Conservation news

Audio: Maroon 5’s James Valentine on why he’s working to stop illegal logging

On today’s episode, we speak with a multiple-Grammy-winning musician about his work to keep illegal and unsustainable wood out of musical instruments and make concert tours more environmentally friendly.

Listen here:

Our guest today is James Valentine, lead guitarist of Maroon 5, a pop rock band that has sold more than 75 million records, had 13 songs make the Billboard Top 10 Hits list, and won three Grammies. Valentine has traversed the globe numerous times on tour, taking the band’s music around the world. But late last year, he went to Peru with a much different mission: he was part of a group of musicians who spoke in Lima in support of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign, which aims to stop illegal logging in the Amazon. The group also visited some indigenous Amazonian communities to see the impacts of illegal and unsustainable logging firsthand.

“A lot of the wood we were using in our instruments was coming from illegal sources,” Valentine says. “And the quickest way to sort of get people on the same page is to call it ‘blood wood,’ because everybody is familiar with the ‘blood diamond’ concept, and so they’re familiar with the idea that some of the practices around mining and those illegal markets that were around these diamonds were having these horrible repercussions on the communities where they were taking these diamonds from. And it’s the same with wood.”

James Valentine onstage with Maroon 5. Photo by Travis Schneider.

That wasn’t Valentine’s first time visiting the forests where the tonewoods used in guitars and other instruments are harvested. In 2016, Valentine went to Guatemala to visit communities engaged in sustainable forestry in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. On both trips, Valentine was accompanied by Adam Gardner, singer for the band Guster and co-founder of Reverb, the non-profit organization that launched the “No More Blood Wood” campaign and also works with musicians and others in the music industry to reduce the environmental impact of tours.

“Certainly we get some pushback from people through social media who would rather we shut up and sing,” Valentine says. “But just because I chose to play in a pop band doesn’t mean I turn in my citizenship. … I have just as much a right to speak on these issues that I care about as anyone else, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Valentine is here to tell us about his experiences in Peru and Guatemala and to tell us all about the work he and Reverb are doing to keep illegal wood out of musical instruments, lower the environmental impact of concert tours, and engage music fans in environmental action.

“The wood that’s being used for guitars, of course, that’s just a small drop in the bucket. The larger issue are the consumer goods that everyone uses, the tables, the chairs, dressers,” Valentine says. “It does start with consumers, asking and creating that demand for wood products that can be traced. So that’s why we’re out here — that’s why I’m here talking about this now — because awareness is going to be the first step.”

Here’s this episode’s top news:

This is our 40th episode since we launched the Mongabay Newscast in 2016, and if you’ve been enjoying the show for any or all of that time, we ask that you please consider becoming a monthly sponsor via our Patreon page. Just a dollar per month will really help us offset the production costs and hosting fees, so if you’re a fan of our audio reports from nature’s frontline, please support the Mongabay Newscast at patreon.com/mongabay.

You can subscribe to the Mongabay Newscast on Android, Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneInRSS and via Spotify. Or listen to all our episodes via the Mongabay website here on the podcast homepage.

James Valentine (right) playing guitar in the Madre De Dios region of Peru with Adam Gardner of Guster/REVERB (center) and K.T. Tunstall (left). Photo courtesy of the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.