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Following the dissolution of his Led Zeppelin cover band, singer Pat Monahan left his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, in late 1993. He resettled in California and crossed paths with Rob Hotchkiss, the former frontman of a Los Angeles group named the Apostles. The two formed their own duo and began playing local coffeehouse shows, eventually expanding the group to a trio with the addition of former Apostles guitarist Jimmy Stafford. Bassist Charlie Colin and drummer Scott Underwood also climbed aboard, thus solidifying Train's lineup in 1994.
Over the course of several years, Train developed a sizable audience in the San Francisco area. The band also toured the country, opening shows for the likes of Barenaked Ladies and Counting Crows while drumming up enough money to record an album. Although few labels showed interest at first, Train eventually attracted the attention of Columbia Records, which signed the band to one of its smaller labels -- Aware Records -- and issued the self-financed debut record Train in 1998. "Meet Virginia" became a Top 40 hit one year later, but the band truly hit their stride in 2001, when Drops of Jupiter became a multi-platinum success thanks to its titular single. The song remained in the Top 40 for nearly 40 weeks, while the album itself sold more than three million copies.
My Private Nation followed in 2003 and went platinum, largely due to the successful single "Calling All Angels." Although the album didn't yield any more Top 40 hits, three of its songs fared well on the adult contemporary charts, a sign that Train had traded their alternative rock roots for an older fan base. For Me, It's You followed in 2006, but sales proved to be the lowest of Train's career. Accordingly, Monahan briefly turned his focus inward, releasing a solo album in 2007 and touring behind it. He returned to the fold shortly thereafter, though, and Train issued their fifth album, Save Me, San Francisco, in 2009. The record helped rejuvenate Train's career, with "Hey, Soul Sister" peaking at number three on the Billboard 100. In 2012, the band released their sixth studio album, California 37, which debuted at number four on the Billboard chart and included the AC hit "Drive By."
Despite these successes, the bandmembers felt that mainstream "cool" continued to elude them. Monahan spoke of wanting to record an album that was more commercial, but would also connect emotionally with the public. With these ambitious goals, they knuckled down to writing and recording a new album, though without drummer and founding member Scott Underwood, who left the band amicably before production began and was replaced by Drew Shoals. Train's seventh studio album, Bulletproof Picasso, was finished in 2014 and released in September of that year. It was preceded by the slick, country-tinged single "Angel in Blue Jeans." The album debuted at number five on the Billboard Top 200.
A year later, Train released the seasonal Christmas in Tahoe. The following summer, the band covered the entirety of Led Zeppelin's second album with Does Led Zeppelin II; the album peaked at 71 on Billboard. In September 2016, Train released "Play That Song," the first taste from their tenth album. Not long afterward, lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford announced he was leaving the band on good terms. He did not play on a girl a bottle a boat, which appeared in January 2017 and debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200, becoming the group's sixth album to chart in the Top Ten. The following year saw Train issue the collaborative singles "Philly Forget Me Not" (with Daryl Hall & John Oates) and "Call Me Sir" (with Cam and Travie McCoy). The breezy "Mai Tais," a collaboration with Skylar Grey, was released in 2019, followed in 2020 by the stand-alone single "Rescue Dog."
A 20th anniversary edition of Drops of Jupiter arrived in 2021, as did Christmas in Tahoe, a Hallmark holiday film inspired by the Train album; it featured an appearance by Pat Monahan along with a new Train song called "Mittens." The band returned to action in 2022 with AM Gold, a record indebted to such super sounds of the '70s as disco and yacht rock. The singles "Running Back (Trying to Talk to You)," "AM Gold," and the Jewel duet "Turn Up the Radio" arrived prior to the May release of the album. ~ Andrew Leahey & Stephen Thomas Erlewine