In an interview with VH1, lead singer Pat Monahan revealed that he wrote this song about the death of his mother. Train released their first album in 1998, and were touring that year when Monahan's mother was dying of lung cancer - she was a heavy smoker. This was before the widespread use of cell phones, and Monahan made many stops to pay phones on the tour to speak with his mom during this difficult time. In December of that year, his mother died, and in early 1999 Train was working on their next album when their record company started pressuring them for a hit. Monahan returned to his childhood home in Pennsylvania, and woke one morning with the words "back in the atmosphere" in his head. Beginning a time of healing, he started to compose the song. Said Monahan: "Loss of the most important person in my life was heavy on my mind, and the thought of 'what if no one ever really leaves? What if she's here but different. The idea was, she's back here in the atmosphere."
He recorded a demo of the song and played it a week later for Donnie Ienner, who was president of their record company, Columbia. While Monahan wasn't sure how the song would go over, Ienner loved it and told him it was his Grammy song. He was right: It won Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Instrumental Arrangement With Accompanying Vocalist. Ienner had Train record the song quickly so they could put it on the album and use it as the title track.
The string section was arranged by Paul Buckmaster, who has done arrangements for Elton John, David Bowie, and The Rolling Stones.
Pat Monahan said of this song: "It was an obvious connection between me and my mother. 'Drops of Jupiter' was as much about me being on a voyage and trying to find out who I am. The best thing we can do about loss of love is find ourselves through it."
Train was in danger of becoming a one-hit-wonder before they released this. Their first hit, "Meet Virginia," was released 2 years earlier.
It was a few years before Monahan revealed the story behind this song, and the common interpretation is that it was about a woman who leaves her man to find out if they belong together. Monahan would give vague answers when asked about the song, at one point saying: "This is a woman who's strong and has to find out who she is and a man willing to let her do that."
This is the type of song which lends itself to personal interpretation, and was most often considered to be about a former lover, a young woman or just someone the writer knew who went on a voyage of self-discovery - not necessarily by traveling to distant lands.
When they suffer personal tragedy, many people feel a closeness to their departed loved one. This is not a song about reincarnation as such, but about the idea that no one ever really leaves us. In spite of the different subject matter, it bears a striking resemblance to the Cat Stevens composition "On The Road To Find Out
." Whatever, it obviously struck a chord with many people, and deservedly spent over a year on the Billboard Hot 100.
Monahan said of the song: "It was an obvious connection between me and my mother. 'Drops of Jupiter' was as much about me being on a voyage and trying to find out who I am. The best thing we can do about loss of love is find ourselves through it." (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England)
Monahan has a permanent scar on his chin, which could explain the line, "One without a permanent scar."
Brendan O'Brien produced this track. He has also worked with Pearl Jam and The Stone Temple Pilots. He became interested in the band when he heard their cover of "Ramble On
" on the radio.
Train performed an updated version of this song at the 2002 Grammy awards, which included a cello prelude by Denise Djokic and a full orchestra. When Train won the award for Best Rock Song, Monahan thanked his mother.
This ascended to the top 10 of the Adult Contemporary chart in its 49th week, marking the longest climb to the top 10 on that tally by any act.
On December 25, 2009 Two and a Half Men actor Charlie Sheen was arrested on charges of domestic violence against his wife Brooke Mueller. According to Us Magazine their Christmas Day brawl was caused by this song. Sheen allegedly told police that he and his daughter share a love for Drops of Jupiter, which angered Mueller. She lashed out, "You have a song [that] you share with your daughter, but not one with me?" which ignited the fight. Patrick Monahan responded to the news on Twitter, "I'm pretty sure that Drops of Jupiter is a positive part of Charlie Sheen and his daughter's relationship. Just gonna look at it that way."
The song returned to the UK singles chart in April 2012 after being performed by audtionee Phil Poole on The Voice.