Mark McGrath: 'I Understand Why People Don't Like Me'
Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray performs with Camp Freddy at the 2013 Green Inaugural Ball.
Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath knows exactly what most people think about him. They think he's washed up. They think he's something sort of 1990s leftover that refuses to go away. They probably think he's a big douche. The funny thing is, he doesn't disagree with any of that. "I've done a lot of douchey things," he tells Rolling Stone. "I understand why people don't particularly like me."
One label he does dispute is One Hit Wonder. The group had four genuine hits between 1997 and 2001: "Fly," "Every Morning," "Someday" and "When It's Over." He spent last summer on the Summerland tour playing those songs alongside Everclear, Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground and Lit. It was one of the first 1990s nostalgia tours, and McGrath says he plans on sticking with it for the rest of his life. He's about to perform on a 1990s cruise and he's gearing up for the first annual Under the Sun tour with Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, Smash Mouth and Fastball.
Rolling Stone sat down with McGrath for a frank talk about his new life on the 1990s nostalgia circuit. "All these 1960s bands like Herman's Hermits are still out there doing it," he says. "I'm not comparing my level of talent to Peter Noone, but people often compare us. He's 70 years old and still out there doing it. I'm sort of the Peter Noone of the 1990s. If I'm still out there singing 'Fly' in 30 years, I've had a great fucking life."
You toured last summer with all these other Nineties bands. How did that go?
It was great. The Nineties nostalgia factor is kinda coming into play now. It's great to be at the point where we're at the receiving end of it. The idea was to go out and play a show that was top-to-bottom hits. I mean, literally, in the first five minutes of sitting in your seat, Marcy Playground are playing "Sex and Candy." That's arguably one of the most psychotic hits of the era. It was great, and it proved to me there's a market for this kind of thing. We weren't reinventing the wheel. Every decade has their tours. There's the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties. . . But nobody had done the Nineties yet, so Art Alexakis [of Everclear] and I kinda got together and did it. I'm looking forward to doing it again.
Unfortunately, Art and I have different ideas about what the tour is about. He's doing his own thing now, and I put together a tour called Under the Sun. It carries out a similar vibe. If you had a hit in the Nineties, you are welcome to play it. I can see Naughty by Nature playing as well as En Vogue and the Gin Blossoms. The Nineties were sort of the Lollapalooza age where people just threw aside genres of music. People went, "I like the Rollins Band, Nine Inch Nails and the Boredoms." Pop had a similar effect. Sugar Ray is obviously more pop-leaning, so that's how I see the Under the Sun tour. En Vogue is welcome to play. Smash Mouth, too. If you had a hit, come on it.
The nostalgia timing makes sense. I mean, the Beach Boys couldn't get arrested in 1970 and suddenly, by 1974, they're back in arenas.
Absolutely. The Beach Boys certainly had the wealth of material on their own to substantiate their own tour. We had some hits and, God bless, some big hits. But we didn't have the hysteria that Britney Spears or a boy band had. We couldn't do a big tour on our own, but there's strength in numbers. The Gin Blossoms aren't going to go play Madison Square Garden or Jones Beach tonight, but all of us together collectively playing our hits, we can do it.