'Meet Virginia' at 25: Train's Pat Monahan recalls a series of mishaps that led to band's big break

The band Train dropped its self-titled, debut album 25 years ago. Diehard fans of the group may think of “Meet Virginia” when recalling the LP. However the name of a different state comes to mind for lead singer Pat Monahan as he remembers the song’s success.

“We were in Birmingham, Alabama, and there was a guy there called Scott Register who had a Sunday morning (radio) show and he loved the song and band,” he tells USA TODAY. “But his program director didn’t.”

The program director, in this case a gentleman named Dave Rossi, makes the final call on whether a song hits the airwaves in regular rotation. Train was in town on a Saturday and Register was hoping the band could visit the show on Sunday. At first, they couldn’t because of a prior commitment in New Orleans. However when a storm struck Louisiana and postponed the event, Train stopped by “Reg’s Coffee House."

Once the band arrived, another issue arose.

“(Register) couldn’t get the gear to work, so he had to call the program director to come in and help him,” Monahan says. “And then we played ‘Meet Virginia’ and some Led Zeppelin stuff, and David fell in love with the band. And that’s really where the song broke.”

“Meet Virginia” was released as a single in 1998 but didn’t peak on the charts until 2000. It received a resurgence in 2001 as curious fans rediscovered Train’s debut album after the band released “Drops of Jupiter.”

“When ‘Drops of Jupiter’ came out, we were able to go to Europe, because Europe responded well to (the song)," Monahan remembers. "Then they were the ones who were hearing ‘Meet Virginia’ for the first time and they’d be like, ‘Wow, what’s that song?'

"But then you feel a sense of, ‘Maybe we’re building a catalog or a career or a potential way back here every year.’”

Train will hit the road this summer for nine shows. In May, the band will perform inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Train will hit the road this summer for nine shows. In May, the band will perform inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

And that's what Train accomplished: A catalog that keeps it running decades later. There have been a few stops in the band’s travels (namely a hiatus from 2006 to 2009) and a couple lineup changes behind Monahan (he’s the last original member in the group).

The band’s 2009 LP “Save Me, San Francisco” revived the band with hits “Hey, Soul Sister,” “If It’s Love” and “Marry Me.” Last year, Train released its 11th studio album and supported it with a nationwide tour. The band returns to the road this summer for nine dates, including a stop in Napa, California's wine country. Monahan partnered with winemaker James Foster to create the Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company in 2011. Proceeds benefit Family House, a nonprofit providing temporary housing to families of seriously ill children in San Francisco.

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However, don’t expect to find Monahan sipping the brand’s cabernet on stage.

“I never drink before I work,” says the lead singer, who says at one point he was 17 years sober. “We’ll do a show, when we get off stage, we’ll have some food and then I’ll have a glass of champagne and play frisbee with the guys. That’s our routine during the summer.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Train's Pat Monahan marks 25th anniversary of 'Meet Virginia'