Mark McGrath Talks Summerland Tour Split, New Sugar Ray & 'Idol' Judges Table

Singer says Sugar Ray's next album will likely be posted for free on its web site.

Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath says there's no hard feelings between him and Everclear's Art Alexakis after the two Summerland Tour co-founders parted ways for the coming season.

"I thought last year's (Summerland) tour went well, but it wasn't everything Art hoped it would be," says McGrath, who launches the Under The Sun package with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, the Gin Blossoms and Vertical Horizon on July 3 in Albuquerque, N.M. while Everclear tops a Summerland package with Live, Filter and Sponge. "I think (Alexakis) was looking for something more alternative, more aggressive, more guitar-oriented, and we came to a sort of a crossroads. He said, 'I'm gonna do my thing. God bless ya. You're always welcome to do my thing.' I said 'Good luck,' and it's all good. I think there's enough room for both of us out there."

McGrath says Under The Sun, which plays 36 dates into mid-August, "is basically the spirit of what we started with last year. There was such great music from that era, and nostalgia is something that never goes away. Once someone connects to a song, it's there forever, whether it's the 'Macarena' or 'Smells LIke Teen Spirit.' I have so many people come up to me who say ' 'Fly' is the first song my child ever sang.' You can't take that away, you know? Once you have that, you can tour forever."

McGrath and Sugar Ray wouldn't mind adding to the legacy, of course. The singer says he and guitarist Rodney Sheppard have "started woodshedding some songs," including one called "Summertime's Coming" that will be part of the group's set this summer. "It's right in the wheelhouse," McGrath reports. "What we do best is write those summer songs, a little hint of reggae with a hip-hop backbeat. We went through a period where we tried to reinvent ourselves, but at this point we figure, 'Let's do what we do best.' "

McGrath predicts that Sugar Ray will also bend to current trends when it comes to releasing new music. "We don't have a record deal, and nobody's waiting for a new Sugar Ray record," he says. "But when we're ready and feel it's worthy of release we'll do that on our web site and give it away for free. For a band that's sold 10 million records to say 'give it away for free' is almost blasphemous, but we're trying to be realistic. Definitely look for something by the end of the year on our web site."

McGrath wouldn't mind having another job by that point, either. An "Extra" personality and veteran of several reality TV shows -- including two Pussycat Dolls series and "Don't Forget the Lyrics" -- he's eyeing those vacant judge chairs on "American Idol" with unabashed desire.  "I guest judged 'American Idol' in 2004, and that was a lot of fun," he says. "They've done the $20 million salaries and gotten no ratings; they might as well get a guy like me to do it for free. I think they're recalibrating how those shows are going to work; they got really bloated like any music industry product does, and now they have to get a little Napster and aggressive again. Sure, I'd love to do it."