By Sara Israelsen
BYU Employees Robert and Shauna Valentine enjoyed a quiet evening at home, Thursday night. But thousands of miles away, their son James Valentine was jamming out in New York?s Radio City Music Hall, as guitarist in the hot new band Maroon 5.
Despite a famous rock-and-roll son, the Valentines are pretty laid back. Robert teaches Spanish as an adjunct professor at BYU while his wife, Shauna, works in the administration for BYU”s College of Education. They?re used to their son playing the guitar ? he?s been doing it his entire life. But the cameras, world tours and millions of record sales? Those are a bit new.
Shauna says James has always loved music, even in the second grade when he and his friends made cardboard instruments to compete in a lip sync competition. Moving to real instruments, he tried drum lessons in grade school then decided to trade the sticks for strings.
?He was interested in a lot of things and wanted to take guitar so we said, ?OK, we?ll see how long that sticks,?? Shauna says.
She says he went through the school?s programs but finally came to mom and dad, asking for private guitar lessons.
?We never had to tell this kid to practice ? piano yes, guitar no,? Shauna says.
James?s sister, Lisa Valentine Clark of Provo, said she remembered James wanting to play the guitar as a young child, but being required to learn the piano first. She said her parents bought him a nice guitar after he got his Eagle Scout, and from then on, he always had his guitar around his neck.
?James has always been really serious about it,? Lisa said. ?We always knew he would do well.?
And in an interview with the guitarist, who was backstage of Radio City Music Hall waiting to perform, James said his dream was just to make a living as a musician.
?All the rest of the stuff that?s happened to us is way beyond the realm of what we thought possible,? he said.
But his sister says it isn?t that surprising, considering James was invited to play with the University of Nebraska Jazz Ensemble while still in high school, and could hold his own against men twice his age. Thanks to that, he developed many connections, won a handful of music awards and was offered quite a few scholarships. But because he didn?t know how lucrative a music career would be, he said he picked advertising as a backup plan.
But in 2000, James and his current group, Squares, won an Ernie Ball?s Battle of the Bands regional competition in Nebraska, then traveled to Los Angeles where they won the overall competition.
After that, James stayed in L.A. to pursue a music career, but joined up with the band Kara?s Flowers. The members of this band had been together since junior high and when James joined them, bringing with him his love of jazz, the group changed their name to Maroon 5 and was soon after signed by BMG music.
Currently, the group is on the Honda Civic Tour 2005 with the backing of thousands of fans, their album, ?Songs About Jane,? having sold nine million copies worldwide and a new album in the works.
?I feel so fortunate that I stuck with it, because there are certainly hard times,? James said. ?I guess that?s one of the biggest lessons I?ve learned ? that your goals can be achievable.?
Because of the fame explosion, mom Shauna said since 2000, the longest James has been in one place is probably a month. Far too often, the band is busy doing photo shoots, radio spots and being flown to private parties.
?Even when they?re home, they?re not,? she said. ?For a year and a half they didn?t even have a home.? She laughed as she finished: ?He saved a lot on rent.?
Growing up in an LDS home, James attended and graduated from early morning seminary and attended church with his family. He still attends when he?s home, but since he?s been on the road almost every day for the past four years, his mom says being regularly active is difficult. The Valentines moved in July 2004 from Omaha, Neb, to Highland, Utah, and James has only been to their new home once in that time ? to get his wisdom teeth out.
However, when the band comes to Utah, Lisa says she and her husband take their four children to the group?s sound check.
?Uncle James is really good to my kids,? she says. ?He?s a favorite around here.? She says her children still get excited when they hear ?James?s music? on the radio.
?My kids know all their songs,? Lisa says, ?We?ve been listening to it for three years. We?re ready for the next album. We want new music.?
So for now, James will stay on the road and the family will keep listening, hearing the band?s music in movie theaters, malls and the radio, supporting him where they can. When the CDs first came out, ?we were out buying them in all the stores to boost their sales,? Robert says.
Robert?s favorite song? ?Sunday Morning,? It reminds him of New York. ?Tangled? is Shauna?s favorite because she got to hear the band working on it in the studio. And although Lisa”s favorite song is ?Sunday Morning,? she is partial to ?She Will Be Loved? because James co-wrote it.
And for James, he says the family support is important, because it?s support from people without motives.
?Out on the road [we?re] surrounded by so many people all the time who want something from you,? he says. ?It?s great to have such a solid family base to draw support from. A lot of people don?t have that. I?m really lucky.?