.
I remember hearing a story that when you were recently born and your father read a book about swim training and the Russian technique. What was it that happened? That’s complete insanity.
Unless of course you’re into Russian child rearing which case, it’s perfectly healthy, perfectly normal. My father subscribed to this Russian philosophy that says, and again I’m quoting my father and not my own empirical research on the subject, that basically said babies don’t have an innate fear of the water. They don’t develop that until after six months old. Prior to that, they will naturally know how to swim. It’s a natural environment for them. My dad, he employed this technique to the fullest much to my mom’s horror by throwing me in the pool at three months old in a sink or swim philosophy. I swam, I guess it worked.
If memory serves, is it called BUD/S when you were in SEAL training?
Didn’t you essentially crush every swim competition?
Yeah, throughout SEAL training, everybody has their nemesis. But for me, it wasn’t the water. The water was actually my time to relax. I could win every swim pretty easily. I didn’t have to stress that evolution. Even just taking one evolution off your plate, you do a two-mile timed ocean swim every week through SEAL training. You do lots of other swims but there’s a competitive two-mile swim every week, sometimes twice a week. All throughout training, the times drop. In first phase, you might get an hour to complete the swim. In second phase, 45 minutes and in third phase, 30 minutes. People fail to swim. That’s it. They’re never going to be a frogman. The swimming part was easy for me. Towards the end in third phase, when the times get really, really tight, there are good guys who are on the bubble because they’re not natural swimmers. We would do things like I would partner up with the worst swimmers so that they could draft off of me and I could get them across the finish line before the time cap and stuff like that.
Was there an incident or a teacher that really inspired you to go down this path?
In terms of becoming a SEAL?
Yes. You’ve evolved that and the knowledge that you’ve gained it seems into a variety of careers at this point.
There were certainly a variety of influences on me. I joined the military initially, it was pre-9/11, not really knowing what SEALS were. Actually, truth is I wanted to fly. I got my pilot’s license young, a soloed young. I went to the Naval Academy wanting to fly. I probably watched a little too much Top Gun. Then, when I got to the Naval Academy, I found this other community that fit my skill set and personality better. I had a tremendous number of mentors along the way, grade school and high school, at the academy that helped shape my path.
There is one particular SEAL instructor that really embodied a lot of the values that I try to take forth with me into my career. I’ll never forget that we were one day running on the beach. I think it was in second or third phase, so we’re pretty far down the path of SEAL training here, on our way to becoming active duty SEALS. In SEAL training, you run as a class. You do these long runs on the beach in Coronado, which sounds more romantic than it actually is. They’re usually at a pretty good clip and guys are hurting pretty bad, especially guys in the back. The instructors don’t take kindly on guys who fall behind. I remember we were running down the beach, everybody was at a good pace keeping up. There’s a section of the beach that’s actually a public beach in front of the Del Coronado. People can sip their margaritas and watch the SEALS train and run by.
There are also ladies that like to lay-out on the beach in their bikinis. I remember we ran by a group of attractive young ladies in their bikinis. The whole class started hooting and hollering. This instructor, his name is Sr. Chief Taylor. He stops the class and he drops. He’s like, “Stop, drop.” He starts ripping out pushups in the sand, 100-150. He’s just really making the class pay. We didn’t quite understand what we did wrong because it’s a super machismo culture and we were just appreciating the finer things in life. He pops us up and he goes, “You think you’re tough because you’re going to be SEALS? You know what a real man is? A real man is that every time a woman leaves your side, she feels better about herself.” Then we kept running. That kind of integrity, that kind of ability to balance this high octane profession with values and ethics was really fundamental to me. I’ll remember that particular moment for a long time.
After your time in the SEALS though, you also graduated from an elite university, right?
I did. I managed to squeak through as a Neanderthal among intellectual Titans. They kept me around in case any of those ivory tower academic pizza parties get out of hand.
You’ve graduated from the Kennedy School at Harvard, right?
Yes. I wasn’t going to drop the H Bomb, as we call it figuratively, but you went ahead and did it for me. I had the privilege of going to the Kennedy School of Government studying Public Policy there under some really extraordinary people and with some really extraordinary classmates.
I think what’s probably the most interesting thing to me is that you ended up also at one point working on The Newsroom. Is that right? In the TV show, Aaron Sorkin Show?
Yeah. It was haphazard but I was approached by Aaron Sorkin and I was one of his private advisors for Newsroom. I was working with the writers’ room and basically helping Aaron set the plot lines for the second and third season. Using my eclectic career and knowledge to develop story ideas and make them into television for the show. It was a really cool show. If you’re going to try and learn the scripted side of TV making, it’s pretty good to learn from Aaron. He’s a pretty best in class individual.
We just had one of his writers from the West Wing who then went on to do a bunch of other shows. Consistently, all I hear about is how extraordinary Sorkin is.
I don’t think he gets full credit. Any time some of the lines you’ve written become a massive part of pop culture, “You can’t handle the truth,” you know you’re a good writer. I think also it overshadows that he’s an extraordinary philanthropist, a committed activist. You see pockets of it like that pop-up in the media, like the letter he wrote to his daughters after the 2016 Election. He really is a really incredible idealist. He’s been really good. Obviously, I’m a veteran. He’s been very generous with a lot of veterans’ causes as well. Great dude. He’s a mensch. Aaron is a mensch.
Was there a moment or experience that made you feel like you had arrived to some degree? I know nobody ever fully arrives, but something that you were like, “Wow, this is new level in my career or a new experience for me.”
I am personally not good at accepting and savoring those moments. Sometimes I feel like the train is just moving fast and you’re just running to catch up with it. I think graduating from SEAL training, one of the high honors of my life. You realize on that day that you did something that few others have done and you joined a community and a lineage of frogmen and of warriors who had gone before. That’s pretty incredible. That’s just the beginning because the BUD/S SEAL training is the audition for the job and then you’ve got to go out and actually do the job. I would say equal on par with that was returning home from my first deployment overseas; leading a team of men in Special Operations around the world, bringing everybody home safe. That’s also really up there. Then some of my professional work in my post-active duty life has gotten some public attention and I’m proud of that. Pretty long-winded generic answer to your legitimate question.
Let’s give the listeners a hint of who you might be. Do you have a hint or a riddle?
I was named after a Danish poet, who was one of my mom’s favorite poets, who was also a resistance fighter. I think he was ultimately killed by the Nazis.
Listeners, you should have enough to figure out who Larsen is. Make sure to get your guesses in so that you can win an invitation to The Salon by Influencers.