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Train's Pat Monahan talks baseball, wine, 'Marry Me' proposals and more




Nothing against being a rock star. But in another life, Pat Monahan might have liked to play baseball.

“When I was a kid, that was all I cared about,” said the Train singer, calling from O’Hare International Airport en route to a tour stop in Montreal. When his band played a free postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, “they let me throw out the first pitch. I think I threw a 94-miles-per-hour fastball.” He laughs. “I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to be on the roster.”

The Rays might not be trading David Price for Monahan anytime soon, but at least his band has a spot in their regular rotation. On Friday, Train will play their second free postgame concert following the Rays-Red Sox tilt at the Trop.

For Train, life hasn’t slowed down too much since that gig in 2010. Known for radio hits like Drops of Jupiter and Calling All Angels, the group toured relentlessly in support of their 2009 album Save Me, San Francisco, which spawned the smash hits Hey, Soul Sister, If It’s Love and Marry Me. They even released a Save Me, San Francisco Wine.

In April, Train released California 37, another collection of big, hook-heavy pop-rock singles. Before they bring their new tour to the Trop, we talked to Monahan about sports, wine and onstage marriage proposals.

Train’s from San Francisco, but you’re from Pennsylvania. Are you a Giants fan? An Indians fan? A Pirates fan?

I follow the Giants, but man, this is the year to follow the Pirates. My brother Jackie follows every Pittsburgh team, from the Penguins and Steelers to the Pirates and even Pitt in college. He’ll send me random texts like, “We’re in first place! Time to party!” But it’s hard for me not to follow the Giants.  Matt Cain actually joined us on stage a few months ago when we played the Fillmore in San Francisco. He came out and sang Don’t Stop Believin’ with us. So I was so happy for him that he pitched that perfect game. What a huge accomplishment.

You blogged not too long ago about your dad passing away, and said he was a big Ted Williams fan.

He bragged about Ted Williams as though they were best buds. He talked about the “Williams Switch,” when they would all change positions. And he loved him because Ted would never adjust to the switch — he would still hit the ball to that side of the field and get a hit. He was a pretty incredible player.

How did Train get so involved in the world of sports? You’ve played a lot of baseball events, and you just played the Coke 400 in Daytona.

I think we represent families, maybe. We all have families, we all have children, and I think it’s important to not get up there and have every other word be “f---.” My job is to make sure that I entertain families, and that that’s a great honor. We’ve just gotten that reputation over the years, and family and sports go hand in hand.

Are you an athletic guy?

I think so. I run. And I have an injury on my elbow that’s gotten cortisone shots and everything, because I think I overplayed golf. I love golf so much, but I’m not able to play right now. And in my family, we have softball games as often as we can during the summer.

What’s your handicap in golf?

I had an 11 handicap at one point, and that was years ago, when I was obsessed with golf. I don’t even know what my handicap would be now. Probably like 18 or something.

That’s still pretty good. What other sporting events do you want to play that you haven’t? Aside from halftime of the Super Bowl, of course.

Yeah, halftime of the Super Bowl would be great. I’m a huge lover of the World Cup. Anything around the World Cup would be huge for me. Those soccer players overseas are the most intense, badass guys in the world. I’ve only sung one NBA national anthem. The NASCAR thing was just gigantic. I sang the national anthem for the Daytona 500 a few months ago. That was my first experience with it on that kind of level. I really got to understand a lot of what it’s about, because if you don’t go, it seems weird that 200,000 people would go see guys drive around in a circle. But it’s pretty intense.

You toured forever for Save Me, San Francisco. What goes through your mind when you stare down a full summer of shows for California 37?

You know, I just had a conversation with my manager about that. I haven’t had a break — we took a hiatus as a band, but I made a solo record; it was a very stressful time for me — but I haven’t really had a break in a lot of years. And so when I look at it, I just want to keep it fun, because otherwise, I don’t want to do it. Doing things like sporting events is really fun for me because I get to watch baseball, I get to be around people that I admire. Those are the things that make it fun and interesting. So we try to throw those in during the tour to keep it from getting weird or monotonous, and then I try to have my family come out a little bit too, so that I can just constantly be surrounded by people who love me and know me.

How many wedding proposals have you personally witnessed during Marry Me?

Maybe 100? It’s really lovely. When you do this for a long enough, you go from, “Hey, I want to be rich and famous,” to “Man, I just want to do something cool for some people. What can I do that helps?” That song has been a catalyst to bring people together in a really special way. I ask crowds to sing it back to me, and from Malaysia and Australia and Europe to here, that song has been way more powerful than I ever thought it would be.

Do you find yourself distracted by the proposal? What’s it like performing that song when you know some guy is breaking out in a sweat and getting down on one knee?

I love it. I think it’s so great, and it doesn’t distract me. Sometimes I’ll stop the song so that we can all be a part of what’s happening. Because there’s nothing more powerful than a crowd of people kind of witnessing that level of love.

Do you have Save Me San Francisco Wine on your rider at every tour stop now?

No, actually, we always have local wines on our rider. But if we go into some regions, we’re terrible about not asking for their local wine. So it just depends on where we are. We’re about to make our fourth varietal, and I don’t think we were expecting to be as successful in the wine business as we are. The intention behind it was to help a charity and bring a little San Francsico to people, and I think because the intention was pure, the project itself was very successful.

In two more years, Train will have been a band for 20 years. What goes through your mind when you hear that?

I’ve been slowly adjusting to the fact that when kids hear a song that they love and they go to YouTube and see that we don’t look like Justin Bieber, I think I’ve slowly been adjusting to that over the last several years. I’m starting to be okay with, “I’m not going to be your sex object. You don’t have to want to sleep with me to get what I’m trying to do.” But that’s kind of what the whole thing started as anyway — I just want to create three minutes of happiness for people.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Monday, July 9, 2012 2:57pm]


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