Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPN Music [Print without images]

Friday, August 31, 2012
Harwell of Smash Mouth on NASCAR, CD

By Lynn Hoppes

Steve Harwell
Smash Mouth, with lead singer Steve Harwell, will release a new CD on Tuesday.
Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell has that swagger back, just like his buddies in NASCAR.

It's been six years since Harwell and his bandmates -- known for their hits "Walkin' On the Sun" and "All Star" -- have released new music.

On Tuesday, Smash Mouth will release "Magic" for its new label of 429 Records.

"It was a magical experience we haven't felt in years recording this album," said the 45-year-old Harwell, who formed the band in 1994. "We want to get on stage and prove to you that we're back."

The band has gone through several lineup changes and now have settled on original members Harwell, Paul Delisle (bass) and Mike Klooster (keyboards). Joining the roster are Randy Cooke (drums) and Mike Krompass (guitar).

"I always compare our music to a race car team," said the NASCAR fan Harwell, whose band has sold more than 10 million albums. "I told the band, 'You build the right car and I'll drive it.'"

And that right car means moving out some people -- Greg Camp and Mark Cervantes -- and bringing in fresh blood.

"If it's not working, like in sports, you make some trades. It doesn't mean the team won't win championships," Harwell said. "I think we were just growing apart. But now the fire is burning again. We're raw and hungry. That's why the CD is called 'Magic.'"

Playbook had a few minutes to talk with Harwell about his new music and his deep love of NASCAR.

I know you love NASCAR. How did that begin?

"If I wasn't doing music, I would have been racing today. Well, actually, if my dad had backed me up, I would have gotten more serious about it. But he had five kids to support. I grew up building cars, bikes and hot rods. I'm even thinking about buying a late-model car these days. That's my passion. That's my therapy. I understand the technicality to what it takes to compete. I'm one of those fans who would spend a thousand bucks to bring the family out and camp out."

You think you would have done well?

"I have an understanding of how the mechanics can make you a better driver. Look at my buddy Kyle Busch. He knows more about the car than any driver in the garage. He knows what the car is capable of doing and not capable of doing. The same goes for his brother, Kurt. I think Jimmie Johnson is a guy who knows how to relay information back to the crew about what's happening on the track. I think I would have done well because I understand the car."

Steve Harwell and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been friends for years.
You've mentioned a few drivers already. I know Al Unser Jr. is your favorite all time, but do you have a favorite today?

"If I'm rooting for one, I'm rooting for Kurt Busch every weekend. He's ultimately my favorite driver. There are a handful of drivers I respect what they can do. Kevin Harvick might be the coolest cat in NASCAR. Tony Stewart is a good guy, too. And then there are a lot of guys who are great when the cameras are on, but you hear mixed stories about them behind the scenes."

But your buddy Kurt Busch also is the one who has been getting into trouble lately with the media!

"I love him for that. Do I wish he still was with the No. 22 car? Of course. I think he's going to get a ride. He'll probably end up with Childress Racing. I hope he ends up with a quality team. It'd be funny how well he and Kevin Harvick would get along since they have a past. You know, those altercations. I respect a lot of those guys."

Are you going to get back to performing at NASCAR events?

"I'm always down in North Carolina hanging out with my friends. In fact, I was just there a few months ago. We used to play a lot of races, and I'm sure we'll start doing that again with this new record coming out."

You sound like you're ready to get back on the road, with a big tour in Australia coming up.

"We're back on that natural rock and roll high. I don't want to get off the stage. I mean, none of us do. Honestly, in 20 years, the band has never sounded better live. The confidence level is high. We're not second-guessing ourselves. No matter if it's 2,000 fans, 5,000 fans or 20,000 fans, all are going to get a great show."