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Train plans new album for 2014 release

The members of Train recently wrapped what guitarist Jimmy Stafford calls by far the band's "biggest tour" -- and they're already back to work.

Stafford, frontman Pat Monahan and drummer Scott Underwood have started writing songs for a new album, the follow-up to 2012's "California 37."

"A lot of songwriting is being done and I think most of the album is ready to go record. I think the plan is to just keep writing through the holiday and then start recording in January," Stafford told

Train hopes to release its seventh studio effort by summer 2014. Although several songs are already near completion, the music will definitely be reworked in the coming months.

When it comes to writing, Stafford says, the music or a melody usually comes first. That's been the case with most of Train's songs. One of the exceptions was with the Grammy-winning "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)." That track started with Monahan coming up with the lyric "Now that she's back in the atmosphere." Everything else followed that one line.

The songwriting process for Train's next release is certainly a very fluid process. Songs are written, then demoed. "Then we go in the studio and kind of tear them apart and put them together again. And that's when it really starts to sound like Train," Stafford said.

Although it's too early to get a sense of what shape the new album will take, Stafford says it will likely be a more "mature" album that the last set, which feature the hit "Drive By."

"Whatever we do it's going to sound like Train because Pat's just got that distinctive voice," said Stafford. "It's not like we're going to go out in left field and do a country album or anything like that. We're still kind of a pop-rock band but we've also prided ourselves on being able to play many different styles. If you listen to 'Hey, Soul Sister' next to 'Drops of Jupiter' or 'Meet Virginia,' they're all very different from each other."

"Meet Virginia" -- Train's breakthrough hit -- came just at the turn of the century. Released in October 1999, the second single from Train's debut really put the California band on the map. Since then, there's been pressure to follow up a hit song with another hit, and so far, Train has pretty much managed to do that -- probably no more memorable than with the Grammy-winning "Hey, Soul Sister." The band had been on a break after releasing the 2006 album "For Me, It's You" and were considering throwing in the towel all together. So, when the guys re-teamed for "Save Me San Francisco" and unveiled "Hey, Soul Sister" in 2009, it "felt like a whole new beginning," Stafford said.

It was around then that Train launched its wine company, Save Me San Francisco Wine. With five varietals, the wines are are all named after Train's songs and albums. There's Drops of Jupiter California Red and Calling All Angels Chardonnay. A "Marry Me" version could be in the works soon, too. Proceeds from sales go to the Family House organization, which helps families of sick children in the Bay Area.

"From the beginning, we took it seriously," said Stafford, who noted that his pre-concert ritual has long been to have a glass of wine before hitting the stage. "We didn't want to release a gimmicky bottle of wine like a Train bottle of wine you would put on your shelf as a souvenir. We wanted it to be a legitimate wine."

That meant the trio was involved in everything from choosing the blends and the names -- all the way down to the label's artwork. Even today, the guys are in the loop on where the wine is getting stocked across the country, for example.

"At the time that we started the wine we had taken big break and we didn't really know if our fans or anyone really cared about the band anymore when we got back together," said Stafford.

Stafford, Monahan and Underwood soon realized that their time wasn't over yet. "I don't think any of us had any idea of where things were gonna go. It seems like radio still kind of cares and people still care," he said.

"I think the band is just in a really good place," Stafford continued. "We get along better than we ever have. We're enjoying the process of writing, recording and touring together more than ever. And the wine thing is a little bit of icing on the cake, to be able to make some money for charity."