Mark McGrath On His "Utopian" Cruise

Mark McGrath
Mark McGrath

Sugar Ray lead singer and former Extra co-host Mark McGrath has a cruise. No, seriously! This October, fans of the '90s can travel on the Carnival Cruise ship Imagination, alongside Gin Blossoms, Smash Mouth, Cracker, Spin Doctors, Vertical Horizon, The Verve Pipe, Marcy Playground and, of course, Sugar Ray.

Holy bananas. We spoke to McGrath about what inspired the idea; believe you me that this former three-time Rock and Roll Jeopardy champion has some serious plans for vacationers.

What made you decide to put the cruise together?

It's funny, you look at social media today and you see all these bands doing cruises. Originally, it was bands who could sustain a cruise like Kid Rock or 311. You have to be a pretty big band who can fill arenas or amphitheaters because those ships fill 4,000-5,000 people. Then I saw there was Ship Rock for metal bands and one for death metal bands and I thought, "Why not get a bunch of bands from the '90s, multi-platinum acts that people certainly know and get them on a ship?"

The original thought was a tour, and we did that last year with the Summerland tour. Then we said why don't we take this thing on the ocean and the Mark McGrath and Friends cruise was born. I was thinking about the idea, and was approached simultaneously, so I think it was in the air that this was a good idea. The demographic of people who go on cruises are Sugar Ray fans and Smash Mouth fans. They're in their 30s/40s now, putting families together and taking vacations once or twice a year. Hopefully, the cruise will be something to check out.

How does setting a cruise like this up compare to something like Summerland?

Well, obviously, this is a four day event so it's not a time commitment really. For Summerland, where there's five or six bands who are used to running their own show, it can be a little difficult. The hardest thing is some people still think they're Kurt Cobain, but in terms of recording, not many bands at all sell records any more. You can't take it personally. It's kind of hard to recruit bands for a tour like this, but we get in the spirit that it's about big hits. If you were ever lucky enough to have a hit song, why not put a whole bunch of hit songs together and get the most for the concert dollar value?

How many of the bands are in their original '90s lineups?

You know, it's funny, not a lot of them. It's hard to keep an original band together, God bless the ones that do. I kept my band together as long as I could, we were together for 24 years. But, you got to love it at this point. My heart and soul goes into these songs that I wrote. I love performing, it's something I'll always do and my guitar player Rodney [Sheppard] feels the same way. It's hard to keep a relationship with a girl going for 20 years, now imagine keeping a relationship with four guys and there's no make-up sex. Most bands have at least two members, some have three. And if you find bands who've been together and still recording over 15-20 years and all original, God bless y'all, I want to go to that party.


Along with the concerts, there looks to be a lot of activities on hand. Did you have a hand in picking those?

What's great is that, since it's MY cruise, I get to pick-and-choose what that's gonna be. One of the most fun things from the Summerland tour was that Robin from the Gin Blossoms knows every song in the history of man on acoustic guitar. You might just find Robin and myself at the pool taking requests and singing music. That interaction with fans is something we're looking forward to doing.

You might find yourself having breakfast next to Steve from Smash Mouth or the Spin Doctors. Nobody's hiding, it's about having an experience with these bands. That was very important to me, to make it very fan friendly. Whether you're swimming, playing bingo or shuffleboard with the bands, that's what we're doing.

I'm also having an "Rock and Roll Jeopardy" competition. With me being a three-time world champ, you get a chance to dethrone the champ, but that will never happen. We'll have karaoke nights where you can sing live to one of our bands or sing karaoke with us to a machine. A lot of cheesy fun events to make people laugh. Is there anything more fun than getting drunk and singing karaoke with your friends? How about getting drunk and singing karaoke with the bands you love? It's the utopian idea of what I think a fan would like to see.

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