DALLAS -- Because Mark McGrath, the new host of Don't Forget the Lyrics!, is also the lead singer of Sugar Ray, a band that has been together for more than 20 years and had huge success in the late '90s with songs such as Fly and Every Morning, it seems only natural to ask McGrath if he has, you know, ever forgotten the lyrics.
"I forgot the lyrics so many times," McGrath says during an interview at the KDFW/Channel 4 studios in downtown Dallas. "Any recording, touring artist who ever says they haven't is lying through his teeth."
In Don't Forget the Lyrics!, contestants are challenged to remember song Lyrics exactly. If you've caught McGrath's run as host -- this season's prime-time episodes begin Tuesday on KDFW's sister station KDFI/Channel 27 with an installment featuring the Backstreet Boys, but the show has already been airing in daily syndication and on VH1 -- you know that he's enthusiastic and energetic. Judging from his interview demeanor, that's not an act: McGrath is as informal and ingratiating as he is fast-talking.
McGrath is no stranger to TV hosting. His appearances on VH1 pop-culture shows such as I Love the '80s led to gigs on the entertainment show Extra and the reality-competition series The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll. Here are some of the things that he talked about during a free-ranging 25-minute interview.
The year he's had: "New Year's Eve, I got engaged to my [girlfriend] of 16 years. Y'know, just makin' sure she was the one. It's been sort of a rock 'n' roll type relationship. ...My twins [Lydon and Hartley ] were born April 29. We started filming the show in mid-June, got done in late July. And then my dad passed away Aug. 8. So it was just this whirlwind of activity for me, and I'm still processing everything. And to throw into the mix, too, I'm the biggest dog lover in the history of the world. I love dogs more than most people. And two of my beloved dogs passed away as well. So I lost three very important things to me in a brief period of time."
On his experiences at Extra : "[The Beach Boys'] Brian Wilson was my worst and best interview at the same time. They said, 'Mark, you're going to get a chance to interview Brian Wilson.' I was so happy, but then I got scared, knowing Brian -- he's a different guy. He's eccentric, to say the least. I was his last interview of the day. I go to his house; he kept me waiting at the piano. He'll only do interviews at the piano. So he sits down at the piano, starts playing God Only Knows, of all things. My favorite song. So I'm sitting there, and he doesn't acknowledge me, and I've only got about eight minutes with him, and he's about two minutes into the song. He kinda calms down a little bit, and I go, ' God Only Knows.' And he goes, 'Food!,' and he left. That was my Brian Wilson interview.
"My first interview ever was William Shatner. It was at the Emmys, my first day on the job, and William Shatner won for Boston Legal. So he's coming up the side, and I'm so nervous, and I'm with my co-host Dayna Devon, and I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not a professional journalist, I don't know what's happening. I go up to him, and I go, 'Mr. Shatner, d-d-d-d-d --' and he goes, 'B-b-b-b" back to me. I just went, 'Yikes, this is gonna be a hard job.'"
Why Don't Forget the Lyrics! is tougher than you might think: "You have a housewife or a fireman who's going onstage for the first time ever. There's a live audience, it's a massive, rock 'n' roll production. And then you're in front of a national audience. You're gonna forget some lyrics."
On his learning curve as Lyrics host: "The line between host and contestant really gets blurred with me. Sometimes unprofessionally so. I mean, by the end of the show, I'm high-fiving the guys, I'm grabbing 'em, we're sweating. I was sitting there playing air guitar when we first started filming, and I would be mouthing the lyrics. The producers had to go, 'You idiot -- air guitar is fine, but could you stop mouthing the lyrics? You're tipping off the contestants!'"
His favorite lyrics: "Brian Wilson is one of my favorite songwriters in the world. I love the simplicity of his lyrics wrapped in the complexity of his mental illness. [The Beach Boys'] God Only Knows is a song that has a playful, nursery-rhyme childlike innocence to it, but it's sort of wrapped up in this misery. Any time you have that duality, I love it. Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again, Naturally -- the entire passage of that song is incredible. Among this lilting lullaby is the most depressing song ever written. It talks about suicide, his father passes away, and then his mother passes away. It's full of English sarcasm at its finest."
The first song he ever memorized: "I think it was Rapper's Delight by Sugarhill Gang. Because that was the first rap [hit] ever. I was 11, and I was fascinated by this new sound -- what is this 'rap' thing? I grew up in Newport Beach, Calif., and [New York-based rap] was worlds away from me. I [memorized] the entire thing. I was 11. I had a lot of time on my hands."
Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872