So much for partying like a rock star. It's a little after noon on a Saturday and Adam Levine has already been up for several hours promoting NBC's hit singing competition The Voice. Thanks to a rigorous production schedule, Season 4's blind auditions, featuring new coaches Shakira and Usher, are already under way while Season 3 is in the midst of its live finals. No wonder the Maroon 5 frontman rubs his eyes sleepily as he sinks into a sofa on the Universal lot in Hollywood. "It's been harder-than-hard hours," admits Levine, 33, effortlessly cool in jeans and a white tee. "But as difficult as it is, it's still really fun because it's rewarding work."
Levine's hardly hurting for jobs these days. Maroon 5's fourth album, Overexposed, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in July, thanks to the hit single "Payphone," and he's recently branched into acting with two high-profile gigs. On American Horror Story: Asylum, he played a lusty (and ultimately doomed) newlywed, and he'll soon appear on the big screen in Can a Song Save Your Life? as a musician who breaks Keira Knightley's heart. (Off screen, Levine's happily dating Victoria's Secret model Behati Prinsloo.) "Adam's gone from strength to strength," says The Voice executive producer Mark Burnett. "He's a very focused guy, and he deserves everything that's coming his way."
Much of his recent success is due to the exposure he's gotten from The Voice, a job he was initially reluctant to accept but one that's turned out to be an ideal fit. "The show is Adam at his most nurturing," says James Valentine, Maroon 5's lead guitarist. "He has a lot of wisdom to impart to these singers, and he does it in a sincere way where you can really feel he's looking out for them."
Levine offers a simpler secret for his success. "I'm not a total idiot," he says with a laugh. "And I definitely have a lot to say."
TV Guide Magazine: So how's it going with Shakira and Usher?
Levine: [Original coaches] Christina [Aguilera] and CeeLo [Green] are so close to my heart because we went through the show becoming a success together, and Usher and Shakira are coming into it as a big frickin' institution. So it's different, but it still feels good, because they're legitimate artists.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you know either of them before The Voice?
Levine: I knew Usher. We've worked in the studio a couple of times together. Shakira is a new friend, but I love her dearly already. She's so sweet and adorable and hilarious.
TV Guide Magazine: Might you and Blake Shelton finally get to sit next to each other in Season 4?
Levine: Trust me, we need to be separated. If Blake and I sat next to each other, we'd never get anything done. We already yap at each other across the room like we're yelling across the dinner table.
TV Guide Magazine: On the surface, you guys wouldn't seem to have much in common, yet you've become good friends. Any new experiences he's turned you on to?
Levine: Hunting. He made me shoot at a duck. He was like [adopts Shelton's Southern drawl], "Come on, you sissy!" But I made sure to miss.
TV Guide Magazine: You have a knack for persuading contestants to pick you as a coach. Were you the kid growing up who got all your friends in trouble because you could convince them to do anything?
Levine: A little bit [laughs]. In high school, I might've worked my way around certain things with a smile. My fictional hero is Ferris Bueller. Now as shallow as that may sound, there's a lot of depth to Ferris Bueller.
TV Guide Magazine: How so?
Levine: He was manipulative, yes, but he also understood what was important in life. I feel so connected to that character.
TV Guide Magazine: Has doing the show affected how you feel about your own music career?
Levine: Absolutely. I'd started to become cynical and jaded about the music industry and all the things that I had loved. This show kind of reinvigorated me. It's led to a renaissance, not just in my career but in my life.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you ever dream you'd become a reality-TV star?
Levine: I'm not a reality-TV star. The Voice isn't a show about me going shopping or complaining about stupid f---ing mundane s--- that no one should ever complain about: "Poor rich me and my caviar problems." That drives me crazy. I hate it! There's a purpose to this show.
For more with Adam Levine, pick up this week's Hot List issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, November 15.