Train's Pat Monahan on football and music

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
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Growing up in Pennsylvania, it's no wonder that Pat Monahan, lead singer of Train, became a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

He always dreamed of becoming Terry Bradshaw and winning Super Bowls.

Instead, the 44-year-old Monahan went into music and formed the San Francisco trio called Train and has cranked out six studio albums, including the recent California 37.

It hasn't always been great as some albums flopped, members have come and gone, and the haters are filling up social media, calling their music cheesy.

You'd think that maybe Monahan would make a trade and become Bradshaw these days. But that's not the case.

"I think I'd be like how Bradshaw still is viewed: winning four Super Bowls and still being considered one of the worst Super Bowl quarterbacks ever," Monahan said. "I think our lives are parallel. I don't think I'd want to trade it for him, even now."

But Monahan, over the past few years, has been more accepting of his lot in life. And he has channeled that energy into his new family and his new music. With a string of recent sold-out shows, it appears Train is back.

"Over time, I learned to laugh about it instead of suffering from it," Monahan said. "It hurt, some of those really ridiculous stuff. I didn't understand what to do with that emotion."

MonahanJeff Kravitz/Getty ImagesPat Monahan of Train performs at a VH1 Super Bowl concert event in New Orleans.
The band's latest song, "Mermaid," reached the top 20 of the Billboard charts, and football players such as Adrian Peterson, Zane Beadles and John Moffitt make appearances in the music video. But the song is about his new wife, "his mermaid," Amber Peterson.

Playbook had a few minutes with Monahan to talk sports and music.

How much does football mean to you?

"The NFL to me is like the soccer leagues to European kids. That's all I cared about. It was a thrill to be around all these football players at the Pro Bowl weekend to shoot the video."

Pat MonahanTom Pennington/Getty ImagesPat Monahan and his band, Train, perform in Las Vegas at the NASCAR awards banquet.
You've made a lot of appearances at recent sporting events. How much did you want to be a football player growing up?

"I wanted to be quarterback until everybody outgrew me. Then I thought about baseball, but I wasn't good enough to make my high school team. I saw all these girls really taking a liking to the athletes. I had to learn to do something else to get them interested in me. I started to play the drums and that led to being a singer. No one my age was brave enough to sing in front of people, so I told them to give me the damn mic."

Why do you think sports and music are so intertwined?

I think it's all about admiration. I think humans are always dissatified. That's especially true when it comes to athletes and musicians. There are not enough Super Bowls for an athlete. For musicians, there are not enough hit songs and Grammys. We have that in common."

Can someone succeed at both?

"I was hanging out with singer Vince Gill. He is the best singer and best guitar player ever. Later in our conversation, he says that he's a scratch golfer. That makes you want to stab that guy. No one is supposed to be that good at everything. I think athletes and musicians are envious of each other's lifestyles."

Pat MonahanJared Wickerham/Getty ImagesPat Monahan still shows love for Pittsburgh by throwing out the first pitch for his Pirates.
You really seem at peace these days.

"I really used to be a bit of a hater. I think when we came up, the bands were all dog-eat-dog. We all thought that if you don't leave, there is no room on the shelves for me. That competitiveness became very unfriendly. We didn't hang out together. Our band went away and focused on some new things and not money. We came back, and our attitude like others had changed. It's a new world order. All these kids these days are fans of each other's music. There are no more shelves. It's all about coming together to make better music. All the doors are open. I love this new world order."

But with all those haters out there, you're still wary of social media, right?


"My manager has a secret: He says for me to never read Twitter. We came under fire for not wanting to play for the Boy Scouts of America unless they accepted all applicants, gay or not. We thought the whole issue was resolved. We're supporters of gay rights. I like gay men more than straight men because they will talk to you. How do you exclude anybody? It's 2013. It's silly to dislike anything or anyone. We were heavily criticized. There is no way of winning by reading that stuff. It has created anonymous hate toward each other. I think that people who hate on other people aren't courageous at all. I'm at a different place mentally than where I was a few years ago. I just don't need that."

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