March 14, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Consider calling this coming May Maroon 5 month — that’s when the California band, who’ve sold more than 4 million albums in the U.S. to date, returns to reclaim a place on the charts. And it’s about time. Their debut, Songs About Jane, was released almost five years ago, spawning four radio hits (”Harder to Breathe,” ”This Love,” ”She Will Be Loved,” and ”Sunday Morning”) and countless world tours that kept the guys — singer Adam Levine, guitarist James Valentine, bassist Mickey Madden, keyboardist Jesse Carmichael, and new drummer Matt Flynn — away from home for months on end. It wasn’t exactly prime creative time in terms of songwriting, the band admits, but after a much-needed break, they regrouped, hunkering down in an L.A. studio, and coming out a year later with the aptly titled It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (out May 22). The album’s first single, ”Makes Me Wonder,” hits radio in early April, but frontman Adam Levine gives us a primer today.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The title of the new album, ”It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,” seems appropriate considering…
ADAM LEVINE: I liked it because it’s one of those Ringo-isms, like A Hard Day’s Night, which doesn’t make sense, but you know exactly what it means. And for us, it started to make sense with the whole trajectory of how things were going. The fact that we toured for so long on the first album, then once we started making the new one, that process took forever. Not in a bad way, it was just difficult, challenging, and a very trying time. It started to be one of those phrases that got repeated constantly and was very comforting to all of us, but I can’t even give someone credit for it, [as] I’m not sure [who coined it].

What were some of those challenges?
When we went in to make this record, we obviously had had this huge success and we were excited and confident, but also terribly insecure about how people perceived us and what we were going to do to remedy that, and also to make a record that everybody in the entire universe would love. That was the challenge and it’s a pretty tall order. But we love pushing ourselves. We don’t feel comfortable unless we’re doing something that’s challenging, so we pushed as hard as we could to make the best possible record. Whereas you might have thought all of the work we’ve done prior to making this record was difficult, it was almost like the easy part was over. Now we have to get to the hard part, which is sticking around for a while and making a record that is going to resonate with people, so that we have a career and aren’t just a drop in the bucket.

Speaking of, what do you make of the musical climate now?
I’m a little confused about it. I’ve been checked out over the last two years because I haven’t been involved with what’s on the radio and TV… not like when you have a record on the charts. I just feel like an old man at this point. I’ve been watching from the outside, a little bit disconnected, which I think has been a good thing and probably really vital to this record. Either way, I don’t think that music is in a particularly good place. I don’t think there are enough great bands getting the exposure they should be getting, but that’s just the way it is. There’s a lot of solo artists, lots of pop music out there, which is great, but we’re kind of one of the last bands standing at this point. It frustrates me slightly when we’re playing a concert and none of them are actually rock bands. When I say rock band I mean a band of [people] playing music together and that have a connection and chemistry. When I was growing up, I was listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam…those were the pop bands of the day and I grew up worshipping them, and also Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Michael Jackson. But it just seems like bands are dead [today].”

The first single, ”Makes Me Wonder,” talks about other, more political frustrations you’ve been having. Care to explain?
It alludes to something I was feeling about where our leadership is in our country. Let me just clarify — the song is not an anti-Bush song, it’s not an anti-government song, and it’s not a protest song, but I am having trouble believing the people who are leading our country right now. It’s almost like, I’m really trying to comprehend everything, but I want to be able to believe someone is in control of our collective fate. At the same time, [“Makes Me Wonder”] turned into a love song, where I’m just confused and don’t know where to turn anymore. It’s a mishmash of lyrics that kind of make sense thematically.

With the album only two months away, are you feeling that pit in your stomach?
I’m curious, not necessarily nervous. I think it’ll either be extremely successful or it won’t. I really hope that it is, and if it’s not, I will be really upset because we poured our lives into this. But I sincerely doubt it’s not going be successful. Still, there’s always that chance. I’m sure they thought with the star power of Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman that Ishtar was going to be a huge film, and it wasn’t.

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